While I was completing my master’s degree in holistic nutrition, I led a small study that aimed to explore how people could reduce their sugar consumption.
Reducing sugar consumption
My short study included a total of three participants – two female and one male – between the ages of 25-60 years of age. Three days before the study began, the participants received a questionnaire rating their general knowledge of the impact of sugar on health. Over a span of two weeks participants tracked all foods they ate with added sugar. Using their daily food logs, I was able to calculate and keep track of their added sugar intake. Below is an example taken from one participant’s log:
Added sugar: Table sugar, brown sugar
Candy: Chocolate (2 squares of dark chocolate), hard candy, sprinkles
Drinks: Soda, juice with added sugar, alcoholic drink mixers
Baked goods: Cookies, bread, cake, muffins (blueberry scones)
Cereal: Oatmeal and packaged cereal with added sugar
Dairy: Ice cream, frozen yogurt, yogurt with added sugar
Sauces or condiments: Jelly, ketchup, salad dressing, teriyaki sauce, peanut butter, pasta sauce, BBQ sauce
Processed foods: frozen meals, canned goods, packaged foods
The un-sugarcoated truth
Some of the most common challenges participants faced during the study included being unaware of sugar content in the foods they regularly ate and knowing what was in their food at special events outside of their weekly routine such as eating out or parties. Another struggle faced was breaking daily sugar-related habits like enjoying chocolate after dinner each night. Together, I worked with one participant to substitute the chocolate for fruit covered with chocolate the first week, then just fruit on its own by the second week.
In those two weeks, I provided advice based on their food logs while educating them on negative effects of sugar on their health. I also provided participants, with useful tips for substituting sugary treats and how to manage cravings.
What I really enjoyed about this study, was that all the participants were able to successfully reduce the amount of sugar they consumed. On average, each individual was able to decrease their sugar intake by 8% over the two week period. Although this study was quite short and included a limited number of participants, the findings were nonetheless telling. Each of the three participants found that food journaling, being aware of sugar content in food, and having weekly expert support helped them feel in control of their eating habits and curb their sweet tooth.
So, what can you do?
To understand your sweet tooth, start a food journal focused on sugar. Becoming more mindful of which foods contain added sugar will help you identify great foods to swap out of your routine. For example, if your morning instant oatmeal contains brown sugar and dried fruit, maybe swap it for overnight oatmeal with fresh fruit. If this works for you, consider making food journaling a part of your routine to keep cravings in check, because being able to identify your body’s needs will have you making better food choices throughout the day.