The Spooniverse has been filled with articles about sugar lately, from how much is in your Starbucks to which foods it can be hidden in. While I loved them all, what I really wanted to know is what staying within the recommended daily allowance of sugar a day actually looked like.
I want to emphasize this was not a diet. I counted grams of sugar but not calories and I paid no attention to any weight loss that may or may not have happened. This was just a challenge to stay within the average that is suggested for everyday health. I also I steered clear of sugar-free sweeteners, because a lot of the time they’re pretty bad for you.
So, what is the recommended daily allowances of sugar? The maximum amount of added sugar is 25 grams per day (6 teaspoons) for females and 37.5 grams of sugar per day (9 teaspoons) for males. This refer to added sugar only, which is any sugar that isn’t naturally occurring in a food like corn syrup, honey, table sugar, or dextrose. Company’s like to use sneaky sugars like “beet cane syrup” or “palm sugar” to make it sound more natural, but it is still added sugar. Sugars that occur naturally in fruits don’t count. (Guess who’s fruit consumption went way up this week?)
25 g a day covers main meals if they’re homemade. If you go out a lot, maybe not. It also covers enough for coffee or tea and one or two small snacks that are fairly minimally processed. I homemade most of the things that I ate this week, and that might be your best bet to reduce your sugar intake (and your spending).
Total grams added sugar: 25
Sources: chocolate chips, croissant, coffee
I started the week feeling pretty confident in my ability to avoid having too much sugar. I rolled out of bed in the early AM, grabbed my overnight oats and coffee, and headed to work as usual.
This was the day that my challenge affected my lifestyle the least and it felt pretty good.
Total grams added sugar: 47.5
Sources: coffee, Starbucks pumpkin loaf
Yes, you read that correctly. I failed miserably by having nearly double the amount that you should on only the second day of this challenge, and I felt awful about it. There I was at my normal Starbucks stop, and I couldn’t find their nutritional info in the store. I chose what I thought would be a safe option – I chose poorly. One Starbucks Pumpkin Loaf contains 39 g of sugar. I couldn’t believe it.
I quickly saw that one snack on-the-go could be way more sugar than you should have in a day. If you have more than one convenience snack, la sugary dessert or even just soda – the added sugars really add up fast.
Total grams added sugar: 14.75
Sources: coffee, cookie, homemade yogurt pop
Wednesday was a pretty good day all in all. I was very aware of the fact that just one thing could throw off the entire day, so I was very cautious. I was also a little stressed about having to count gram amounts. I realized that while trying to cut back on added sugar was a great thing, someone could easily get overwhelmed when throwing in other things like trying to decrease consumption of sodium and fat. I can see how easy it is to fall for health marketing schemes if you don’t have the time for research.
To avoid another slip like the day before, I baked some cherry orange muffins (8 grams added sugar each) and cocoa peanut butter yogurt popsicles (which were to die for, BTW).
Total grams added sugar: 23.5
Sources: coffee, granola, tea, homemade yogurt pop, homemade muffin
The day started out pretty well, but halfway through work, the chocolate cravings hit me hard. I had heard that people who quit sugar experience some pretty awful withdrawal symptoms, but I really wasn’t expecting it. It wasn’t bad, but I definitely noticed some cravings, fatigue, and a slight headache.
This was an eye-opener for me since I’m fairly health conscious (although I definitely indulge sometimes). I didn’t think I was eating that much sugar before, I don’t eat junk food regularly and I don’t drink sugary drinks like pop or juice. I kind of thought that I wasn’t very addicted to it, but the fact that sugar is extremely addictive and my minor withdrawal symptoms said otherwise.
Total grams added sugar: 10
Sources: coffee, salad dressing, homemade chicken noodle soup, bread
The second last day was rough. With the end in sight, it felt like everything around me contained sugar and everyone around me was allowed to eat it. This is when I started to feel really restricted and I was still feeling a little more tired than normal.
Total grams added sugar: 19.25
Sources: oatmeal, coffee, salsa, sandwich fixins’
By the last day, I was really done with my challenge. When I started viewing it as a restriction, it got so much harder mentally. I normally do choose less sugary things, but knowing that I couldn’t have something sugary if I wanted it messed with my head and made me want sugar where I normally wouldn’t have.
For example, my boss went on a coffee run. My coworkers got Frappuccinos and I got a plain latte unsweetened, which is what I usually get. While I’m normally totally in love with my bitter and strong latte or Americano, I suddenly found myself craving a frappe so badly, which was all kinds of crazy for me.
I didn’t expect it at all, but after I was finished my challenge all I wanted was sugar for a day or two. This was another weird experience for me, but it makes sense considering how addictive sugar is and that my body hadn’t really detoxed of it yet.
I came to the conclusion that yes, you should absolutely be thinking about how much sugar you eat and how much you should be eating. I’ll definitely continue to be aware of it, but I won’t count grams anytime soon. You should treat yo’ self in moderation (or even better, find ways to treat yo’ self healthily) because restriction is no fun.
I think that the best outcome of this week was gradually putting less sugar in my coffee. I went from a teaspoon to 1/4 teaspoon, which I’m pretty happy about. The little things count so much more than you think. Lifestyle is really what it all comes down to; you are your habits and you are what you eat.