By Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN

A lot of people assume they have to cut out sugar altogether, but I often encourage a more moderate approach. As we all know, complete deprivation often leads to binging. In fact, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015 allows (or maybe just assumes), that we’ll all eat around 150 “discretionary calories” a day. Discretionary calories are excess calories to enjoy once your required nutrient needs are met (think sweets, salty snacks, alcohol).

 

Try and stick to these ground rules:

  • Have it once or twice week, 100-200 calories or less each time
  • Fruit is always best
  • Pre-portioned/single serving desserts are second best
  • Plan for it. Don’t let desserts ‘happen’ to you. Build them into your diet and enjoy them!

 

Try and nix dessert if:

  • Your 150 discretionary calories have already been used up that day (on beer, margaritas, chips, Cheetos, etc.)
  • You know it’s a slippery slope
  • You’re having trouble reaching your goal weight

 

Here are some of my go-to suggestions: 

  1. Dark Chocolate. My new favorite brand is Theo’s.
  2. Single serve ice cream bars (Skinny CowYasso). Individually wrapped desserts are guaranteed damage control!
  3. Banana ‘nice cream– basically frozen and blended banana chunks with any assortment of toppings.
  4. One piece of fruit, or 1 cup chopped fruit. This one may get an eye roll (surprise surprise, a dietitian is suggesting fruit for dessert, but you never know!)
  5. Parfait – Low-fat Greek yogurt with ½ cup berries. This one is sweet and has some staying power, thanks to the fiber and protein.
  6. Edy’s Outshine Fruit Bars
  7. Half a whole wheat English Muffin with a single serve Hazelnut Butter
  1. Healthy Cookie Dough Balls

 

By Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN

Tis the season! For cookies, cakes, pies and more. Did you know that the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day? For most people, that amounts to nearly 150 pounds of added sugar a year! This far exceeds the recommended daily intake of added sugar of 36 grams (9 teaspoons) a day for men and only 24 grams (6 teaspoons) a day for women.

1) Swap out the sweet drinks

Sweetened drinks are the most common source of added sugar in American diets. To start, skip sugar in your coffee and add sweetness with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Also, nix sweetened iced tea and sodas, and switch to fruit-infused water or flavored seltzer.

2) Switch to natural sugar sources

Sugar in the form of whole fruit (fructose) or dairy (lactose) is a healthier alternative to sugary foods. Fruit and dairy come packed with fiber, protein, fat, and/or phytochemicals (the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables). Add fruit to your oatmeal or cereal or enjoy 100% fruit juice in controlled portions (4-8oz/day). And if you must splurge for dessert, try to limit yourself to one 100-calorie treat a day or less.

3) Log your food intake for a few days 

You may be surprised to find you’re consuming way more sugar than you realized. Tracking helps increase your awareness and helps you find ways to cut back. Apps like My Fitness Pal allow you to track the nutrition content of the foods you eat.

4) Check food labels for sugar content

Some foods that you THINK are healthy are often loaded with added sugar. The worst offenders include:

  • Instant oatmeal
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Jarred pasta sauce
  • Condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce
  • Salad dressings, especially fat-free dressings
  • Granola bars

As a general rule, add up the grams of fiber plus the grams of protein per serving—the number should be greater than the amount of sugar. Or, simply stick to foods that have less than 5 grams of added sugar per serving.

5) Drink some water or take a nap

You may not be surprised to hear that you crave sugar when you’re tired. But, you MIGHT be surprised to find that you crave sugar when you’re actually just thirsty. Think about whether you need to rest or simply drink a cold glass of water before you reach for the sweets.