(BPT) - Warm weather offers many sweet delights, from trips to the beach and more free time, to seasonal foods and soirees with family and friends. Unfortunately, many of the foods we commonly associate with spring and summer are high in added sugars. Hidden sugar in summer foods can make it a challenge to regulate calories and stay on track with your health goals.
"Too much added sugar can have a host of health consequences, such as weight gain, which can in turn increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease," says Lisa Drayer, a registered dietitian, author of "The Beauty Diet" and spokesperson for NECTRESSE Natural No Calorie Sweetener. "Limiting the amount of added sugar in your diet makes sense on a number of levels."
If you're looking for ways to reduce your sugar intake this spring and summer, Drayer offers some tips and tricks to help you:
1. Trim liquid calories. "Regular soda and fruit juices are among the biggest sources of sugar-fueled calories," Drayer says. Minimize your consumption of these calorie-packed beverages. If you must drink soda, opt for diet soda that contains no sugar. Better yet, switch to plain water or other sugar-free beverages with added health benefits, such as black tea. You can drink black tea hot or cold as a substitute for coffee.
2. Read nutrition labels on everything, not just the foods you assume will be high in sugar. For example, you may be aware that regular soda is high in sugar, but did you know that some salad dressings and barbecue sauces can be too? You may know that brightly colored cereals intended for children can have a lot of added sugar, but you may not be aware that some 'supposedly healthy' adult cereals you eat may also have nearly as much. "Savory foods can be sneaky sources of added sugar," Drayer says.
3. Make smart substitutions. "Many people trying to minimize their sugar intake and reduce calories turn to alternative sweeteners," Drayer notes. "If you prefer natural ingredients, try an option like NECTRESSE Natural No Calorie Sweetener." NECTRESSE sweetener is 100 percent natural, and gets its sweetness from monk fruit extract and a blend of other natural ingredients. Monk fruit is a small green melon that has been cultivated in Asia for centuries. It is traditionally grown in small family orchards in remote mountain regions. The fruit extract that is 150 times sweeter than sugar is now packaged for us to easily sweeten our favorite foods and beverages.
4. Don't skip meals or snacks, and don't take an "all or nothing" approach to sugar. "Completely cutting added sugar out of your diet probably isn't practical," Drayer says. Making yourself feel hungry and deprived can lead to unhealthy bingeing. It's far better to control the amount of added sugar you consume so that it stays at a moderate level, rather than cause yourself to crave sugar and possibly overindulge.
With some smart substitutions and improved awareness of the sources of added sugar, it's possible to reduce your added sugar intake and lead a healthier lifestyle that's still as sweet as summer.