FIRST THINGS FIRST:
(If you are not a client of mine, order OptiGreens or Reds and get a free macro and nutrition consultation with me. Clients- you know you already get this =) )
So, what’s the first thing you think of when you hear the words “sugar free”? Because a lot of people I encounter treat such products like the end of the world, while still simultaneously dumping similar chemicals into their bodies by other means.
Sugar consumption in America has skyrocketed to insane heights over the last 30 years, resulting in massive levels of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and a plethora of other issues. Ultimately, when it comes down to it, in consideration of either sugary or sugar-free products, the key is still everything in moderation.
The statistics associated with either type of product are mainly based on individuals who heavily over-consume, for long periods of time.
So while I’m not going to advocate that you switch from Coke to Diet Coke or vice versa, I will say that a diet product is an excellent temporary option to get your cravings under control while you reduce your overall consumption over time.
This is the same concept as using nicotine patches to quit smoking.
Having a couple of diet beverages throughout the course of a week is going to have little adverse impact on the average person, whereas having a couple of regular soda beverages throughout the week will quickly add up around the waistline, and compound into sugar related cravings.
The following FAQs pretty much sum up what you need to know on this topic, but keep scrolling for sneaky foods that you wouldn’t guess are loaded with sugar.
I’ll also give you some healthy, protein dessert recipes that’ll change the ENTIRE game. I did recently put out a snack email with some low sugar munchy options, and there are a ton also linked in my free nutrition guide (download from my website if you have not already, or message me and I will get it to you).
Q: Are sugar addictions real?
A: Yes. Sugar is an addictive substance that can cause bingeing, withdrawal, and cravings. In fact, regular consumption of sugar makes it easier to become addicted to another drug. This is due to the brain’s reward center lighting up after consuming fructose (a form of sugar).
Over time you need to consume more and more fructose to make your reward center continue to have the same effect. Sugar and sweeteners have been proven to be remarkably similar in habit forming properties as illegal drugs, so if you are struggling to kick the cravings, understand that it will probably take time, and you should give yourself some grace.
Q: Is high fructose corn syrup worse for you than regular sugar?
A: Similar to splenda, HFCS is a highly processed sweetening substance that is found in a vast variety of processed foods. It creates a dramatic insulin spike that leads to continued cravings for sugar and simple carbs.
Also similar to splenda, it is widely touted as being the devil, when in reality, sugar is sugar is sugar. Your body doesn’t know the difference between maple syrup and HFCS.
Q: What’s healthier, sugar or artificial sweeteners (Splenda)?
A: Artificial sweeteners like Splenda don’t contain any calories, so many people believe they are better for you than sugar. But you’re only avoiding calories, nothing more.
In fact, choosing artificial sweeteners over actual sugar to avoid calorie intake, may cause you over intake high-calorie foods later in the day. This is especially true if you have artificial sweeteners when you are tired or hungry because they don’t signal energy to the brain like regular sugar does.
So, have some sugar, IN MODERATION.
Q: Is organic or raw sugar is healthier than table sugar?
A: Nope! The difference in nutrient value between the two is so slight that they would have no significant impact on our health.
Both are derived from sugarcane, although table sugar can also come from beets. Raw sugar is created when sugarcane juice is boiled once while table sugar is created when sugarcane juice that is boiled several times. Raw sugar still has some molasses in the product (creating its signature golden color) but table sugar does not, hence the white color.
They both contribute equally to calorie consumption and habit forming processes.
Q: What about fruit? Surely that doesn’t count!!
A: Wrong, homeskillet. Fruit contains sugar. A lot of it. “But it’s natural”. Yeah, so you’ll gain weight…naturally? “But it has vitamin and minerals”
Sure thing, but that doesn’t mean you need to eat a ton of it. “But it has fiber.” True story- fiber doesn’t have a caloric impact on your bloodstream, but neither does it negate the one that sugar does.
Am I recommending you cut out fruits? Heck no. I like going ham on a bag of cherries like anyone else, but I count them into my macros for the day.
Fruit is not a “free” food. If you have a weight loss goal, I absolutely recommend sticking to lower sugar fruit options such as citrus and berries, and only having one serving daily. It is unlikely that you are getting a wide enough variety of fruits and veggies in regardless, so you should also be supplementing with Opti Reds and Greens.
One other benefit to fruit is that with the added water and fiber, you will feel fuller faster- use that to your advantage.
Q: Does sugar itself cause obesity?
A: If you eat a lot of sugary foods and drink sugary sodas and juices, you will gain weight. But it comes down to frequency and the amount you’re consuming.
If you are ingesting a lot of calories from these sugary foods, your weight gain is going to be from the calories, not because sugar is inherently fattening.
So for the hundredth time, there are no “bad foods”, but you have to track your sh*t. All of it.
Q: Does sugar cause diabetes?
A: Sugar does not cause Diabetes. Diabetics’ blood sugar levels are often out of whack, so they have to watch their sugar intake, but Diabetes is not caused by sugar. If you are overweight and eat poorly, two factors that cause Type 2 Diabetes, AND consume lots of sugar, you may develop Type 2 Diabetes.
Q: What’s the best sugar or sugar alternative option?
A: This is honestly different for everybody, based on taste preferences. Personally I don’t find any of these options to have an aftertaste, but some people do.
Also keep in mind that consuming any sugar substitute in excess will give you mad gas, which is just so sexy.
Anyways, some of the healthiest options are going to be stevia (a plant-based sweetener), Xylitol (a sugar alcohol with a sweetness similar to sugar), Erythritol (also a sugar alcohol but it contains less calories), and monk fruit sweetener (a natural alternative extracted from monk fruit and contains zero calories).
Disclaimer: Hi I’m Brenna and I am not a doctor, but I’ve been in the health and wellness industry for more than a few years and I’ve stacked up enough certifications to be able to tell you with reasonable accuracy what is a factoid and what is a myth perpetuated by the “doctors” of Facebook. Take what you want from this and carry on.
30 Sneaky Foods LOADED with Sugar
1. Flavored Greek Yogurt- many containing over 17 grams of sugar!
2. Cold Cereal- some popular ones containing as much as 20 grams of sugar in just a three-quarter cup serving. Always check the label!
3. Applesauce- a small container could have 22 grams of sugar. Buy unflavored, unsweetened versions.
4. “No Sugar Added” Foods- it’s a BS claim… most products use fruit juice from concentrate which is still a form of added sugar.
5. Crackers- check the labels and look for anything less than 4 grams of sugar per serving.
6. Smoothies- fruit contains a lot of sugar, as we already discussed, but smoothies can also contain fruit juice, sherbet, ice cream, yogurt, or flavored syrups additionally. Even smoothies made with just fruits and vegetables can contain up to 60 grams of sugar per serving.
7. Alcohol Mixers- In one 12-ounce margarita there can be 50 to 60 grams of sugar.
8. Fruit Snacks- anything but fruit… one pack can have 25 grams of sugar or more.
9. Nut Butter- check the ingredients for cane sugar, honey, or even corn syrup and opt for a natural brand made with just nuts.
10. Instant Oatmeal- flavored oats may have 4 teaspoons of sugar… probably way more than you’d add on your own if you made unsweetened kinds and added fruit or seasoning to it.
11. Jam- looks like plain fruit, but somehow its much sweeter…hmmm
12. Granola Bars- Just because it’s called a granola bar doesn’t mean its just granola. It’s basically a dessert with all the added sugar and chocolate
13. Dried Fruit- opt for unsweetened versions when possible, always check for added sugar
14. Coffee Drinks- a 12-ounce cup of flavored coffee can contain more than 12 grams of added sugar
15. Sauces and Condiments- Barbecue, ketchup, teriyaki… just a few examples of slyly hidden sweet stuff.
16. Non-Dairy Milk- Soy, almond, rice or cashew milks can contain 10 grams of sugar. Look for unsweetened options.
17. Bread- Some bread can contain 6 grams of sugar per slice… and we typically have two at a time. Look for bread with 2 grams or less per slice
18. Bottled Flavored Water- One cup could have as much as 3 teaspoons pf sugar. Try sparkling without added sugar and throw your own fruit slices into it
19. Gummy Vitamins- There’s a reason these suckers taste better. Why not just eat gummy bears every day at this point?
20. Bottled Tea- Tea is great for you…. Just don’t add copious amounts of sugar to mask the bitterness. Some bottled teas contain 30 grams of sugar per serving. Buy unsweetened!
21. Juice- it’s a concentrated source of sugar. One cup of orange juice has at least six oranges. So skip the juice and just eat plain old fruit which offers more filling fiber and nutrients.
22. Salad Dressing- Would you like some sugar with your greens? Some bottled dressings have 20 grams of sugar in a 1-ounce serving. Take a couple minutes to make your own out of olive oil, vinegar, and herbs.
23. Lemonade- Sounds better than soda right? No. Most lemonades contain 40 grams of sugar in a single glass.
24. Marinade- Just like sauces. Sneaky suckers. Some have 3 grams in a tiny tablespoon serving. You can make your own just like salad dressing with oil, lemon juice, herbs and spices.
25. Tonic Water- Trying to avoid a sugary alcoholic drink by ordering a vodka tonic? Surprise! A 12-ounce serving has 8 teaspoons of sugar. Try club soda or seltzer instead.
26. Sports Drinks- one bottle may have about 10 teaspoons. Stick to water.
27. Jerky- some flavored jerky has 10 grams of added sugar per serving.
28. Protein Powder- some companies will load their protein powder with a bunch of added sugar to make it taste better. Check your labels. Level 1 Protein Powder contains as little as 1 gram of sugar per serving AND tastes freakin amazing.
29. Tomato Sauce- these products add sugar to make them sweeter. You’re better off using fresh, whole tomatoes and flavoring them on your own with salt, pepper, onion and garlic.
30. Energy Bars- Some protein bars are actually candy bars in disguise. Look for lower sugar options like the Level 1 Bars!
Level 1 Protein Dessert Recipes
Blueberry Protein Muffins
- 1 cup oat flour
- 1/4 cup almond flour
- 3 egg whites (or about 1/2 cup liquid egg whites)
- 1/2 cup yogurt
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 medium banana, peeled and mashed
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 3 scoops Level 1 Vanilla Protein Powder
- 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- In a large bowl combine egg whites, yogurt, applesauce, honey, vanilla extract and mashed banana.
- In another bowl combine dry ingredients- oat flour, almond flour, protein powder, cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda.
- Add Dry ingredients to original bowl.
- Mix well until smooth.
- Stir in blueberries.
- Scoop mixture into greased muffin tin- each about 2/3 full.
- Bake for 20 minutes or until toothpick inserted into muffin comes out clean.
- Cool in pans on wire rack for 5 minutes before removing
Salted Caramel Cappuccino
- 1 scoop Level-1 Caramel Latte
- Dash of salt
- 1 Cup of coffee
- In a blender bottle add protein powder, salt, and 1/2 cup of coffee.
- Shake once, then open the lid to release pressure.
- Repeat until pressure subsides, then close and shake like crazy to mix.
- Pour into a mug and add remaining coffee to fill
HOW TO MANAGE CRAVINGS
Guess What- Most cravings are a result of a deficiency in your body, or imbalanced gut health. Most of us struggle with this, even if we, overall, have a healthy lifestyle. (If you don’t, you are really screwed.)
What they are:
- 11 servings Organic fruits/veggies
- Powerful Antioxidants
- Full Spectrum Micro-Nutrient Complex
What they do:
- Remove Free Radicals
- Balance Gut Flora
- Reduce Uncomfortable Bloating
- Assist in Fat Loss
- Reduce Painful Inflammation
- Improve Mood, Sleep and Energy Levels
- Reduce Unhealthy Cravings
- Send Nutrients to Skin, Hair and Nails
- Improve Muscular Development and Recovery
- Improve Immunity
Fit Opti-Greens into your grocery budget, that is the level of importance they have to your health and success in reaching your goals.