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Nutrition 101: This December, Try Sugar Substitutes

December 2, 2019

This time of year, there are plenty of treats available. Starting with the end of October and culminating in January, we are surrounded by all sorts of sugary treats. It’s no wonder we tend to pack on the pounds this time of year and are ready to start new diets come January 1.

To be accurate, the average American only gains about 1-2 pounds. Although, for those who are already overweight or obese, it can be more, according to the according to the Mayo Clinic. If you’re looking for some good tips for avoiding holiday weight gain, click the link.

Another good way to avoid weight gain over the holidays is to manage your added sugar intake. The American Heart Association recommends men should get no more than 9 teaspoons (or 36 grams), and women should consume less than 6 teaspoons (or 25 grams) per day. For more information on label reading to find added sugars in your foods, re-read this Nutrition 101 from 2017.

One way we can cut back on added sugars is through sugar substitutes. Sugar substitutes add few calories to your diet and can be an effective way to enjoy a sweet taste without using sugar. Most are more intensely sweet than sugar so you can use less.

The subject of sugar substitutes is always a polarizing topic. Many individuals are concerned about the health effects of using sugar substitutes. The most common concern mentioned is cancer. These concerns date back to a study done in the 1970s that linked saccharin to bladder cancer in rats. Numerous studies since that time have confirmed that sugar substitutes are generally safe in limited quantities. It always goes back to a dietitian’s favorite word – moderation.

Sugar substitutes are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are reviewed and approved before they can be sold to the general public. The FDA has established an acceptable daily intake for each sweetener. This is the maximum amount that is considered safe to consume daily. These levels are set well below a level that would cause any health concerns. Check out this article from Penn State Extension on acceptable intakes for approved sugar substitutes.

Many of the newer sugar substitutes can be used in place of sugar when you are baking. The Penn State article also states the ones that can be used for baking.

Other suggestions for reducing sugar when baking/cooking include:

  • Cutting back on what the recipe called for: try using ½ cup or ¾ cup if the recipe calls for 1 cup

  • Add spices instead of sugar: cinnamon works especially well in oatmeal

  • Fruit or fruit purees can be used to sweeten recipes or in place of toppings for baked goods

  • Vanilla or other flavors can be added to plain yogurt, oatmeal or smoothies

Everyone’s tastes are different. Explore different options and find something that works for you.

To find out more information on how to eat more healthfully, contact your UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown Dietitians at (641) 854-7530 or MT_dietitians@unitypoint.org.

Here is more information about UnityPoint Health – Marshalltown’s outpatient nutrition services.

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