By Kate Arvesen, Baylor nutrition student
Growing up, I always played on team sports including tennis, volleyball, and cross-country. Exercise and balanced meals were part of my life. After high school, I went to Baylor University to study nutrition sciences. Freshman year, I not only found myself constantly snacking, drinking sugary coffee beverages, and eating dining hall food but I also had decreased the intensity and length of my workouts. I joined a sorority where baked goods and after school drive-thru became a norm. The “freshman 15” is real, people! Although I didn’t gain nearly 15 pounds, I started noticing a difference in my body without constant team practices or the usual healthy home cooked meals. What positive changes can I make before classes start in August? I am in the summer before my final lap at Baylor. I recently completed a half-marathon which allowed me to regain my strength, but I am noticing another element to positively change my lifestyle and that is to get a hold of…SUGAR! There has been a lot of discussion about added sugars recently. Katie Couric would like you to believe that sugar is THE reason for the obesity epidemic (read Angela's review of the movie here). But most of us know there are so many more contributors to our “weighty” issue. But yes! Sugar definitely adds calories to foods, and many of the sugary foods are very low in nutritional value.
I discussed my “sugar overload issue” to my preceptors here at Lemond Nutrition - Angela and Maria-Paula – and they encouraged me to not only write about it, but also challenge others to join me on what I am calling the 14-Day Diet Revamp Challenge.* My purpose for this challenge is for us all to discover how our body feels maximized with highly nutritional foods and minimal empty calories. The challenge will hopefully teach us to make sugar what it should be -> a “sometimes” food rather than an “always” food. Alongside registered dietitian nutritionists, I will (and I hope you will, too!) continue eating balanced meals, daily exercise, and getting full nights of rest. Yes, I thoroughly believe the necessity to enjoy desserts at birthdays, weddings, and other celebrations! This sugar challenge is a reminder going forward to “eat your cake and enjoy it too” – but, on occasion.
Sugary foods are generally empty calorie foods and do not provide any beneficial nutrients to our body. Sugars are often added to processed foods or drinks to create a sweeter taste. The American Heart Association suggests limiting the amount of added sugar to half of your discretionary calories. On their website, it states that women, should have no more than 100 calories of added sugar per day (around 6 teaspoons). For men, it’s recommended to limit to 150 calories per day (around 9 teaspoons). The Dietary Guidelines for Americans lumps added sugar into the "empty calories" category, and they have a chart for how much you should limit empty calories based on a person's calorie needs.
Knowing more facts, we can take this information to better understand food labels. Carbohydrates (including added sugar) have 4 calories per gram. If there are 10 grams of sugar in 110 calories serving of cereal, then 40 calories are deriving from sugar. Nearly half of the calories in the cereal are from sugar! This excess of added sugar in our diet might lead to increase body fat if not needed by the body.
Integrating healthy whole food choices to meals and snacks will aid in reducing the amount of added sugars in a diet. Healthier whole foods are fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy, whole grains, and lean proteins. The benefits of adding these whole foods and limiting added sugars will help decrease the chances of heart disease, obesity, and cancer. In addition, weekly exercise, a cofactor of weight management and sugar intake reduction, helps decrease depression and anxiety. Increasing cardio and strength training will play a role in increasing muscle and lowering total fat. Healthy living doesn’t come with only limiting added sugars, but incorporating an optimistic approach to improve overall wellness with a balanced diet, regular exercise and sufficient sleep.
Do you feel like reducing your added sugar intake is a challenge for you? Do you want to make wellness changes this summer before the fall?
Will you join me as I take the 14-Day Diet Revamp Challenge? If so, take this weekend to clear out your pantries and refrigerators. We will start this challenge together on Monday, June 16th and we will take it through the last day of the month on the 30th of June.
Head to the grocery store and replace those sugary foods with plenty of whole foods. The ChooseMyPlate.gov website has a wonderful grocery shopping list template, nutrient-rich food recommendations and even 2-week menus.
14-Day Diet Revamp Challenge Guidelines
Foods to Limit
- one serving of fruit (up to 3 times per day; not eaten together)
- No candy
- No soda
- No desert baked goods
- No high sugar packaged items (above 7 g per serving; low-fat dairy without added sugar is ok)
- No alcoholic drinks
Once again, the idea is that we will limit low nutritional foods and replace them with whole foods chocked full of power that will nourish our bodies at the cellular level.
I hope you join me on this challenge. Join me in the conversation on Lemond Nutrition’s Facebook page where I plan to post updates on my efforts. After the challenge time is over, I will have a follow-up post on going forward -- the moderate approach for long-term, healthy living.
The reality is that we are what we eat. Let’s kick this summer off with a nutrition prescription that will carry us to a healthier tomorrow.
If you have a medical condition that inhibits your ability to regulate blood sugars properly (such as diabetes or hypoglycemia), contact your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) before starting this challenge. In the event of a low blood sugar, you will need a simple sugar food or medicine to normalize glucose levels.
If you are an athlete or someone who regularly participates in high intensity exercise or sports, consult a registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) before you consider this challenge.
If you are already underweight, contact your doctor or RDN before starting this challenge.
If you have any other medical reason not listed that might be contraindicated to this challenge, contact your doctor or registered dietitian nutritionist before starting this challenge.