Dana writes for Mind Body Green.
Since 2014, Target’s Made To Matter program has highlighted brands with natural, organic, sustainable products. This year, the retailer is stepping it up a notch by challenging its partners to innovate across five key areas that impact the environment and the day-to-day lives of shoppers.
Today, we’re diving into the first category: reduced sugar. And we called on a leading voice in clean eating, Dana James, to help us unpack the complex issue.
So why are Americans still eating an average of 153 grams (the equivalent of more than 6 chocolate bars) of it a day? Nobody knows better than nutritionist and founder of Food Coach NYC, Dana James.
“At one point in my life, my sugar cravings were so intense that I ate the sweet stuff directly from the packet and devoured cacao truffles every night for months on end. In what seemed like an out-of-body experience, my conscious mind felt like it was constantly overpowered by an extreme physical need for sugar,” James explains.
It turns out that her cravings were the by-product of a candida overgrowth that was causing a microbial imbalance in her body. With the help of supplements and diet changes, James was able to overcome her sugar cravings and, as she puts it, get her sanity back.
“My mind finally stopped playing that tug-of-war game of yes/no/yes/why do you do that?” says James. “I’m fortunate that I was able to uncover my underlying candida. Many people live years and even decades believing that they are weak-willed or ‘addicted’ to sugar.”
If you find yourself having trouble cutting back on sugar for any reason, bacteria related or not, here are a few of James’ pro tips to get your intake under control:
1. Write down everything you eat for a day. Highlight anywhere there’s sugar in your diet and look at where you can easily cut it out. Five sugars in your morning coffee? Take it down to one. 3p.m. M&M’s? Replace them with an apple.
2. If you find it challenging to resist sugar after dinner, allow yourself something sweet that’s under 100 calories but doesn’t contain sugar substitutes. (A Justin’s Peanut Butter cup or two squares of dark chocolate are both great options.)
3. Once you’ve mastered that, start reducing it from every night to every other night and find a fun replacement habit to keep your mind occupied. Read an engrossing book, watch something funny on YouTube, create Pinterest boards, hang out with friends, learn a language, meditate, or take some quiet time to reflect and dream.
4. Don’t beat yourself up if you eat more sugar than you’d like. Sugar can play an enjoyable role in our lives when it’s consumed on an irregular basis. After all, who doesn’t love a matcha green tea ice cream on a lazy summer afternoon?
5. Be sure to always check a product’s label any time you’re thinking of indulging. Sweeteners like rice syrup, corn syrup, coconut nectar, date paste, glucose, cane sugar, agave, honey and cane sugar are all are fine, but you should avoid the much-maligned high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Look at the labels on your savory products as well. If it contains one of these sweeteners, or anything ending in ‘dextrin and ‘ose (like sucrose and maltodextrin), it has sugar. And if these pop up in its first three ingredients, it’s really a sweet and not something savory.
6. Avoid unnecessary sugar by shopping on the perimeter of the grocery store. I love to navigate these aisles and fill my cart with produce, seafood, grass-fed meat and BPA-free canned foods like chickpeas as well as some seaweed crackers.