It is normal to enjoy sweets. Most of us do. The problem is the amount that is eaten. Sugar consumption has gone up steadily over the years. The average amount of sugar eaten per year is about 140 pounds or a little over 20 teaspoons per day (the recommended amount is no more than 5 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men). Eating excess sugar contributes to many health problems such as high blood pressure, bone health, obesity, and diabetes.
– Take a break. See if you can eliminate added sugar for a day, two days, a week or more. A break from sugar can be very helpful for your body. When you do this for longer (i.e. three weeks) it can even help your taste buds become more sensitive again.
– Fruit for Dessert. Instead of the usual super sweet sugary desserts (ice cream, cake, cookies, or even flavored yogurts, which are usually loaded with sugar) eat a piece of fresh seasonal fruit such as watermelon or peaches in the summer, apples or pears in the fall, citrus in the winter, and strawberries in the spring.
– Make a Treat a Treat. Shift away from dessert every day to one special dessert treat a week. You can look forward to it and thoroughly enjoy it when you have it.
– Spice it up. Experiment with sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, and cloves. You can add cinnamon to your oatmeal or to some unsweetened applesauce for a tasty, naturally sweet treat.
Each of us has the ability to change our life and affect the lives of our family members. Food is just one way to do that. The suggestions I’ve outlined over the last few weeks are a starting point. You can always go deeper if you choose. The key points to remember are: inform yourself through observation and gathering information; let support ease any changes you decide to make; focus on eating whole foods by shopping the perimeter of the store, adding more vegetables to meals and eating whole grains instead of white products; drink more water and consume fewer sweets.
The changes that my family made did not happen over night. It was a process that took time and continues today. It can be helpful to keep this in mind so that you are gentle with yourself, your family, and the whole process. I am so grateful to my mother for her courage to explore a different way, my father for supporting the changes, and my brother for being the catalyst for such amazing growth and learning.