By Monica Ropar, Jenny Craig Corporate Nutritionist
Lately, there has been a lot of not so sweet news that despite years of knowing sugar isn’t healthy, people are consuming more and more of it. The typical American diet is loaded with excessive amounts of added sugars and you can find them in just about anything on the grocery store shelves. On the road to healthy eating habits, one notable indulgence to drop is eating empty calorie foods, which are foods typically very high in sugar and lacking nutritional value, such as sweetened drinks, donuts, candies and more. When consumed in excess, empty calories can be attributed to weight gain.
There are two types of sugars, naturally occurring or added sugars. Naturally occurring sugars can be found in fruits and milks, while added sugars are found in packaged foods and are one of the biggest culprits of empty calories. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans advised limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total calories. The good news is that the Jenny Craig Menu has been designed to align to this limit so if you are following any of our planned menus, you can feel rest assured that you are not consuming too many added sugars.
Here are some of the most common sugary items to avoid and our suggestions for what you can easily add to your meal plan and not your waistline.
Avoid These: Cereals & Sweetened Yogurts
Despite sounding healthy, many cereals, flavored instant oatmeal, breakfast bars and flavored yogurts can contain as much sugar as a cookie. We all know that starting the day off with a sugary breakfast does not provide us with the fuel our bodies need and crave to have a healthy day.
Enjoy These: Unsweetened versions of cereals, oatmeal and yogurt. Sweeten them with a dash of honey, or best yet, fresh fruit and spices. You’d be surprised how delicious a diced apple sprinkled with cinnamon, nutmeg or cardamom pairs with plain yogurt or oatmeal.
Avoid These: Energy Bars
If you’re not making an educated selection, you could just be eating a ‘glorified’ candy bar. Some options on the market can contain as many calories and added sugars as a typical candy bar, but they are marketed as ‘healthy’ claiming they can ‘give you energy’. Don’t be fooled because they contain healthy ingredients like oats, nuts and grains. You must look at all of the added ingredients.
Enjoy These: Get natural energy from whole foods. Healthy fats, whole grains, proteins and fruits make great snacks. Eat snacks like string cheese and a fruit; or a piece of whole-grain toast with mashed avocado. You can also make deviled eggs out of one hard-boiled egg and use a little mashed avocado or Dijon mustard with the yolk instead of mayonnaise. Top it with smoked paprika for a satisfying snack.
If you’re on our program, Jenny Craig Anytime Bars contain less than half the amount of sugar and calories compared to some popular energy or protein bars.
Avoid These: Specialty coffee drinks & Smoothies
If you want to reduce your sugar intake, your morning routine is the first place to start. Many specialty dessert-sounding coffee drinks can contain as much sugar as a slice of cake or a bowl of ice cream.
Enjoy These: Create a specialty drink yourself! Pre-make flavored ice by throwing cooled coffee into ice cube trays. Combine 3-4 coffee ice cubes into a blender with a half-frozen banana, one scoop of protein powder (experiment with assorted flavors, my favorite is salted caramel) and about a ½ cup milk or plain yogurt. If using alternative milks, such as almond milk, be sure to use unsweetened versions. Make it more decadent by adding a teaspoon of cacao powder or instant espresso powder.
If you want more of a fruit flavor, just replace the banana with 1 cup of frozen fruit of your choice, protein powder, milk and ice. Top it off with a splash of coconut water and blend. Just be sure to measure the fruit since typical fruit smoothies can contain over the recommended 2 fruit servings a day. Remember, 1 cup fresh/frozen fruit counts as 1 fruit choice.
Even quicker: Our Ready-to-Drink Shakes. They contain perfectly portable protein, fiber and essential vitamins and minerals and nearly half the amount of sugar and calories of a typical shake or smoothie.
Avoid These: Cookies, Cakes & Candies
This seems like a no-brainer, however the food industry has gotten smart and has tried to market many of these sugar-laden treats as healthy by using terms like ‘gluten free’ or ‘all-natural’.
Enjoy These: Enjoy a single-serving of sugar-free pudding or a small piece of angel food cake with fruit coulis. Make your own fruit coulis sauce by blending 1 ½ cups unsweetened fruit of your choice, ½ tsp orange liqueur (or orange juice) and a pinch of sugar substitute. Store for up to a week in the fridge and use as a topping for pancakes, plain yogurt or anything you want to make a little sweeter. Jenny Craig’s Breakfast Syrup is a sweet topping alternative to get your pancake or waffle fix.
Avoid This: Sugar-sweetened beverages
It’s not just regular soda. Sugar-sweetened bottled ice teas, sports drinks and even the now popular coconut waters can contain an entire days’ worth of sugar.
Enjoy These: Reach for seltzer with a splash of no-sugar added juice. Try infusing your own water by adding cucumber and crushed mint, lemon and chopped basil, and slices of mixed citrus.
Avoid This: Margaritas & mimosas
Margaritas and mimosas—typical happy hour and brunch drinks. Many of these drinks include sugary-mixes on top of the empty calories that alcohol already provides.
Enjoy This: Order a ‘skinny’ margarita that is made with just tequila, fresh lime juice, soda water and a splash of agave or fresh orange juice. If you like it spicy ask for a jalapeño-infused one, which will make you sip it even more slowly. Avoid pre-mixed mimosas, which are typically half champagne and half orange juice. Ask for plain champagne or a wine spritzer with a small glass of fruit juice on the side so you can control how much juice you add. A tablespoon should be enough and top it off with ice if you like it very chilled. Be smart about your beverage selections and always consume in moderation. Cheers!
You don’t have to eliminate sweets entirely, but see where you can cut down or cut out sweetness in your day. If you can get down to 1 or 2 items daily, you’re on the right path!
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015, 8th Edition. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.