Weight loss secret: Shop ‘naked’

Less to do with clothing and more about how we deal with sugar, uncover tricks and shed bad habits to manage your weight.

Weight loss secret: Shop ‘naked’

The supermarket is every foodie’s idea of heaven. With shelves brimmed with products beckoning to every stomach, it is a joy walking through the aisles. But in nooks and crannies, evils lurk, seeping into the waistlines of victims. What is this mysterious entity? Sugar.

Delicious yet diabolically destructive, sugar has become an omnipresent component in close to 75 per cent of all foods and beverages. The industry’s dependence on sugar is the main culprit to today’s obesity epidemic, paving the way for complications like coronary heart disease and diabetes.

Yet, the battle against the bulge still faces obstacles, from persistent misconceptions to conniving packaging tactics. 

Fortunately, there is a solution – shopping ‘naked’. This Aerinlé guide to dropping the pesky pounds was formed with the inputs of nutritionist Sonal Manek from the University at Buffalo and Ms Fiona Chia from Health Can Be Fun. In easy three steps, watch your weight by cutting down on sugar. 

Step one: Discard misconceptions

Keep your friends close and your enemies closer – understanding sugar is the first step to managing it. Be a smarter shopper by removing any false impressions. 

Sugar is not like salt: Sugar isn’t a condiment, but a simple carbohydrate that supplies energy to the body in the form of calories approximately 4kcal/g. “When we overload on sugar, we essentially overload on calories, which when unused are stored and converted to fat,” Ms Manek said.

Sugar is not always white: The white crystals you add to tea are just one of sugar’s many faces. There are two types of sugars. Natural sugars are found in fresh foods like fruits (fructose) and dairy products (lactose), while added sugars are supplemented in a product. “Both types will be broken down to glucose for bodily use. Natural sugars include other nutrients, but the ones to look out for are added sugars, which have no nutritional benefits and are basically empty calories,” Ms Chia explained.

Sugar-heavy foods are not always sweet: It can be surprising how much sugar is hidden in our foods. Sugar-heavy foods are not necessarily sweet and could even be packaged as healthy. Ms Chia added: “Savoury foods like canned soup and tomato sauce, or low fat products often contain unhealthy levels of added sugar to improve flavour or aid in preservation.”

Step two: Reveal the concealed

It is one thing to be uninformed, but another to be misled by confusing information. We could be thrown off  by evasive nutritional labels which discount the amount of sugar within a product. Counter this by being a vigilant and smart shopper. 

Three sneaky ways manufacturers use to undermine sugar content include:

Multiple names: A rose by any other name would smell as sweet. Sugar may come from many sources, but that does not make it any healthier; It still does the same damage. Don’t be fooled by the obscure, scientific names or healthy sounding terms on products. Below are some familiar aliases used in replacement of sugar:

  • Agave syrup
  • Cane juice solids
  • Barley malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Molasses
  • Brown sugar
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Fructose
  • Sucrose (table sugar)
  • Lactose
  • Corn Syrup

Blurred lines: Lax policies on nutritional labels allow manufacturers to omit the amount of added sugars (although changes are underway in the United States for an added sugar component by 2018), leaving consumers unaware of its exact amount in products. For now, the best solution is guesswork. Note that ingredients are usually listed in descending order. “So if sugar or any of its alternatives show up as the first or second ingredient in the list, skip out on the product. Chances are there’s too much added sugar,” Ms Chia quipped.

Divide and conquer: In an effort to conceal sugar content, manufacturers may deliberately incorporate different sources of sugar, splitting them throughout the ingredient list. “By doing so, companies are able to place sugars lower down the list, lulling consumers to believe that a product has less sugar than it actually contains,” said Ms Manek.

Step three: Strip the unnecessary

Sugar isn’t harmful in itself – the amount we consume makes it dangerous. Mindful food choices will help one stay in a healthy weight range. Here are four ways to actively reduce sugar in your diet:

Choose whole foods: Pick fruits over your blended fruit juices. “The closer a food to its natural form, the less empty sugar it contains. Valuable nutrients such as dietary fibre, which help to slow down sugar absorption, are often lost in the processing of foods, which includes blending or cooking,” explained Ms Chia. 

Cut down on sweet drinks: From packaged juices to soft drinks, these liquids often contain more than 20g of sugar per serving. Water is always best, but if that’s too bland, go for fruit-infused drinks with reduced or no sugar. 

Use less sugar in cooking: Our ability to taste sweetness may be desensitized with elevated intakes. If sugar is required in a recipe, Ms Manek recommends using only a third of the suggested amount. “Just as our tastebuds are able to acclimatise to concentrated sugar levels, they can adapt back to less sugar in no time,” she said.

Avoid artificial sweeteners: While sweeteners may take away the guilt in the form of calories, they do nothing to curb your sweet tooth. Instead, Ms Chia suggests substituting sweeteners with spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. 

A trip to the grocer’s doesn’t have to feel like hell. Reduce your sugar intake and manage your weight today!

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