Are You Really Skipping the Sweets?

Are You Really Skipping the Sweets?

I love it when patients tell me they’ve made a conscious decision to eat better. After visiting my office and hearing a diagnosis of liver disease, it’s encouraging to know that they are taking an active role in turning around the problems that lie on the road ahead. I feel great to have made an impression on them, and even better that for some of them, there may still be a chance to turn their health around. They have discovered that their health issues stem largely from poor food choices, overeating, lack of exercise, and a general lack of commitment to taking their health into their own hands.

Unfortunately, while patients are truly trying to eat better, they often still make poor choices at the supermarket. After all, it’s tough to resist some of the sweets on display while shopping for all the “good stuff.” Like most people, they are making mistakes because of their perception of what is healthy food, and what is unhealthy.

Sweets, especially, seem to be difficult for people to forgo. While some foods appear to be healthy, the truth is they are laden with sugar. Here are some of the challenges people are facing:

Sodas vs. juice. I’ve had patients tell me that they’ve eliminated all sodas in their diet. Instead, they tell me, they’ve switched to organic apple juice. Juice would seem like a healthy choice; after all, it’s made from fruit, right? But nearly all juices contain sugar or some sort of high-calorie sweetener. Plus, additives for flavor and preservation methods tend to make juices one of the less healthy choices a person can make. Four servings of juice per day equals close to 500 calories, 120 grams of carbohydrates, and 96 grams of sugar.

Bottled energy drinks. Here again, people think that because these drinks are promoted as bursts before a workout or a replenishing drink afterward, they are good for you. But sports drinks for the most part are little more than flavored sugar water in a bottle. The electrolytes or other replenishing ingredients may be suitable for athletes after a tough workout, but not for sedentary kids and adults.

Protein bars. While many protein bars have good-for-you ingredients such as oatmeal, almonds, or honey, a good portion of them are candy bars in disguise. They are covered with chocolate and loaded with fat, sugar, and calories. In fact, some bars have more than 250 calories and over 10 grams of sugar. That’s compared to a Snickers candy bar, with 250 calories and 27 grams of sugar.

Instead of artificially sweetened foods, I recommend having a supply of fresh fruit on hand. Strawberries, blueberries, apples, pears, citrus fruits, and melons (in season) are some of that I recommend patients keep on hand. Consider organic fruits, which have less pesticide residue.

While some fruits should be stored at room temperature, some will last longer if refrigerated. All fruits should be washed, although it’s best to wait until the fruit is ready to be eaten.

Take some time to get to know fruits—a far healthier choice when the sweet tooth beckons.

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