Can you tell the difference between the color-coded artificial sweeteners commonly found in restaurants and coffee shops?
When going out to eat, there are so many drink choices to choose from. Although the variety of sugar packets often found in restaurants can be enticing to add to unsweetened teas and coffee, the best alternative is to avoid added sugar altogether. Sugary drinks add calories to your meal with no added nutritional value. The human body naturally wants more sugar. Not only is sweetness naturally appealing to our taste buds, but sugar is also a carbohydrate that our bodies break down to give us energy. On a day to day basis, it is easy to add more sugar to your diet than you realize.
While some believe low-calorie sugar substitutes are healthier than regular sugar, this is not always true. Aspartame (found in blue sugar packets) is the same, exact artificial sweetener that is in diet sodas. Below, you will find a very helpful chart that breaks down the exact differences between natural sugars and artificial sweeteners!
Tip: When reading nutrition labels, search for ingredients that end in ‘ose’ in order to find common sugars present (i.e. fructose, lactose, dextrose).
As shown in the infographic, artificial sweeteners are sometimes recommended to people with diabetes because they do not raise blood sugar levels. Although artificial sweeteners are advertised as 'sugar-free' and 'low-calorie', these sugar alternatives still do not provide nutritional value. Splenda is one of the most popular recognizable artificial sweeteners. The chemical found in these yellow packets is called sucralose. Saccharin is the chemical found in the pink packets of "Sweet n Low".
According to the Mayo Clinic, it is recommended that added sugars should comprise of no more than 10% of your daily calorie intake. For example, if you consume 2,000 calories a day, you should try to consume less than 200 calories per day directly from added sugar. The average American consumes nearly 358 calories of added sugar a day. An excess amount of sugar consumption can lead to weight gain, tooth decay, and overall nutrition deficiency.
If you have a sweet tooth, try drinks made with fresh fruits, which have naturally-occurring sugars (called fructose) present. When drinking tea, I choose to add honey instead of sugar. Raw cane sugar, agave syrup, and coconut sugar are also great alternatives to plain white sugar!
As always, moderation is essential for a balanced, healthy lifestyle. If you have a tendency to reach for sugary drinks, try to gradually cut back on these drinks and replace with water.
Comment below which sugar alternatives you plan to try!