Many consumers avoid fat on their food labels when they are attempting to make changes to their eating habits to lose weight. While this may contribute to weight loss, it calls attention away from a significant contributor to the excess in calories which lead to fat deposits and weight gain. This mostly ignored culprit is named sugar.
The average American diet includes about 13% of its calories from sugar, or about 130 pounds per year. The average diet needs zero sugar, as it offers no nutritional benefit whatsoever.
When sugar enters the body, a very small amount is used as energy and the rest is immediately converted to fat. Many foods that are labeled as fat free have added sugar to help them still taste palatable to consumers when the fat has been removed. While the consumer is eating it in a different form, they are still getting as much if not more excess in their calorie intake which results in fat storage and weight gain.
Besides contributing actual calories and fat deposits to the body, sugar also encourages weight gain by messing with the hormones that relay messages to the brain to relay the hunger status of the body. In essence, different types of sugar actually trick the body into thinking it has not eaten enough, even when it has. Instead of feeling full or satisfied, the body craves more.
Decreasing sugar intake starts with awareness. It is difficult to outright avoid sugar all together in the modern world of food in the United States, because it is in almost everything. Reading food labels to make comparatively better food choices is the best way to start decreasing sugar intake. Avoiding foods with greater than 5 grams of sugar per serving is a great start.
Other small changes which can make big differences in sugar intake and weight loss include cutting sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice out of the diet. Drinking away the calorie budget for the day is nutritionally not worth it, and many people are simply unaware of how much sugar is contained in those sweet sips. Avoiding processed foods, foods labeled "fat free" and cutting back on candy and desserts are also good choices in decreasing sugar intake.
Kicking the sugar habit has a lot to do with how much control a person can exert over their environment. The key to accomplishing this is in getting the whole family on board. Family support and solidarity in behavioral changes are a solid way to increase the odds of sticking to a better habit. Read here to see how a regular American family worked together to make small changes to decrease their sugar intake in realistic ways.