We all love a little sugar, but America’s sweet tooth has gone way overboard. From drinks to snacks to desserts, there is plenty of sugary fare. And too many of us are indulging too much and too often.
We each have our own favorite sugary foods and these are the 10 top sugary temptations for my family and me -- and some alternatives that will still satisfy.
Temptation #1: An Ice Cold Sweetened Tea Drink
When you are thirsty the idea of an ice-cold flavorful ice tea beverage can be so tempting. Drinking a 16-ounce bottle of sweet ice tea adds about 160 calories and about 40 grams of sugar.
As long as you are fine with the alternative sweetener aspartame, you can usually find some of the same flavors in a diet version with zero calories.
An even better option is to brew your own highly flavored green, black, or white tea and keep it in the refrigerator for a refreshing cold drink a few hours later. No sweetener is needed, because the iced tea has so much flavor of its own.
Some of the tea bags I’ve found to make the best ice tea are blueberry pomegranate green tea, mandarin orange green tea, and vanilla caramel black tea.
Temptation #2: Creamy Raspberry Yogurt
Yogurt is such a great snack, given the fact that it pumps up your day with protein and probiotics. The problem is that some flavored yogurts can ratchet up the sugar to the tune of 33 grams of sugar per 6-ounce serving.
Light yogurtsabound -- sweetened with alternative sweeteners. But you can also create your own. Here's how:
- Start with a container of plain regular or Greek yogurt.
- Stir in 1/4 teaspoon vanilla paste and a teaspoon or two of brown sugar (add a pinch of ground cinnamon if you desire).
- Add 1/3 to 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen chopped berries.
By making your own flavored yogurt, the total sugar decreases to about 16 grams (9 grams are from the lactose in yogurt and 3 are from the berries.)
You also get four grams of fiber per serving, plus assorted nutrients and phytochemicals from the raspberries.
Temptation #3: Candy Bar
Whether it’s an afternoon slump or pre-dinner energy dip, that candy bar in the work vending machine or corner market can be awfully tempting. For example, the 2-ounce version of a popular bar adds 35 grams of sugar.
Slow down your chocolate enjoyment and ramp up the chocolate intensity just by switching to bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate chips that have at least 60% cacao (often noted on the front of the package). The more nonfat cocoa solids a chocolate product or food contains, the more antioxidants it tends to contribute.
Pop a couple of chips in your mouth at a time and let the chocolate melt in your mouth on its own. Sixteen dark chocolate chips (0.5 ounce) contain just 6 grams of sugar and they add one gram of fiber.
Temptation #4: Cupcakes
Cake is comfort food and celebration food all rolled into one for me. And cupcakes are just that much more tempting because they are cute and perfectly portioned.
Cupcake chains are popular in my area and the typical cupcake adds about 45 grams of sugar, and plenty of fat and saturated fat too.
If it’s chocolate you are craving, try the dark chocolate chip trick (see the satisfying alternative for Temptation #3 above) or a couple of dark chocolate kisses. If the mini-cake concept is really tempting you, a smaller portion size means a smaller amount of sugar. Reach for the 100-calorie mini-cupcake packs with about 12 grams of sugar (they taste better eaten chilled from the refrigerator). Or bake mini cupcakes at home.
Temptation #5: Big Bakery Cookies
I asked a few of my girlfriends what their biggest sugar temptation is and a couple of them said cookies -- the big, yummy kind you buy in a bakery. Each one of these cookies contributes about 20 grams of sugar to your daily total.
You can make a lighter batch of cookies at home without sacrificing flavor by using 1/3 less sugar than the original recipe calls for (and replace half of the white flour with whole wheat flour, while you are at it). Divide homemade dough or store-bought dough into smaller-sized cookie balls so you are enjoying three mini cookies instead of one big cookie. It will seem a lot more satisfying and you will be more likely to stop there.
Temptation #6: Frozen Yogurt
Where I live, there is a shocking number of frozen yogurt shops. I favor the chains that sell frozen yogurt that is truly yogurt that has been frozen, but even those brands lightly sweeten the stuff. One-half cup serving of frozen yogurt adds about 20 grams of sugar, give or take, depending on the brand.
To me, the trick is being satisfied with a half-cup serving. The best way to do this is to add some fresh fruit as a topping instead of adding even more sugar with toppings like chocolate, cookie crumbs, gummy bears, candy bar crumbs, etc.
You can also make your own frozen yogurt by blending plain yogurt with fruit puree and any added flavors or alternative sweetener you desire in a plastic cup, then placing the cup in your freezer. Stir the mixture every 15-30 minutes until it's frozen but still soft.
Temptation #7: Gummy Bears and Jelly Beans
They come in fun colors and flavors and although I’m not tempted by these sweet treats, I know plenty of people who are. Twenty small jelly beans totals about 16 grams of sugar.
If you aren’t sensitive to the potential intestinal side effects of the sugar alcohols (maltitol, sorbitol, etc.), commonly used in sugar-free confections, you might be satisfied with sugar-free versions of gummy bears or jelly beans.
If you are sensitive, then I suggest indulging in one little pouch only or about 10 small jelly beans (about 8-14 grams of sugar) and eat them one at a time.
Resist putting them in your mouth all at once. Instead, try chewing each bear or bean slowly and really savor the flavor in each and every one.
Elaine Magee, MPH, RD, is the "Recipe Doctor" for WebMD and the author of numerous books on nutrition and health. Her opinions and conclusions are her own.