How I Cut Down Drinking Sugar and HFCS

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Thursday, July 12, 2012
Coffee mug with sugar cubes
Over the years I've read a lot of different studies related to sugary drinks and weight gain. The more I read, the more I wanted to find ways to stop drinking sugar.

One study claimed calories consumed from drinks don't trigger a response within your body to let you know you've consumed energy. So if you drink a 200 calorie drink, your body doesn't react by triggering enough hunger so you eat 200 less calories than you normally do. In another study participants were split in two groups, one group was given an additional 450 calories a day in jelly beans, the other 450 calories in soda, then they were switched. Those eating jellybeans ate about 100 fewer calories than those drinking soda because their bodies compensated for the extra calories.

Other studies have found links between the consumption of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and obesity as well as other health problems. HFCS has replaced sugar in most soft drinks sold in the US.

Diet drinks don't seem to be much better as another study indicates diet drinks can trigger the same responses in your body as drinking non-diet drinks.

I don't know what's conclusive and what isn't but limiting the amount of sugars I drink doesn't seem like it would be a bad thing, even if HFCS isn't confirmed to be linked to obesity or weight gain.

When I was a kid, all I wanted to drink was Pepsi. Didn't like water, didn't like milk. All I seemed to drink was cola and some fruit juice. I was horrified to learn as an adult that there as much as 5 teaspoons of sugar in 8  ounces of cola! That much sugar seems absurd and I guess explains why I was always a bit of a chubby kid. Though I wasn't fat I never had a flat stomach.

These days my drinking consists mainly of water, coffee, tea (both black and green), lemonade, milk and juice. (And the occasional beer, wine or other forms of alcohol but not very frequently anymore.)

Since I make the majority of my own drinks, I can control the amount and type of sweetener used.

How I Managed To Drink More Water

As I got older I began drinking more water. The key for me to drink more water was that the water needed to be filtered and cold.

I use a Brita Pitcher to keep my water cold in the fridge and tasting good. I've been looking at other water filtering options too but so far Brita helps me drink more water and the filters are much cheaper than purchasing bottled water.

When I'm at my desk I use an insulated travel mug to help keep the water cold so I can constantly sip water throughout the day. I also use a Polar Insulated Water Bottle when I'm out hiking, running, walking around, etc. and a Camelbak Hydration Pack for longer rides/hikes.

When I'm eating a meal I'll have water with it and if I'm just thirsty I'll chug a glass of water before drinking a little less of something more flavorful.

I used to squeeze a few drops of lemon juice in my water in the past but find I do that less and less these days.

Drinking only water can get boring so I do drink other liquids but I rarely purchase bottled soft drinks these days. Instead I focus more on drinks that are naturally lower in sugar or drinks that I can control the amount of sugar I use.

How to Cut Down On Sugar In Coffee

I usually have 1, sometimes two, 10 oz mugs of coffee a day. The day just doesn't feel like it starts until I have a cup.

I used to put 2 teaspoons of sugar, and a little low-fat milk, in my mug. When I was younger it was sometimes 3 teaspoons. Compared to the 5+ teaspoons of sugar in 8oz of cola it doesn't seem so bad but any bit of extra empty calories I could cut from diet is good. 

In the past few months I switched to only using 1 teaspoon of sugar per coffee mug. At first it was a bit of a shock and took a week or so to get used to but wasn't quite the same. I almost gave up and switched back to 2 teaspoons but before I did that I decided to find an alternative to adding more sugar to my coffee.

I've never been a fan of sugar substitutes. They don't taste good to me and I'm concerned about possible adverse effects. So that was out of the question.

What I decided to do instead of adding more sweeteners was to try to make better tasting coffee that didn't need as much sugar. I spent a bit of time learning how to make better tasting coffee at home and realized the automatic drip coffee maker I (and most people have) sucks at making good coffee.

Clever Coffee Driper
I've recently switched to using a Clever Coffee Dripper to get my morning caffeine fix.

With the Clever Coffee Dripper I find I can make my coffee stronger and more flavorful without it tasting bitter. In addition I use whole beans which I grind myself to get fresher tasting coffee.

With my automatic drip coffee maker I always had to brew very light or the resulting taste was very bitter. So what I used to drink was very light in coffee flavor.

With the richer tasting coffee from the CCD, I don't need as much sugar to make coffee to my liking. Sometimes I'll even drink it without milk or sugar.

If you put a lot of sugar in your coffee, it might be that you're making bad coffee too. Or maybe you just don't like coffee at all.

Soft Drink Alternatives

Instead of buying soft-drinks with way too much sugar in them, I've switched to drinks I make myself, including my Homemade sports drink.

My main drinks are homemade iced tea and lemonade. For more variety you can purchase unsweetened Kool-aid mixes and add as much (or as little) sugar as you want.

They key to breaking the soda addiction was to make sure that I always had drinks ready to serve in the fridge.  Having at least 2 - 2 quart pitchers for some variety helps and I also use my Polar Insulated Water Bottle when I'm out and want to bring something besides water with me.

Going out can be a challenge. When I want something more than just water I find that many restaurants have unsweetened iced tea. If they don't I make sure I drink water with my meal as well.

Iced Tea Recipe

Iced tea is very simple to make and you don't need any special equipment.  It's also very cheap, somewhere around $0.45 per 2 liter batch including tea bags, sugar and lemon.

6 tea bags
1/4 cup sugar (or however much you like)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
about 1/8th teaspoon or less of baking soda (helps cut bitterness)
8 cups of water

Boil 2 cups of clean, filtered water.  After water has boiled remove from heat and place the tea bags in the pot or transfer the water and teabags to another container if you're using a kettle, and steep the tea for around 15 minutes. At the same time add the baking soda. Remove the teabags but do not squeeze them after the 15 minutes are up and dissolve the sugar. Allow the tea to cool naturally down to room temperature and add the remaining water and lemon juice. Transfer to pitcher with lid and cool in fridge.

Not Too Sweet Lemonade

I use a little more sugar in my lemonade but not as much as most recipes call for.

6 lemons
1/3 cup sugar
enough cold filtered water to make 2 quarts (about 6 cups).

Squeeze the juice out of 6 lemons. Remove the seeds but leave the pulp using a spoon. Pour the juice into a pitcher and enough water to fill the pitcher about half way. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. I like to use a large metal spoon to stir because wood can sometimes absorb and release flavors. If I'm using a glass pitcher I'll mix it up first in a metal pot to reduce the risk of cracking the glass. Once the sugar is dissolved, add the rest of the water to fill the pitcher and cool in the fridge.

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