You know your elderly father needs to eat better. So, as his caregiver, you do what you can to make sure his diet is healthy. You serve him more fruit and vegetables. Reduce the amount of red meat and fried foods he eats. Make sure he’s not using too much salt.
All these changes will have a positive impact on your dad’s health (and likely his waistline, too.) But, you may be overlooking an ingredient hidden in a lot of the foods we eat that could increase his risk of heart disease, diabetes and liver damage – Sugar.
Our bodies don’t need sugar – it has no nutritional value. Its only job is to make foods taste good. The American Heart Association recommends that we only eat 6 to 9 teaspoons of sugar a day. And one 12-ounce soda can have 9 teaspoons.
So, you cut out the daily soda, and only serve dessert a few times a week. That should do it, right? Well, no. The big problem is the sugar you don’t even know you are serving him.
Let’s use the following menu as an example, according to the US Department of Agriculture’s Nutrient Database:
Breakfast: A bowl of cornflakes – 1.5 tsp of sugar
Lunch: A sandwich - 2 slices of bread – 2.5 tsp of sugar
Snack: Fruit yogurt – 2.75 tsp of sugar
Dinner: Spaghetti with low-sodium sauce – 1.6 tsp of sugar
Salad with Italian salad dressing – 1.75 tsp of sugar
So, without eating sweets, Dad has already consumed 10 teaspoons of added sugar.
To reduce the amount of added sugar read food labels and look for ingredients like “sugar”, “corn syrup” or “high fructose corn syrup”. Compare different brands (or flavors) of items to see which is lowest in sugar. And remember, the simplest way to avoid hidden sugar is to limit processed foods whenever possible.