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The American Heart Association recommends limiting intake of added sugar to 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men. Four grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon. It is easier than you think to hit this number in one simple snack or drink. Below is a chart with some approximate teaspoons of sugar added to common treats.

Food

Approximate Added Sugar

King-size bag of fruity candies

21 teaspoons

1 personal bag of Twizzlers

17 teaspoons

Jelly Beans ~35

7 teaspoons

Average Chocolate Candy Bar (1 1/2 oz)

6 teaspoons

Soda

8 teaspoons

I have always had a sweet tooth. I felt that because I worked out regularly and was physically active throughout the day, I deserved to treat myself. Every night I would put the kids to bed and head straight for the kitchen to grab something sweet. Twizzlers were a personal favorite. I would start with one, then go back for a second, a third, fourth (4 Twizzlers is a serving size), and then some nights I ended up eating five or six.

The majority of my adult life I have been trying to lose that last “5 pounds.” I convinced myself that my diet was healthy despite the sweets I knew I was eating to excess. But something had to give for me to hit that seemingly-unreachable goal.

I gave up my nightly sweet snack and stopped eating sweets as a regular part of my everyday diet. If I was hungry, I didn’t deprive myself, I ate a handful of nuts, or a piece of fruit. Within a few weeks that unwanted 5 pounds worked its way off. Moral of the story, the little “cheats” in our diet we tell ourselves are okay and won’t make a big difference add up to more than we lead ourselves to believe. Do I still eat Twizzlers? Yes! I am human. Instead of them being part of my nightly ritual, however, I eat them only now and then. And believe it or not, I actually enjoy sweets more when it’s a rare occasion.

Here’s what I recommend: Set a goal that works a small amount of sweets into your diet. Make a chart and mark off each day you avoid falling for the temptation of a sugar-laden food. For every 5 days you beat the craving, reward yourself with a portion-controlled treat (for example, one ounce of chocolate). Sit back, relax and savor it knowing you are in control of your cravings!

By HealthEase Fitness Pro Liz Courtney