America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic. Currently, 69% of U.S. adults are overweight while more than one third (35%) are obese. Children are not untouched by this frightening reality as 32% are overweight, 17% of whom are obese.
The American Heart Association supports a multipronged approach to address this problem including creating and implementing policies designed to improve access to affordable, nutritious foods and beverages, thereby making it easier for Americans to choose healthier foods consistent with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. One of these approaches is to reduce the consumption of sugary beverages among Americans, especially children.
“Sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories in the American diet. The average American consumes the equivalent of 39 pounds of sugar each year from sugary drinks,” said Dr. Patrick Thomas, physician with NewYork-Presbyterian Medical Group Hudson Valley Cardiology, Chief of Cardiology at NewYork-Presbyterian Hudson Valley Hospital, and the Board President of the Putnam County America Heart Association. NewYork Presbyterian is the AHA’s official “Rethink Your Drink” local sponsor for the Westchester Heart Walk, set for Saturday, September 29th at Kensico Dam. Register your team online at www.westchesterheartwalk.org
“We join with the American Heart Association to encourage Americans to Rethink Your Drink and choose water or low-calories options over the high-calories sugary drinks. Take time to consider all the beverages you consume in a day. You may be getting some extra, unneeded calories through sodas, ice teas, energy and coffee drinks. Make the healthy choice the default choice for your beverages to cut back on sugar and calories,” said Dr. Thomas.
Some research suggests that when you drink calories, you aren’t as satisfied compared to eating the same amount of calories in solid food. The American Heart Association offers these tips on how to switch to healthier drinks that can quench your thirst but still taste good.
Read those ingredients – Beverages, like energy drinks, can be deceiving because they advertise that they are healthy but usually are loaded with calories and sugar. Common forms of added sugars are sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, dextrose, corn syrups, concentrated fruit juice and honey. Also, look at the label carefully because one container may be considered more than one serving, which can double or triple your sugar consumption.
Cut back slowly – If you have sugary drinks like sodas and sweetened teas on a regular basis, start cutting back now. Replace those drinks with the water suggestions next.
Work up to water – We often hear we should drink water every day, but that can seem like a challenge if you aren’t a big fan. Try carrying a refillable water bottle or have a permanent glass at your office desk. Add slices of oranges, lemons or even cucumbers for an added boost of flavor. Try seltzers or sparking water with a splash of 100% fruit juice.
Join the juicing trend –You may have seen infomercials for juicers or read articles about the benefits of making and drinking your own fruit and vegetable juices. These homemade juices can be OK – up to a point. First, it’s always better to eat produce instead of drinking it as you get fiber from the skin and pulp that can be strained out by a juicer. It’s easy for the calories in fruit juice to add up without even noticing.
Sip a smoothie – When you are in the mood for a milkshake or want an afternoon snack, keep on the heart healthy track with a budget-friendly homemade fruit smoothie! Blend ½ cup frozen fruit with no added sugars, ½ cup plain, low-fat Greek yogurt with no added sugars and ½ cup low-fat milk. If you don’t have a blender, mix small pieces of fresh fruit with yogurt and milk, then freeze for an hour. Experiment with different fruit combinations like mango-pineapple or strawberry-blueberry. Ask for skim or low-fat milk in your favorite coffee drinks. Add your own sweetener to control added sugars.
Learn more at www.heart.org/healthyliving.