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Is sugar evil?

Posted by Nancy Clark RD CSSD Jan 28, 2009

Nancy, is eliminating all sugar (except for natural sugar in fruits) from your diet safe? In normal grocery stores, it's almost impossible to find anything outside of the vegetable section that doesn't have sugar. I switched to soy milk but even that still has sugar….


Answer: Why would you want to eliminate all sugar? Sugar is a source of fuel for active muscles. All fruits, veggies and grains digest into sugar, the fuel that feeds your muscles as well as your brain. Milk also naturally contains sugar (lactose).


The concern should  not be "sugar" but the source of the sugar. For example, sugar in soda pop is "empty calories" -- with no nutritional value. Sugar in oranges comes along with lots of vitamin C, potassium, folate and other health-promoting nutrients. Enjoying sweet oranges is a smart food choice, nutritionally preferable to drinking orange soda.


Processed foods often have a little sugar added. For example,  the sugar in jarred spaghetti sauce adds to an enjoyable taste -- but it does not negate the nutrient content of the sauce. Don’t worry about it! Nutrition guidelines say that 10% of calories can appropriately come from refined sugar. As an active person, you likely need at least 2,000 calories a day. That means, you could enjoy 200 calories of refined sugar, if desired. That's 50 grams -- a quart of Gatorade, or a ton of spaghetti sauce!


Rather than getting hung up on sugar, look at the balance of your whole diet. You want to eat a diet with 85 to 90% nutrient-dense foods. But you need not eat a "perfect diet" (for you, this sounds like a sugar-free diet) to have a good diet.


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

1,709 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: sugar, nutrient_dense

As I mentioned in my previous blog, too many active people starve by day, in their efforts to lose weight, and then blow their diet by night. They think they lack "will power" when they overeat at night. Wrong. They lack nutrition "skill power."


Hunger is physiological—as is the need to urinate. That is, if you need to pee at 11:00 a.m., do you make yourself wait until noon to go to the bathroom? Doubtful. But if you are hungry at 11:00 a.m., do you make yourself wait until noon to have lunch? Likely. And when the skimpy lunch does not fill you up, you then make yourself wait until dinner to eat, at which time you are too hungry to have control over food. You overeat, and that is physiology of hunger!


Once you understand that hunger is physiological and allow yourself to eat adequately during the day, life is easier and more enjoyable, and weight loss become more successful.


Think of it this way: if you were babysitting and the child was crying because it was hungry, not feeding that child would be called child abuse. Yet, if you under eat all day and are hungry, you are simply "on a diet." Wrong, you are abusing your body.


You can lose weight by eating just a little bit less at night. There's a big difference between being "starving" and "not quite full." Chip away at weight loss by eating just 100 to 200 calories less at night, and you’ll be more successful in the long run than trying to live hungry all day. Give it a try!


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

1,504 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: weight_reduction, hunger, starvation, binge

"I am a bad evening eater even though I do quite well during the day. I'm trying to keep busy in the evenings so I'm not sitting around and snacking which is my downfall!"


When my clients report their eating is "good by day but bad by night", I notice they are  "too good" by day-- that is, they are eating way too few calories. That is why they are starving at the end of the day and "being bad" in terms of snacking and overeating. The solution is to fuel by day (so you have the energy to exercise) and then eat just a little bit less at night.


Theoretically, if you create a small calorie deficit by knocking off 100 calories at the end of the day, you'll lose 10 pounds of body fat a year. If you create a 200 calorie defict at the end of the day, you'll lose 20 pounds of fat. To their demise, too many active people knock off 500 to 800 calories during the day, and then get too hungry, overeat at night, and then end up gaining weight. I recommend their eating be "bad" by day and "good" by night! That is, that they eat enough during the day to feel satiated, and then eat just a little bit less at night ... not to the point of being too hungry to sleep, but just enought so they are not quite full.


My Sports Nutrition Guidebook has a strong section on how to lose weight without starving yourself. The information teaches active people:

- how many calories are OK to eat,

- how to maintain energy to enjoy exercise while losing undesired body fat,

- how to manage snack attacks, and

- how to find peace with food.

In addition, you might want to meet with a sports nutritionist for personalized advice. This food expert can help you create a personalized food plan that's sustainable and will help you reach your goals. Use the referral network at to find a local sports nutritionist.

Eat wisely and well,


Nancy Clark MS RD CSSD

1,463 Views 3 Comments Permalink Tags: weight, dieting, _loss

“I have a SUPER sweet tooth. I am all about sugar…” writes a blogger on the Rookie Runners page. Many active people think cravings for sweets are a personality quirk. Not necessarily.


Sweet cravings are preventable.They are a sign you have gotten too hungry and your body is screaming at your for some quick energy. The solution is to eat double at breakfast and lunch (you won’t be overeating; you’ll just be trading the calories from sweets into quality food). You'll discover your sweet cravings disappear. If this turns out to be too much food, you will simply be less hungry at dinner and will eat a lighter meal. Might sound scary, but give it a try.


Both my Sports Nutrition Guidebook and my Food Guide for Marathoners: Tips for Everyday Champions offer info on how to manage snack attacks and cravings for sweets.


Have fun experimenting with bigger meals, smaller snacks.



1,253 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: sweets, sugar, cravings

Recently, I was asked to bring skinfold calipers to a social gathering.  Ann (not her real name), a young mother who had succeeeded in losing 50 pounds by diet and exercise, wanted me to measure her body fat. She wanted to lose 10 more pounds, but her mother and other relatives had been making comments she was tooo thin.

The calipers provided unbiased data and Ann was actually shocked to learn she was a very lean 16% body fat. Because her physique had always been on the heavier side, she still saw herself as being bigger than she was. She ascribed to the belief “I’ll always be too fat, and never be too thin”. Not the case. She now was thin-enough and had no need to be thinner-yet.

Body fat measurements can be a helpful tool to give dieters the data they need so they know when to stop dieting. Ann could now believe her weight was indeed low and she could focus more on building muscle than on losing fat.

I encouraged Ann to allow her body a 5 pound weight range, to account for muscular growth. I offered to do repeated body fat measurements, to help her through the after-the-diet stage when the scale goes up as muscles get rebuilt.

If you, too, have lost a lot of weight, you might want to seek a sport dietitian who can measure your body fat, to give you data regarding a good weight for your body. The referral network at can help you find a local sports dietitian.

1,642 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: weight, body, fat, calipers
Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Nancy Clark RD CSSD

Member since: Jul 8, 2007

Hi! I specialize in nutrition for exercise, and help active people figure out how to manage food, weight, exercise, energy and enjoyment of eating. Let me know if you have any questions!

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