Too much sugar may have some negative effects on your health. Added sugar, which is responsible for the sweet taste of sodas, cookies, and other processed foods, has been linked to heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, and even cancer.
Research shows that most Americans consume between 55 and 92 grams of added sugar every day — that would be anywhere from 13-22 teaspoons of sugar per day. That’s A LOT of sugar! The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendation says that we should get less than 10% of our daily calories from added sugars; unfortunately, the real percentage is about 12-16.
The World Health Organization goes even further, suggesting that added sugar shouldn’t make up for more than 5 percent of total calories for optimal health.
However, cutting down on sugar may be challenging. Don’t worry, our article provides 8 simple steps to reduce sugar from your diet!
1. Stay Away From Sugary Drinks
The primary source of added sugar for many Americans is sugary drinks — sweetened teas, sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, and others. Plus, drinks that many folks consider them as healthy, such as fruit juices and smoothies, can still contain shocking amounts of added sugar.
For instance, 1 cup (271 grams) of apple juice cocktail has more than 5 teaspoons of sugar (around 25 grams). Moreover, the human body doesn’t recognize calories from sugary drinks in the same way as it does with those from food. Calories from drinks are quickly absorbed, leading to a blood sugar spike.
Drinks also aren’t as filling as solid food, so those who drink lots of calories feel the need to eat more to compensate. This isn’t going to help at all if you want to lose weight. Here’s our conclusion: reduce sugar by slashing sugary drinks, and you’ll definitely be taking a step toward a healthier life.
2. Avoid Sugary Desserts
The second way to reduce sugar is by avoiding desserts. Most desserts are low-nutrient-density foods. They are high in sugar, which triggers blood sugar spikes, leaving you hungry and tired and making you crave more sugar. It’s a vicious circle.
Dairy- and grain-based desserts, such as doughnuts, ice cream, cakes, and pies represent more than 18% of the added sugar consumed by Americans. There are lots of alternatives if you want to eat something lower in added sugar while still satisfying your sweet tooth: fresh fruits, dark chocolate, baked fruits with cream, Greek yogurt with fruits or cinnamon, and so on.
Not only will you reduce sugar by replacing sweets with fresh or baked fruits, but you’ll also increase the vitamins, fiber, antioxidants, and minerals in your diet.
3. Eat Full-Fat Foods
Low-fat alternatives to your favorite foods —like yogurt, salad dressing, and peanut butter — are everywhere. Now, you’ve probably heard that fat is bad for you, so you’ve decided to go for these varieties instead — especially if you’re trying to lose weight.
Truth be told, they usually have more sugar and even more calories than their full-fat counterparts. For instance, a 6-ounce (170-gram) portion of low-fat yogurt contains 155 calories and 24 grams of sugar. The same amount of full-fat yogurt has only 104 calories and just 8 grams of naturally-occurring milk sugar.
That’s why when you’re trying to reduce sugar, it’s better to go for full-fat foods instead. However, it’s always best to check the ingredient list so you can make the best decision.
4. Eat Whole Foods
Reduce sugar by eating whole foods. Why? Well, they haven’t been refined or processed. They also don’t contain additives and other artificial ingredients. Here are a few examples of these foods: whole vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, and meat on the bone.
And then we have the ultra-processed foods: prepared meals that contain sugar, fat, salt, and additives meant to provide an amazing taste. Unfortunately, in this case, tastier doesn’t mean healthy. Examples of ultra-processed foods include fast food, sugary cereals, chips, and soft drinks.
So, in order to reduce sugar, our advice would be to cook your favorite meals at home. And, if cooking isn’t your thing, go for simple yet delicious dishes like roasted vegetables and marinated meats.
Keep reading to find out other simple tips to reduce sugar!
5. Avoid Sauces With Added Sugar
Another way to reduce sugar is by eliminating sauces with added sugar from your diet. At first, this may be a real challenge as ketchup, spaghetti sauces, barbecue sauce, and sweet chili sauce are all commonplace in most kitchens. But are you REALLY aware of their sugar content?
One tablespoon of ketchup has about 1 teaspoon of sugar (that would be around 5 grams). This means ketchup has about 29% sugar, which is more than ice cream contains.
To reduce sugar and choose healthier alternatives, look for sauces and condiments labeled “no added sugar”. Another idea is to season your food with natural and no-added-sugar herbs, spices, and ingredients.
6. Limit Sugary Breakfast Foods
Some breakfast cereals can have a high sugar content, making them an awful option for your first meal of the day. According to one study, some of the most popular cereals have more than 50% of their weight in added sugar.
But that’s not all. The report showed that granola, which is usually advertised as a healthy food, can contain more sugar than any other variety of cereal. Other popular choices for breakfast — such as muffins, waffles, jams, and pancakes — are also high in sugar.
To reduce sugar, save those breakfast ideas for special occasions and try things like Greek yogurt and fruits and nuts, avocado on whole grain bread, egg scramble with veggies and cheese, or oatmeal sweetened with fresh fruits.
7. Read Labels
If you want to reduce sugar, you have to do more than avoid sweet foods. We’ve already seen that sugar can hide in foods like granola and ketchup. Luckily, food manufacturers are now required to list every ingredient used on food labels, added sugars included. The added-sugars section is mentioned under total carbohydrates on those foods that contain them.
You can also check for sugar in the ingredient list. Keep in mind that ingredients are listed in order of weight, from largest to smallest quantity, so you’d better avoid foods that have sugar in the first 5 ingredients.
There are over 50 names for added sugar, making it more difficult to identify. Here are a few examples of the most common:
- cane juice or cane sugar
- high fructose corn syrup
- rice syrup
- invert sugar
8. Get Enough Sleep
Good sleep habits are crucial to your health. Poor sleep has been associated with poor concentration, depression, obesity, and reduced immune function. Lack of sleep, on the other hand, may influence your eating habits, predisposing you to choices that are higher in salt, sugar, fat, and calories.
One study discovered that folks who went to bed late and had poor sleep consumed more fast food, soda, and calories, as well as fewer vegetables and fruits than those who went to bed earlier and had a good night’s sleep.
In addition, a recent study found that consuming a higher amount of added sugar had a negative effect on postmenopausal women, increasing their risk of insomnia.
So, if it seems impossible for you to reduce sugar, try improving your sleep. It may help you regain some control.
You may also enjoy: 6 Delicious Anti-Aging Foods to Support Your 40s-and-Beyond Body.