Sweet and savory, sticky, gooey and so addicting. Sugar isn’t good for our health but it triggers hormone responses that make it hard to give up. They don’t sell individually wrapped Hershey’s Kisses for a reason – you literally can’t eat just one without wanting more. If sugar is your vice, don’t worry, you don’t have to cut it out cold turkey (because moderation). Instead, try one of the tips below to eat less sugar (and not even miss it.)

*Daily sugar recommendations – 25 grams/6 teaspoons for women and 37.5 grams/9 teaspoons for men

Here are just a few of the dangers of consuming too much sugar –

  • It provides fuel for cancer cells
  • It impairs the function of white blood cells
  • It promotes weight gain and leads to cravings of more sugar that make ending the weight-gain-weight-loss cycle more difficult
  • It interrupts the transfer of amino acids to the muscles, which makes building muscle more difficult
  • It spurs insulin resistance, which can lead to Type II diabetes

My top 8 tips for eating less sugar –

1. Beware of processed foods – Pretty much everything you buy from a box, bag or cartoon contains added sugars. Sometimes a single serving of a packaged snack has 4 or more different types of added sugars per serving. Check the label of your favorite nutrition bar. Do you see any of these ingredients?

Yogurt coating (sugar, palm kernel oil, nonfat fry milk solids, yogurt powder, soy lecithin, salt) corn syrup, milk protein isolate, fructose, almonds, palm oil, water. Do you also see any of these common sweeteners? – corn sweetener, dextrose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, raw sugar, evaporated cane juice and malt syrup.

These ingredients are hidden in plain sight right there on the labels. They all sound innocent enough but in excess, they’re as unhealthy as plain ol’ white table sugar.

2 Make your own tomato sauce – Tomato sauce can be made in bulk as part of your next meal prep. Simmer tomatoes in a pot with fresh herbs and use a fork to break them up once they soften. Even if you add a pinch of sugar to taste, your homemade sauce will have much less sugar per serving than store-bought brands. You can also make your own salad dressing with a mix of oils, herbs and spices. My favorite homemade salad dressing is olive oil with crushed red pepper, dill and a squeeze of lemon.

3. Eat frozen fruit instead of candy – Frozen fruits are picked at the peak of ripeness and frozen immediately to lock in the nutrients and flavor. They’re sweeter and better for you than candy, which might sound like a no-brainer, but some people still get confused about the sugar in candy versus that in fruit. The sugar in fruit is packed in water, vitamins and minerals unlike candy sugar, which is packed in…well…more sugar. The next time the craving strikes, try to kick it with frozen grapes!

4. Buy it plain – …and sweeten it with a drizzle of honey or fresh fruit. A Snicker’s bar contains 27g of sugar and Yoplait yogurts contain 26g of sugar on average per container. I’ll just leave that right there…but, the same is true for flavored packaged oatmeal. Buy it plain and add your own spices, fruit and a pinch of natural sweetener. You can make the same great tasting cinnamon apple oatmeal and cut back on the sugar compared to most packaged brands. (meal prep time saver – make overnight oats!) 

5. Make your own smoothies – That Panera Green Smoothie you like to grab for breakfast on the way to work contains roughly 51g of sugar and most of the fruit is really fruit puree. The Triple Berry Oat smoothie from Tropical Smoothie contains 89g of sugar per 24oz smoothie. Blend your own smoothies so you can control the ingredients and portion size with real fruits, fresh or frozen.

6. Increase your protein intake – That mid afternoon slump is real! It usually strikes around 2:30pm when you start foraging through your desk for sugary snacks or head to the vending machine for a soda. We’ve all been there but you can tame that slump-craving beast by increasing your daily protein intake. Sugary snacks + lack of protein = blood sugar highs and lows, irritability and hunger shortly after eating (hanger!). When your blood sugar is stable you’re less likely to experience cravings.

Animal protein – chicken, salmon, fish, eggs
Plant-based proteins – chickpeas, lentils, tofu, black beans

7. Don’t drink your calories – Ditching soda is a good idea but even drinks touted as “healthy” often contain more sugar per serving than the recommended daily serving. Enhanced waters, bottled teas, energy and coffee drinks are a few examples. Fill up on pure water, unsweetened herbal teas, sparkling or infused water.

8. Avoid “diet,” “fat free,” and “sugar free” foods. – In comparison, it’s actually better to just eat a smaller portion of the real thing than it is to eat the artificial junk found in “diet food.” These so-called healthy alternatives add more sugar (and salt and other additives) to try to make up for what’s lost in flavor when the fat and sugar are removed. The vast majority of sugar-free foods aren’t what they claim. They might not contain white table sugar, which always gets a bad rap, but they do contain artificial sweeteners to replace the taste of removing real sugar.

Quick note on natural sweetener – Stevia, one of the most popular sweeteners, is best known for being natural and zero-calories. It’s made from the stevia plant (hence being natural) but having no calories also means it has no nutrients. It’s basically just a filler sweetener that’s about 300 times sweeter than sugar. It’s an acquired taste for most but some people just can’t get over the aftertaste. If sugar alcohols upset your stomach, avoid powered stevia which usually contains trace amounts of sugar alcohols. No type of sweetener is a health food but Stevia is a good alternative to white sugar and Splenda if you’re looking for a healthier choice.