We all know sugar is terrible for your health. Eating too much sugar has been linked to metabolic syndrome, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, liver disease, and even wrinkles. So if you’re looking for ways to eat less sugar, here are some tips:
Ways to eat less sugar
The sugar that you have to avoid is added sugar — the high-calorie processed sugars and syrups added to foods to make them sweet (or to make it even sweeter than it already is). Added sugars are present in many processed foods, and almost all soda, sports drinks, and energy drinks. These sugars provide only empty calories. High-fructose corn syrup can easily overload your liver, and ends up stored as fat. Too much will also result in diabetes and fatty liver disease.
Many foods in their natural forms also contain sugar. This is called naturally occurring sugar. Its presence in fruit and dairy products cannot be avoided. The fiber and antioxidants in unprocessed food are healthy, but fruit contains a lot of naturally occurring sugar, so be careful of your portions. Do not drink fruit juice, since even a small portion is very high in sugar.
Nutrition Facts labels will list the amount of added sugars:
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Be mentally prepared to eat less sugar
Sugar has become so much a part of our regular diet that cutting down can be challenging. Sugar has become almost like a drug that we turn to for comfort, pleasure, or an instant energy boost. Be aware of which crutch you’re using sugar for.
Be prepared for some “withdrawal” symptoms when you start reducing your sugar intake. Headaches, fatigue, and/or irritability are most common. It can be difficult at first, but your body will thank you in a week or two!
Keep a food diary
Before you begin to reduce your sugar intake, write down everything that you eat in your normal diet. Keep a food journal for about three days. This will help you pinpoint the biggest sources of added sugars in your diet. Use the Easy ABC Meal Planner from Sugar Free Me to put together healthy, low-sugar meals and snacks.
How much sugar can you safely consume?
This is the maximum amount of added sugar you’re allowed to consume, according to the American Heart Association:
- For women 25 grams added sugar = 6 teaspoons = 100 calories
- For men 38 grams added sugar = 9 teaspoons = 150 calories
You should keep your intake below these numbers.
Read food labels to find sources of hidden sugar
Now that you know how much sugar you are supposed to consume, you must read and understand food labels. The list of ingredients is ordered from the greatest to the smallest quantity (by weight). If you see sugar near the top of the list, that means it’s one of main ingredients. Sugar can come in a variety of names and disguises. One tip is to look for the –ose ending in the word, like sucrOSE, that means it’s a sugar. But there are other hidden sugars. Here’s a list of names of ingredients that are actually sugar:
- Agave nectar
- Agave syrup
- Barley malt
- Beet sugar
- Brown rice solids
- Brown sugar
- Buttered syrup
- Cane juice
- Cane sugar
- Carob syrup
- Confectioners’ sugar
- Corn sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Corn syrup
- Corn syrup solids
- Crystalized fructose
- Date sugar
- Diastatic malt
- Evaporated cane juice
- Fruit juice
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Glucose solids
- Golden sugar
- Golden syrup
- Grape juice concentrate
- Grape sugar
- High fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Maple syrup
- Raw sugar
- Refiners’ syrup
- Sorghum syrup
- Turbinado sugar
New Nutrition Facts labels on food must now distinguish between added sugars and naturally-occurring sugars. A quick glance at the ingredients list will help. If you see any added sugars listed in the ingredients, you can either cut off that particular food item from your diet, or at least reduce the amount that you consume. Dates in a snack bar, for example, are a source of naturally-occurring sugar. But if you see corn syrup or maltodextrin as well, then you still have added sugars in your “health” bar.
Another thing to watch for in food labels is the “fat-free” stamp. Often more sugar or artificial flavoring is added to these foods to make up for the flavor lost with the fat. Read the labels to be sure.
Eat fruit for your sweet tooth
Getting off sugar can be a challenging process, and you may experience some sugar cravings. You can use fruit to satisfy your cravings. If you combine a small portion of fruit with protein or fat, the sugar in the fruit will take longer to digest and leave you satiated for a longer time. You can combine fruit with cheese or almond butter, for example.
Drink citrus-flavored water
Instead of sugar-laden soda, lattes, or energy drinks, switch to fruit-infused water if you’re after flavor. Otherwise, plain old water is best. Even fruit juices that do not contain added sugars are not recommended. Juicing removes the natural fiber of the fruit. The sugar from the juice will give you a sudden sugar rush, and then send you crashing down and craving for more. Unsweetened tea, coffee, or mineral water are also good alternatives.
Don’t wait till you’re famished
Snack on protein-and-fat combinations, and make sure there are lots of vegetables in your diet. They take longer to digest, keep your energy levels stable, and prevent cravings. If you wait until you’re absolutely famished, the tendency will be for you to grab carbohydrate-loaded snacks because they’re fast and tasty.
Get enough sleep
According to research, getting fewer than 7 hours of sleep can make you crave high-calorie, sugar-rich food. Make sure you get a good night’s rest to keep the sugar cravings away!
Never shop for food when you’re hungry. That’s when you’re most likely to give in to all the tempting junk foods on display. Hunger can weaken your resolve. When you go to the grocery or supermarket, steer away from the inner aisles. The real food – produce and protein – is in the outer aisles, on the periphery of the grocery store.
With all the research that has proven the dangers of eating too much sugar, cutting down on sugar is the smart thing to do. These tips will help you greatly reduce your sugar consumption by making the right food choices and by avoiding hidden sugar.
Easy ways to eat fewer carbs
Here are some more easy tips to eat less sugar and eat fewer carbs:
- Eliminate sweetened drinks and fruit juice
- Cut back on bread
- Choose high-protein, low-carb snacks like nuts or cottage cheese.
- Always eat protein at breakfast.
- Use stevia or xylitol instead of sugar or agave.
- Order the veggie of the day (or a side salad) instead of the fries or mac + cheese.
- Experiment with almond flour or coconut flour instead of wheat flour.
- Choose Greek yogurt, cheese, ricotta, or cottage cheese instead of fruit-flavored yogurt or pudding.
- Add healthy fats like olive oil or coconut oil, and cut your serving of starch in half.