6 Steps to Reduce Sugar from Your Diet

6 Steps to Reduce Sugar from Your Diet

Americans love sugar. We love it so much we eat more of it than any other country in the world (1). And we’ve got the health statistics to prove it: obesity rates are soaring (2) and heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease are all leading causes of death in the U.S.(3).

Sugar may not be exclusively to blame for the sorry state of our health, but there is solid scientific evidence that high sugar consumption contributes to these chronic diseases. You’ve likely heard all of this before and know you should cut back on the sugar, but it’s easy to feel overwhelmed about where to begin. To aid you in the seemingly daunting task of reducing your sugar intake, I offer the following six steps.

#1: Work to keep your Blood Sugar Balanced throughout the day.

Each time your blood sugar goes up and down like a rollercoaster, you are extremely likely to crave sweets. This is metabolically normal. Not ideal, but normal.

To prevent your body from working against you in your goal to reduce sugar, you must stabilize your blood sugar. Do this by eating balanced meals or snacks at regular intervals throughout the day.

It’s essential every meal contains protein, healthy fat, and fiber from vegetables or fruit. If you can’t include all 3 elements, include a minimum of 2 of those elements. Your meals do not need grains all the time because you can get carbs from plant foods.

Eating this way helps you feel more satisfied (physically and mentally), and keeps blood sugar stable, resulting in less cravings.

#2: Set a Daily sugar intake limit and stick to it!

When it comes to our physiology, our bodies have zero need for sugar! Limit sugar to no more than 5% of your total calories, which is about 25 grams or 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day.

This means you must pick and choose where your added sugar comes from – don’t waste it on something you don’t really love. If meeting this goal sounds too challenging, try eliminating just 1 teaspoon worth of sugar (4 grams) at a time, until you reach your goal.

#3: Don't keep sugary foods and beverages around.

“Eat everything in moderation” isn’t a very realistic statement for someone who really craves sugar. Purge your house and your surroundings of the sugary things you’re most tempted by.

Don’t keep cookies, candy, soda, ice cream, or any other sweet treats in your house, not even for your children, husband, or guests. First, they don’t need the sugar any more than you do, and second, it just makes your work harder and potentially will lead to sabotaging yourself.

#4: Eliminate all sugar sweetened beverages.

The biggest contributor to American’s high sugar intake is soda. Just because you’re not a soda drinker doesn’t mean you’re off the hook. There’s a massive amount of sugar in sweetened tea, lemonade, flavored coffee drinks (hot & cold), energy drinks, chocolate milk, commercially prepared smoothies, fruit drinks, electrolyte drinks, and even some protein drinks.

Replacing your sweetened beverages with artificially sweetened beverages is as good as exchanging one poison for another. Instead, choose pure clean water, make your own tea, and use a drop or two of natural flavor extracts such as vanilla, almond, or peppermint in your coffee instead of sugar. Here are 8 ways to make and enjoy coffee without sugar.

#5: Get rid of sugar from the places it doesn't belong in the first place - and where you're not likely to miss it.

Sugar is lurking throughout our food supply! Foods like salsa, spaghetti sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, soup, bread, and many other foods routinely contain sugar. Be diligent about reading food labels and void those that contain added sugar, opting for the varieties made with no added sugar.

Here’s a list of the many incognito names sugar goes by.

Sugar in Disguise:

  • Agave
  • Any ingredient containing the word syrup
  • Any ingredient ending in -ose (dextrose, glucose, fructose)
  • Barley malt
  • Cane juice
  • Corn sweetener
  • Dextrin
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses

#6: Rely on naturally sweet foods to help satisfy your desire for sugar.

Fresh fruit, berries, sweet potatoes, carrots, beets, and winter squash are excellent choices. Sweet spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, and cardamom are great to “sweeten” things up.

You can also use cooking techniques that maximize sweetness such as roasting veggies or caramelizing onions.

A cup of tea after a meal also does wonders to quell the desire for sweets. I prefer licorice root, which has a naturally sweet after taste. Peppermint and spearmint tea are also soothing choices.

Eating less sugar and more naturally sweet whole foods helps to retrain your taste buds to appreciate the taste of sweet in a whole new and liberating way.

Get Intentional

Removing added sugar from the diet isn’t the easiest thing to do. For most people, reaching for sugar has become a habit and it’s reinforced each time you have a taste of it, as the brain’s reward center is stimulated, making getting off the stuff a bit like getting off a drug.

Without sugar you might feel cranky or have low energy for a few days, and you’re likely to find yourself tempted at every turn.

To make reducing your sugar intake a little easier, I recommend you first make your intention as to why you are removing added sugar clear to yourself, and then let those around you know so they can support you in your efforts.

Questions?

Drop me a comment. I love hearing from you!

Kelly Harrington, MS, RDN

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist for Healthy Goods


1.     Ferdman RA. Where people around the world eat the most sugar and fat. The Washington Post website. Feb 5, 2015.

2.     Fryar CD, Caroll MD, Ogden CL. Prevalence of Overweight, Obesity, and Extreme Obesity Among Adults: United States, 1960-1962 through 2011-2012. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. September 2014. 

3.     Leading Cause of Death. Center for Disease Control and Prevention website. Last updated September 30, 2015. 

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