Yes, it is possible to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
Sugar is everywhere! According to the National Health Institute, American adults now get 15% of their calories from sugar added at the table or during food processing. Sugar is in the cereals, breads, condiments and snacks found in our kitchens. It is present in the drinks we drink. It’s in the meals served in restaurants. And it contributes to rising rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet is a surefire way to improve your overall health. Here are seven ways to reduce sugar in your diet.
1. Avoid sodas, sweetened tea and sports drinks.
These drinks are the main sources of added sugar in the American diet. If you’re serious about reducing your sugar intake, opt for healthier alternative beverages. Try fruit-infused water; you can make it yourself by floating a few slices of chopped fruit in a pitcher of water. After a workout, choose milk over sports drinks. Milk naturally contains sugar, but much less than any commercially available sports drink. And unlike sports drinks, milk contains protein that stimulates muscle recovery.
2. Create new rituals.
One of the biggest challenges of adopting a sugar-free diet is that many of our rituals and celebrations include sweets. Wedding? Wedding cake! Birthday party? Birthday cake! Retirement party? More cake! Plan ahead and create new rituals. Instead of celebrating your birthday with cake, why not try an activity that is new to you? Instead of meeting a friend for dinner and drinks, go for a hike instead. As the holidays approach, decorate ornaments together instead of baking cookies.
A bowl of oatmeal with ground cinnamon and a cinnamon stick.
3. Spice up your life.
Let’s face it: Our taste buds are acclimated to sugar. If you regularly eat presweetened instant oatmeal for breakfast, a bowl of plain oatmeal will seem pretty bland. Spice it up by adding ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon. You can also use flavoured extracts (vanilla, almond, orange and lemon) to add flavour to foods and drinks. Experiment with new and unusual combinations. Consult cookbooks or watch cooking shows for ideas.
Group of young friends enjoying a healthy meal together
4. Fill up on nutrient-rich foods.
When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to reach for a sweet treat. Instead, fill up on nutrient-rich foods, which are rich in vitamins, minerals and other substances your body needs to function optimally. At mealtime, try to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables. Snack on whole fruits, cubes of cheese or pieces of lean protein. Don’t snack on pre-packaged cookies or granola bars; instead, wrap a peeled banana in a whole wheat tortilla.
5. Cook from scratch.
Did you know that commercially prepared spaghetti sauce and salad dressing are high in sugar? If you really want to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, try making homemade versions of prepackaged foods, including spaghetti sauce and salad dressing. (There are hundreds of recipes online!) In fact, cooking at home is one of the most effective ways to reduce your sugar intake. When you cook, add less sugar than directed; you can usually reduce the amount of sugar by one-third without affecting the taste.
6. Include low-sugar desserts.
In some households, dessert is a popular part of the meal, especially for holidays and special occasions. By planning ahead for sugar-free desserts, you can indulge yourself while controlling your sugar intake. Some of the smartest options include low-fat or fat-free yogurt topped with fresh fruit and dark chocolate covered nuts. Don’t want to give up your favorite desserts completely? Eat a smaller portion. Share a piece of pie or cake with a spouse, child or friend.
Young Hispanic woman reading a food nutrition label in the grocery store aisle.
7. Read labels.
Almost all prepackaged foods contain added sugar. However, some formulas or brands contain more sugar than others. Whenever possible, choose the least sweet option. You can find out the total amount of sugar in a serving by looking at the “Total Carbohydrate” section on the Nutrition Facts label. Avoid foods that have the word “sugar” as one of the first ingredients. Look out for the words “sucrose”, “malt syrup”, “high fructose corn syrup” and “corn sweetener”. These are all different forms of added sugar. At first, reading labels can be time consuming when shopping. But soon, you’ll know exactly which foods to choose from the shelves.