8 Ways To Cut Sugar From Your Diet
By Tyler Linn
In a recent post, I spoke about the health effects of sugar. Refined (and added) sugar is a leading cause of inflammation, it can lead to cancer cell growth, diabetes, depression and many other health issues. It causes food addictions, acne, mood disorders and more.
The sad truth is that sugar hides in just about EVERYTHING.
Sugar is in coffee creamers that are labeled dairy and sugar-free (yep, in the form of artificial sugars), sweetened vegan plant-based milks that are marketed as healthy, along with so many processed vegan and non-vegan cereals, salsas, ketchup, granola bars, hot sauces, cookies and even products that market themselves as natural, organic and gluten-free.
Here are some ways to cut down sugar intake and reduce the risk of developing undesired – and even dangerous – side effects:
1. Eat A Small Amount Of Fresh Fruit When You Have A Craving
If you crave sugar, then eat it in the form of fresh fruit, but keep the portions small and try to choose dark berries, which have less sugar than other fruits. Choosing fresh fruit over dried is also best. Dried fruit often contains added sugar and doesn’t have any water to help fill you up as quickly as fresh fruit does. It’s also pretty easy to overdo it with dried fruit. Use dried fruits as a small topping to oatmeal or for special occasions.
2. Read Food Labels
You’ll quickly realize just how often sugar is added to foods when you look for it on ingredients lists. Ingredients are listed in order of how much exists in the product, so if sugar’s near the top, that’s a red flag.
3. Learn Sugar’s Aliases
When you read food labels, you’ll need to look for more than just the word “sugar.” Sugar hides under several sneaky names, including high fructose corn syrup, dried cane syrup, invert sugar, molasses, sucrose (or any word ending in “-ose”), brown rice syrup, honey and maple syrup.
These can be listed separately on ingredients lists. So many foods – even seemingly healthy ones like yogurt and cereal – may contain three or four different types of sweeteners. If several sugars appear on the label, it’s an indication that the food is less healthy than you thought.
4. Buy Unsweetened
Once you know where sugar hides, you can start making changes. One strategy: buy foods labeled “no added sugar” or “unsweetened.” You’ll find unsweetened versions of these common foods in most grocery stores: non-dairy milk like almond and soy, nut butters (look for those made with only nuts and salt), applesauce, oatmeal and canned fruit (they should be packed in fresh juice—not syrup).
5. Don’t Go Cold Turkey
Going cold turkey on sugar isn’t realistic for most people, so cut back slowly. If you normally put two packets of sugar in your coffee, for instance, try one for a week, then half and finally add only a splash of milk. For your yogurt, mix half a serving of sweetened yogurt with half a serving of plain and eventually move on to adding natural sweetness with fresh fruit.
Swap refined sugar for raw honey instead, still keeping your servings small (1-2 tsp of honey max).
6. Think Protein And Fat
Unhealthy carbs (simple carbs) are loaded with sugar and cause blood sugar to rise rapidly – and dive just as quickly, leaving you hungry again. To minimize this rapid rise and fall, pair protein, healthy fats and fiber with your meal, all of which can slow down the release of blood sugar in your body and keep you full for longer (at breakfast, that means adding almonds to your usual oatmeal or pairing eggs with your morning toast and for your midday snack, a slice of turkey breast along with your apple, etc.).
Fats are a key player because they help keep you fuller for longer, thus helping to decrease your desire for sugar. Focus on quality fats like avocados, nuts, seeds and heart-healthy oils like olive oil, walnut oil and coconut oil.
7. Eat The Real Stuff – Ditch The Fake Crap
When you’re reducing your sugar intake, you may be tempted to switch to artificial sugars for your sweet fix. But resist reaching for the diet soda, sugar-free candy and packets of fake sugar for your latte. Fake sugars are associated with weight gain, not loss, according to a 2010 review in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.
Fake sugars are loaded with chemicals, causing a serious burden to your hard working body.
8. Don’t Drink It
Avoiding soda is a good idea, but that’s not the only sugar-packed drink out there. Even drinks that are considered healthy can contain more of the sweet stuff than you’re supposed to have in an entire day.
“Enhanced” waters (eight teaspoons per bottle), bottled iced teas (more than nine teaspoons per bottle), energy drinks (almost seven teaspoons per can), bottled coffee drinks (eight teaspoons per bottle) and store-bought smoothies (more than a dozen teaspoons—for a small) are a few of the major culprits.
A good rule of thumb = no more than 9 tsps (36 grams) daily for Men and 6 tsp (24 grams) daily for Women. 4 grams = 1 tsp for an easy gauge. Of course, that can still be a lot, especially if you are not eating clean and moving your body regularly.
Cutting down on sugar can feel like an impossible task, trust me! I’ve been there! Eventually, though, your taste buds will adjust. Super-sweet foods will start to taste too sweet. When you could have a whole slice of cake before, now a couple bites will be enough. You’ll notice the natural sweetness in fruits and vegetables, which will make them taste even better!
I’d love to hear your tips and tricks to cutting out the sweet stuff. Please share in the comments below!
Originally from Sacramento, CA, Tyler Linn moved down to San Diego in 2006 to attend college at San Diego State University. Tyler enjoys spending time with his girlfriend, surfing, hiking, meeting new people and traveling all over the world.
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