Eat Less Sugar With These 10 Simple Tricks

By Camilla Cheung on 30 June 2015 0 comments

If you want to be healthier, one of the best things you can do is to cut down on the amount of sugar you consume daily. Most of us enjoy a sweet treat once in a while. But there are ways you can treat yourself without going overboard on the sugar.

The World Health Organization's recommended daily intake of added sugar is about 25 grams for an adult of average body mass. That's not a whole lot, considering that a can of soda can contain up to 40 grams of sugar. Read on for ways to cut down on sugar in your daily diet. Even if you start with just one of these ideas at a time, you'll be doing your body a favor.

1. Eat a Slow-Burning Breakfast

Start your day off right, and stave off mid-morning sugar crashes, by eating a protein and fiber-rich breakfast. Unfortunately, many breakfast foods tend to be packed with sugar — pastries, waffles, pancakes, sugary cereals, jams and jellies — so start substituting a more nutritious first meal. A veggie omelet with a slice of whole-wheat toast, or low-sugar yogurt with fruit and chopped nuts, are better options. If you're in a rush, have some hard-boiled eggs ready in the fridge so you can grab an egg and a piece of fruit on your way out the door.

2. Eat Before You Go Out

Eat a healthy meal or snack before going out. You'll be less likely to indulge in a sweet treat because of hunger, and if you're going grocery shopping, you'll be more likely to make rational and healthy choices.

3. Cut Drink Sweetening in Half

My Achilles' heel is sweet drinks. I love having an iced coffee or tea whenever I go out. To cut down on the massive sugar overload such drinks can entail, I've made a habit of always asking for "half the sugar" whenever I indulge in a specialty drink. It has become so routine that a fully-sweetened drink now tastes excessively sweet to me. While I still need to cut down on these indulgences (a Grande Caramel Frappucino from Starbucks contains a whopping 63 grams of sugar! Even with half sugar, that's just not healthy), it at least gets me a step in the right direction.

4. Substitute Unsweetened Alternatives

I realized that part of the reason I loved having a sweet drink whenever I went out was simply the ritual of getting a coffee and carrying it around, whether it was at a morning playdate at the park, or during a shopping trip at the mall. I switched to ordering a black decaf Americano instead of a sweetened drink. Although I'll still sometimes order something sweet, most of the time, it's just black coffee. (Yes, I realize I would save a lot of money if I made it at home, but... baby steps, baby steps.)

5. Make It Yourself

Making your own treats at home means that you can control the sugar content. How about making a commitment to stop buying packaged cookies and making your own instead? You can usually cut out ⅓ to ½ of the sugar called for in most recipes without sacrificing flavor.

You can also make your own low-sugar, protein-rich granola instead of cereal. Instead of buying sweetened yogurt, add a bit of honey to plain yogurt. And if you (or your kids) are partial to chocolate milk, trying swirling milk, a banana, and some cocoa powder in your blender instead. A friend of mine also makes a raw, sugar-free, chia seed jam, which her kids love.

6. Start Reading Labels

If you haven't started reading nutrition labels on the food you buy, now's a good time to start. You'll be shocked at how much sugar is in your favorite foods. Once you know which foods are the biggest culprits, you can start replacing them with lower-sugar alternatives. For example, Honey Nut Cheerios have nine grams of sugar per ¾ cup serving, but regular Cheerios have one gram per one cup serving. (Yes, the serving sizes are different. The world of nutrition labeling is an imperfect one.) Even so-called "healthy" foods, such as juice, can have an excessive amount of sugar and may need to be limited.

7. Be Aware of Hidden Sugar

Even foods that we don't think of as sweet can contain a lot of added sugar, contributing to your daily quota. That ketchup you dipped your fries in could be chock-full of sugar, as is the BBQ sauce on your ribs or the dressing on your salad. Reading nutrition labels is your friend in these cases — limit these hidden-sugar foods or substitute them with a no-sugar alternative.

8. Get Sugar Out of the House

It's too much to expect the average person to resist temptation when it invades their own home — give yourself a fighting chance by keeping added sugar out of the house. Make a rule that sweet treats are just that — treats — meant for a special occasion, not for everyday.

9. Stay Hydrated (With Water)

You might feel a bit peckish, but in reality your body is craving hydration. Fill up a water bottle and make a goal to empty it within a certain time frame. With the extra water, chances are you won't feel as hungry (and you won't be reaching for a soda when you get thirsty). If plain water doesn't appeal to you, make a pitcher of cucumber or lemon water to keep in the fridge.

10. Don't Go Cold Turkey

It's okay to allow yourself an occasional treat. You're more likely to be successful in cutting down on sugar if you do it gradually, instead of by cutting it out completely. Perhaps you can allow yourself dessert on weekends, or ice cream as a reward for fulfilling a goal. Once your body gets used to consuming less sugar, you won't crave it as much.

Do you have any strategies for resisting those sugar urges?

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