Less (Sugar) Is More: 7 Tips for Reducing Your Sugar Consumption
Eating less sugar — but spice and everything nice — has effected some meaningful changes to my overall health. If you’re considering making a change to lower your sugar consumption, read on for my best tricks and tips.
by Teresa Laurenzo
If you’re like me, you may have realized that you’re eating more sugar than is good for you. I want to make it clear off the bat, I am not a nutrition expert, just someone who has decreased my sugar consumption over the past three years. And now I won’t go back to a full-sugar diet, mostly for what the positive results of a low-sugar lifestyle have done for me.
In other words, eating low sugar — but spice and everything nice — has effected some meaningful changes to my overall health. If you’re considering making a change to eat less sugar, read on for some tricks and tips. Here’s my lay-person’s guide to help make smart choices in reducing sugar consumption.
Read the labels
The first step is to become an avid label reader. The best way to screen your sugar intake is to eat whole and unprocessed foods, but packaged foods can be unavoidable, and so reading the label is the first thing I do when picking up any packaged food at the grocery store. For reducing sugar intake, you will want to concentrate on the added sugars section of the food label; the American Heart Association recommends limiting your added sugar intake to 25 grams per day (for women; 36 grams for men).
When I began reading labels, I was shocked at the foods harboring so much added sugar. Foods like ketchup, bread, salad dressing, cereal, and yogurt were a surprise. Obvious foods like sodas and desserts I expected, but ketchup?! And even more surprising are the foods labeled ‘low fat’. Come to find out that sugar is added to some of these low-fat foods to make them taste better to the American consumer. You might be surprised to find that some full-fat choices are actually better for you in terms of reducing sugar intake.
The general rule is to be on the lookout for added sugars.
Low-sugar tips and tricks
• Tip #1: Cinnamon + Fruit = Game Changer. Fresh fruit with a sprinkle of cinnamon is my go-to snack. Almost any fresh fruit is better with a sprinkling of cinnamon, which adds a flavor boost to sliced apples, blueberries, strawberries, kiwi, and bananas. In addition to the flavor it brings, cinnamon provides anti-inflammatory effects and contains pro-heart minerals. Even orange segments are better with a light sprinkle.
Take this snacking tip one step further into a full-fledged dessert by adding a couple dollops of sugar-free or low-sugar yogurt, and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon or chopped nuts. It’s a delicious way to curb those sweet cravings in the afternoon or after dinner. When fresh peaches are in season, try sautéeing fresh stone fruits like peaches or nectarines and top with a cinnamon sprinkle — you won't even miss the sugar.
• Tip #2: Keep good snacks on hand for when hunger strikes. Great healthy snacks include hard-boiled eggs, nuts or seeds, and no-sugar-added dried fruit (remember to check that label!). Try out a new hummus flavor with raw veggie dippers. Triscuits with Laughing Cow cheese provide fiber and protein. Celery sticks or apple wedges dipped in low-sugar peanut butter (like Skippy Naturals) are a classic and satisfying snack.
• Tip #3: Use the Healthy Plate method. Eating full meals will leave you less likely to reach for sugary snacks in between. When composing your lunch or dinner plate, visually portion ¼ of the plate for a carb, ¼ for protein, and ½ for non-starchy veggies. Some excellent non-starchy veggies are: asparagus, brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms, onions, salad greens, spinach, and zucchini. Try different delicious veggie combos like sautéed zucchini with mushrooms, onions, and peppers, or a farmers market salad with homemade vinaigrette.
• Tip #4: Know your cereal options. Low-sugar breakfast can still include cereal, like Barbara’s Honest O’s which has 1 gram of sugar per serving (compared with up to 10-20 for other cereals). Many brands of shredded wheat and oat O's also contain zero added sugar, and Grape Nuts is yet another sugar-free option. Try mixing a sweetened cereal with an unsweetened one to cut your sugar intake substantially. Or, if you need your cereal sweetened, sprinkle on a naturally derived sweetener like Stevia.
Granola is another good breakfast choice, but some brands contain a high sugar content. Look for brands with lower sugar, like GrandyOats Original Coconola. Or make your own granola so you can manage the sugar content.
• Tip #5: If chocolate is your weakness like it is mine, look for sugar-free versions of chocolate candy when you really need to satisfy that craving. Russell Stover makes a wide range of sugar-free chocolates that no one would ever suspect to be sugar-free — they’re that good. If you're able, learn to love extra-dark chocolate — think 75–90% cacao — which not only has less sugar than milk chocolate, but also tastes richer and less sweet than sugar-free.
• Tip #6: Drink wisely. Instead of supersweet sodas, try sparkling or still water with a squeeze of orange or lime and avoid the soda aisle at the grocery store. Or, try flavored sparkling waters such as La Croix. For a pretty summertime drink, keep a pitcher of water in the fridge dressed up with sliced fresh fruit — you’ll feel like you’re on vacation, or at the spa!
• Tip #7: Go to the party. And go for the hummus plate with fresh veggies and the meat-and-cheese platter at the appetizer table. You can have a good time without sugar!
Be sure to check with your health care provider when you make changes to your diet or embark on a new diet plan.
Need a dessert with less sugar? These Cuisine favorites go relatively easy on the sweet stuff:
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