Reduce sugar while still living your life

Server with salad Monday, February 11, 2019

For most Americans, reducing sugar consumption is a good healthy-eating goal to set. On average, we consume three times more sugar per day than is recommended, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Added sugar comes in the form of sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, and a dozen more names. It can lower energy and immune system effectiveness. It also leads to weight gain, acne, skin conditions, depression, and tooth decay. Excessive sugar can contribute to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

Natural sugars found in whole fruit and dairy don’t count—but watch out for canned fruit packed with sugar and flavored milk that sneak added sugars in. The World Health Organization advises consuming no more than 10 percent of daily calories from added sugar. For someone on a 2,000-calorie diet, that’s 25 grams of sugar, or about the amount in a 2-inch-by-3-inch serving of sheet cake with frosting flowers on top.

In the United States, sugar consumption comes from:

  • 47% sugar-sweetened beverages
  • 31% snacks and sweets
  • 8% grains like cereal and granola bars
  • 6% mixed dishes with dressings and sauces
  • 4% from dairy, like ice cream, flavored milk and yogurt

Tips for cutting sugar

You might have heard that there's sugar in everything, but that's not true. Sure, we live in a culture where consuming processed foods is often easier than consuming whole foods, but sugar-free options exist. Read labels to find cereals, salad dressings, pasta sauces, and more with no added sugar.

Cutting down on sugar doesn’t have to turn your life upside-down. Making a few sugar-reduction strategies habit should have you consuming less without feeling denied.

  1. Use a food tracking app to confirm how much sugar you consume in a day. The next day, try to have a little less.
  2. Reduce intake of sugar-packed desserts, pastries, soft drinks, sports drinks, and fruit juice by having one less per day or cutting down the portion size.
  3. Assemble foods at home. Buy plain corn flakes, oats, or yogurt and add fruit yourself.
  4. Watch serving sizes. You’ll easily consume more than the label indicates if you have a generous portion.
  5. Prioritize having five servings of fruits or vegetables per day and you’ll have less room for sweets.
  6. Make some swaps. Consider taking your coffee with milk instead of sugar. Drink water with fruit instead of soda. 
  7. Break the habit. If you have a cookie Tuesday afternoon, try not to give into a Wednesday afternoon craving. Tell yourself you can have the cookie the following day, if you still want it.
  8. Find a healthier substitute such as strawberries instead of strawberry shortcake.
  9. Have a proper meal instead of snacking.
  10. Occupy your mouth and distract your brain by sucking on hard candy or chewing gum.
  11. Tell your loved ones that you won’t be having dessert or a drink at dinner, so they can hold you accountable and avoid pressuring you. Your good habits might even rub off on them!

One last thing

Be careful not to replace sugar with foods high in saturated fats, like meat, cheese, cream, and butter that cause other health problems. Instead look for whole grains, legumes, nuts, vegetables, and fruit for a healthy new year.