Are you looking to reduce the amount of added sugar you’re consuming? Are you unhappy with the weight you’ve gained from eating sugary meals, snacks, and beverages over the last holiday season? Are you concerned about the health issues associated with too much sugar…conditions like diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and chronic diseases?
Lots of sugar is in sweetened beverages, baked goods, desserts, and candies, but also lurking and in other snacks, condiments, and meals. Offenders may not be as obvious: ketchup, sauces like barbeque and pasta, chocolate milk, and flavored coffees. Many others masquerade as healthy foods: fruit juice, low-fat yogurt, and granola. Read on for some easy sugar-reduction hacks that can help you stop the weight gain, maintain blood-sugar levels, and stay healthy.
There are lots of ways to cut down on sugar and still get the flavor and enjoyment of sweetness in the foods you eat. One major way is to replace foods with lots of added sugar with those that have none or have lower amounts.
Many foods already have sugar built in. An obvious one is fruit, but sugar can also be found naturally in dairy products such as milk and yogurt or root vegetables like sweet potato. However, these are rich in nutrients and should be part of a healthy balanced diet. So take advantage of these natural sweets by adding them to other foods and as a result, you won’t have to rely on adding table sugar. Here are some other ideas to get you started:
- Use fresh-squeezed juices (for example, orange or apple) or a mashed banana to sweeten foods and drinks like smoothies.
- Ditch the ketchup and barbeque sauce; they are loaded with sugar. Try salsa, mustard, or hot sauce.
- Salad can be healthy but sugar can lurk in dressings. A simple alternative is a splash of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and salt & pepper.
- Bottled marinara sauces can contain 6-12 g of sugar per half cup serving. Check the label at the store. Or make your own by tossing fresh tomatoes, garlic, and Italian herbs to pasta.
- Enjoy the naturally sweet flavor by simply baking a sweet potato or serving mashed sweet potato. You’d be surprised that you don’t really need the sticky brown sugar or marshmallow topping.
- Instead of buying flavored yogurt, purchase plain yogurt and add your own sugar-free or low-sugar sweeteners or fruit toppings, if desired.
- Switch to cooking plain oatmeal and adding a little of your own sweetener to avoid hidden sugars in pre-packaged oatmeal.
- For breakfast, top unsweetened cereals with chunks of fresh fruit or berries.
- Substitute fresh fruit for sugary desserts like cakes, pies, and pastries to satisfy your urge for something sweet.
- Bake a cake or pie and reduce the amount of sugar called for in a recipe or substitute apple sauce, banana, or fruit juice for sugar. Adding add warm spices like cinnamon, ginger, and clove will also enhance the flavor.
- Beware of granola cereals and bars which often appear healthy but laden with sugar.
- For snacks, eat nuts, seeds, a green smoothie with protein powder, celery with peanut butter, string cheese, whole-grain crackers with avocado, nut butters, or spicy tomato or bean dip. These protein-rich foods will help reduce cravings for more.
- Contrasting textures and savory spices can liven up an appetizer, your main meal, and desserts to satisfy your palate with other strong flavors.
- Pay attention to food labels. Learn how sugars can be disguised in the list of ingredients. Sugar goes by many names and comes in many forms: cane juice, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, honey, molasses, agave nectar, brown rice syrup…
When you want a touch of sweetness and savory just won’t do, use natural sugar substitutes and low-sugar alternatives like stevia, erythritol, Xylitol, monk fruit, or yacon syrup. They are often lower in calories and their super-sweet qualities give a lot of sweet satisfaction with very little amounts.
Sugars and sugar alternatives abound. Some have less sugar content than others and some are healthier alternatives to sugar than others. Each has its own level of sweetness, texture, and taste qualities to satisfy almost any sugar lover. Ask a health expert for recommendations.
Another nice thing about sugar alternatives is that some are baking-friendly, meaning they measure out in the same or similar proportion to regular sugar. Check the package instructions on how to use them in place of sugar.
Beverages: The Top Offenders
Beverages top the list of the biggest sugar offenders. Many popular drinks contain a lot of sugar. Sodas, energy drinks, and sports drinks…to name a few categories. One 16-ounce can of soda contains an average of 50 grams of sugar or 10 teaspoons. Or even bottled tea, that looks innocently healthy, can contain 42 grams of sugar and 160 calories in 18 ounces. That one drink can easily put you at the 10 percent limit recommended for daily calorie consumption.
Here are some low-to-no-sugar drink options:
- Enjoy your coffee with just cream or tea with just lemon – sans sugar. Or add a natural sweetener like stevia or monk fruit. These and other natural sweeteners often come in individually portioned powered packets and some are also in liquid form with a dropper for convenience. Carry them around with you when you’re out so you can have your coffee or tea your way wherever you are.
- Make your own chocolate milk instead of buying the ready-made type. Add chocolate syrup to milk, a little at a time, so that you can stop at the desired sweetness.
- Water has zero calories. Try any our ten flavors of Crystal Geyser Sparkling waters.
- Or make your own flavored sparkling water by adding a sprig of mint, some berries, a slice of cucumber, or lemon or lime wedge.
- Fruit juices are high in sugar. Water them down a bit with H2O or Crystal Geyser Sparkling Water.
- Get down to basics with Tejava unsweetened tea. Tejava offers bottled iced tea or brew-at-home convenient pods or tea bags. Check out or bottled brew in black, green, and oolong varieties.
- Take a break with herbal or fruit-flavored Tejava teas that have a splash of lemon, pineapple mango, raspberry, peach, or mint flavors in them. Drink them hot or on ice.