Sugar is readily available and hidden in many foods and drinks.  In our last blog, you learned about added sugar and its impact on health and wellness.  It is recommended to reduce added sugar to less than 10% of your caloric intake.

In an ideal world, you would be able to remove added sugar altogether.  You would be surprised how easily you could reduce your added sugar intake with making small changes in your everyday life.  Here are 16 small ways you can begin to remove added sugar from your diet:

  1. Begin to slowly eliminate items over time. Don’t go gung ho.  Start by becoming aware of the sugar in your food and drinks, then commit to removing what you can.
    • If you are drinking 3 sugar sodas a day, go down to 1 per day, then after a few weeks down to 1 per week. Replace the sodas with water, unsweetened tea, sparkling water.
    • If you have candy or dessert with each meal, reduce it to one meal a day, then every other day, and so on.
  2. Know the names for sugar – There are over 100 names for sugar in processed foods. A brief list is below.
    • Any name ending in “ose” or “ol” or “syrup”
    • Sucrose – refined crystalized sugar of glucose and fructose combined; table sugar
    • Fructose – simple sugar found in fruits
    • Glucose/Dextrose – fruits, vegetables, honey
    • Lactose – simple sugar found in milk and dairy products
    • Maltose – simple sugar from grains, often found in malted drinks/beer
    • brown sugar – refined sugar coated with molasses or colored with caramel
    • corn syrup – manufactured syrp of corn starch, containing glucose, maltose, and dextrose
    • high-fructose corn syrup – highly concentrated syrup of predominately fructose
    • Maltodextrin – a manufactured sugar from maltose and dextrose
  3. Know the foods that commonly have added sugar. We think of sodas, candy and desserts as having sugar, but most processed foods have added sugar, especially those labeled as low-fat.  Here is a list of some common foods to consider have added sugar:
    • Drinks – sodas, coffee, energy drinks, punches, smoothies, electrolyte drinks, flavored water
    • Cereals, instant oatmeal, granola
    • Bars – protein, cereal, granola
    • Yogurts
    • Pasta sauce
    • Dried fruit, canned fruit, applesauce, fruit juices
    • Condiments – barbecue sauce, ketchup, salad dressings
    • Non-dairy Milks – soy, almond, cashew, coconut, etc
  4. Read the labels of the food in your pantry and refrigerator. Read the ingredient portion of the label to see if any of the names above are listed.  Look at the amount of sugar, compared to protein/fat in the food.  Pick items that have fewer sugars or no sugar added.
  5. Consider making some of the packaged, processed foods you would normally purchase “from scratch” at home. Pick one night a week that is family night to test a new recipe.  Get the kids involved.
    • Consider starting with spaghetti sauce – the store-bought versions are often high in sugar. Make enough to have left overs to freeze for multiple meals.
    • Trail mix is another easy one to make – use items that are not sweetened.
    • Protein bars/ball made with nut butters are fun for kids to make.
  6. Use whole foods (esp. fruits) as sweeteners. Like oatmeal?  Use a banana in your oatmeal to naturally sweeten it, while adding vitamins, minerals, and fiber to the oatmeal.  Use frozen fruits to add to plain yogurt.
  7. Replace juice with whole fruit. Replace dried fruit with whole fruit. If using juice, consider diluting with water.
  8. Use non-sweet (preferably non-food items) as rewards and for celebrations. Begin to shift the mindset of the family from food as reward to food as fuel/medicine/information.  Begin to think about other ways to celebrate than having sweet foods.
  9. Reduce the amount of sugar in recipes by ⅓ to ½!
  10. If choosing canned fruits, get fruits canned in water instead of syrup
  11. Use vanilla or almond extract or other herbs and spices in foods and drinks. Of note: while natural sweeteners (honey, agave, etc) may have other health benefits, they are still sugars so try not to replace one sugar with another!  Use moderation.
  12. Avoid the temptation to replace sugars with artificial sugars (they have impacts on the body as well).
  13. Choose unsweetened dairy and non-dairy products.
  14. If you tend to over-indulge on candy/dessert, don’t keep it in the house. Have this be an item you buy out in single servings.  If you do bring it in the house, get individual servings and keep the remainder stored in a cabinet (not out on counter for easy access).
  15. When indulging in candy/ dessert be mindful and savor each bite. Begin to notice how sugar makes you (and your children) feel.
  16. Replace candy and sweet desserts with fruit.

Which of these will you start with?  What small step can you take today to reduce your sugar intake and improve your health?

Other resources you may want to read.


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