Too Sweet on Sugar

Simple strategies to reduce the sugar in your diet.

Lucky you, your body needs some sugar for energy. This simple carbohydrate is naturally found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, while processed foods contain added sugars and syrups.

It seems to make everything better, and it seems everyone likes the sweet taste of sugar. Hence why it’s in processed foods. On top of improving flavor, sugar helps preserve foods, gives baked goods texture and bulk, helps bread to rise, and counterbalances acidic foods. Since sugar is added to so many foods during processing, you’re likely eating and drinking more of the sweet stuff than you realize.

Sadly, sugar is nothing but empty calories with zero nutritional value. A host of health problems are associated with a diet high in added sugars, including weight gain, poor nutrition, diabetes, high triglycerides, and tooth decay. So the saying is true: you can have too much of a good thing.

Here are easy ways you can reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet.

Learn to Read Labels

The best way to cut sugar from your diet is to check a food’s ingredient list and avoid those foods with high sugar content. Since ingredients are listed in descending order, a food contains more of the ingredients listed first. If sugar is one of the first few ingredients named, find another option.

Added sugar is often disguised under various names. Names for chemical sugars end in “ose,” and include fructose or dextrose. Other sugars include high-fructose corn syrup, malt syrup, cane juice, cane syrup, honey, molasses, and fruit juice concentrate. Remember—sugar is sugar. There’s nothing healthier about brown sugar, fruit juice concentrate, or honey.

Drink More Water

Sugar’s not just in food. It’s hiding in beverages, too. Fruit drinks, sports drinks, sodas, energy drinks, sweet tea, and sweetened coffee are all major sources of added sugar. Slash the amount of sugar you ingest by drinking water or unflavored milk instead.

Delicious as they may be, sweetened juices contain more sugar than you care to know. Some have more than a teaspoon of sugar in one ounce. Drink 12 ounces and you just had 12 teaspoons of sugar in a single drink, which is double the recommended daily amount! If you drink juice, be sure to choose 100-percent fruit juice. Better yet, eat a piece of fruit instead.

Be Picky About Cereal

Cereal for breakfast may an easy and yummy option, but it’s not always healthy. Picture the frosting, the chocolate, and the bright colors in so many cereals. Kids (and adults) may love to fill up on these cereals, but the sugar and empty carbs they contain leave you feeling dragged out and hungry not long after your meal.
Eat cereals made from whole grains without added sugar. For extra flavor, add nuts, fruit, or cinnamon.

Choose Fresh or Reduced Sugar Options

Fresh fruits and veggies are always more healthy than their canned alternatives. If you do buy canned fruit, opt for ones packed in fruit juice or water rather than syrup. Dried fruits are okay in moderation, but are much higher in sugar than fresh fruit. Jellies and jams are also high on the sugar scale, so buy the reduced-sugar varieties.

Keep Sugar Away from the Kitchen

A sure way to cut back the amount of sugar you eat is to keep it out of the house. If sugar-filled foods aren’t in your cupboards, you won’t be tempted to eat them.

And be careful! Sugar may be hiding in your favorite foods. A package may say “fat free” or “whole grain” but still be high in sugar. Check your salad dressings, ketchup, yogurt, barbeque sauce, and pasta sauce for their sugar content and consume carefully.