We all know that eating too much sugar is unhealthy, but that doesn’t make it any easier to eliminate added sugars from our diet. Sugar lurks in everything from the obvious baked goods and candies to even pasta sauce and ketchup.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), limiting sugar consumption to 15% of total calories is a great starting point for lowering intake from all sources. But what about fruit? Fruit sugar, also known as fructose, is a naturally occurring sugar, like lactose found in milk. While fruit does contain sugar, it’s sugar in the way nature intended it, and it’s also loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Fruit is a fundamental part of the diet but it should be balanced with other foods like vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, and dairy.
If you’re looking to cut back on sugar, here are 10 simple hacks for slashing the sweet stuff from your diet:
- Go natural. Eat natural sources of sugar over added sugars. Fill up on fresh fruit and vegetables because they contain fiber that slows the rate of absorption of carbohydrates along with improving cholesterol levels, digestion, and satiety to help with weight loss.
- Know your portions. Following a low sugar diet requires some diligence in knowing how much you should be eating. In general, most people should consume 2 fruits (or 2 cups) and at least 3 cups of veggies per day. On average 1 serving of fruit contains 15 grams of sugar. Ideally, try to space out your servings so that you aren’t getting a big sugar rush all at once.
- Eat whole and fresh. Limit fruit juices and dried fruit if you are watching the sugar intake. Generally speaking, just 4 fluid ounces of 100% fruit juice and ¼ cup unsweetened dried fruit is equivalent to 1 piece or 1 cup of fresh, whole fruit.
- Learn the label lingo.The food label doesn’t differentiate between added and natural sugars, instead it lumps them all together. To get natural sugar sources check the ingredient list to know if there are any added sugars in the product. Sugar lurks behind these words in the ingredient list: molasses, organic cane sugar, fruit juice concentrate, malt sugar, corn syrup, honey, syrup, and words ending in “ose” dextrose, lactose, maltose, fructose, glucose, sucrose.
- Set boundaries on the sweet tooth. Do you have a mean sweet tooth? Set limits on when and how you’re going to enjoy your sweets. Maybe you have ice cream once per week or possibly you’ll include a dark chocolate square after dinner nightly? Setting boundaries around what sweet treats are worth the indulgence, when is appropriate to enjoy them and how much you can enjoy will keep you from reaching in the office candy jar out of habit.
- Eat less packaged food. Foods in their whole form are going to be your best bet when it comes to lowering your sugar intake. According to the New York Times, 75% of packaged foods in the U.S. contain added sugar, so you can simplify your sugar doses by keeping these to a minimum.
- Pump up the protein. Eating more protein will keep you amped. Protein takes longest to digest so you will be less likely to crash if you’re eating good quality proteins every three to four hours.
- Beware of sugar bombs. Even healthy foods can have sneaky sources of added sugar. Foods like energy bars, lattes, smoothies, juices, enhanced waters, salad dressing, cereals, tomato sauce, and medications are common culprits.
- Lower it gradually. Instead of cutting sugar cold turkey, lower your intakes slowly. If you usually eat sweets after lunch and dinner, start by taking it down to one meal a day.
- Clean out the pantry. If you have tempting foods in the kitchen, you might need to do a little pantry detox. Go out for the ice cream sundae instead of bringing a carton it into the house.
What are some of your hacks for eating less sugar? Share in the comments below!