- How to cut sugar out of your diet and how long sugar cravings last
- What type of sugar to cut and keep
- How to cut added sugar out of your diet
- Withdrawals and cravings will last for around a week
- Related stories about diet and nutrition:
- How to Eliminate Sugar From Your Diet in 21 Days
- 30 Easy Ways to Stop Eating So Much Sugar
- Understand the difference between ‘naturally-occurring sugar’ and ‘added sugar.’
- Learn and recognize all the different names for sugar.
- Stop drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.
- Don’t rely on artificially-sweetened beverages as replacements.
- Buy ‘unsweetened’ versions of foods.
- Stock up on fresh fruit.
- Beware of dried fruit.
- Shop on a full stomach.
- Chew Fennel Seeds
- Quash sugar cravings with tea.
- Consume smaller portions of high-sugar foods.
- Have a savory breakfast.
- Buy plain flavors and sweeten naturally with fruit.
- Buy dark chocolate.
- Use applesauce when baking.
- Swap marinara sauce for fresh tomatoes.
- Try a nitro cold brew coffee.
- Swap ketchup for salsa.
- Beware of snack bars.
- Buy natural peanut butter.
- Flavor coffee with ingredients besides sugar.
- Check yourself out when grocery shopping.
- Make alterations when ordering out at restaurants.
- Get rid of sugary cereals.
- Sleep more.
- Buy a low-sugar dessert.
- Pick a low-sugar bread.
- Make your own salad dressing.
- Opt for plain oats.
- Top foods with fruit rather than syrups.
- Get started cutting down on sugar with these tips:
- Sugar and Weight Loss: How Sugar Affects Your Weight Loss Goals
- Is Sugar Really That Bad?
- How Much Sugar a day Does the Average Person Consume?
- Does Sugar Make You Fat?
- What are Some Additional Names for Sugar?
- 7 Effective Ways to Cut Sugar From Your Diet
- Weight Loss Tips
- Bottom Line
- Our Year of No Sugar: One Family’s Grand Adventure
- A Bright Idea
- A Sugar-Free Year Later
- 6 Really Good Things That Happen to Your Body When You Quit Sugar
- Get ready for younger-looking skin
- Score lasting energy
- Say bye-bye to abdominal fat
- Drop extra pounds
- Reduce your risk for diabetes
- Set your ticker up for success
How to cut sugar out of your diet and how long sugar cravings last
- When cutting sugar from your diet focus on cutting out added sugars but keeping natural sugars.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners because they can make you crave more sugar.
- Withdrawal cravings and symptoms will likely last a week, or so.
- This article was reviewed by Samantha Cassetty, MS, RD, nutrition and wellness expert with a private practice based in New York City.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
According to The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), Americans consume what equates to about 17 teaspoons of sugar a day, which exceeds the max recommended amount of 12 teaspoons or about 200 to 250 calories worth.
Cutting sugar out of your diet isn’t just beneficial for losing weight, it’s also important for long-term personal health.
For a 2017 study in BMJ Open, researchers estimated that if, starting in 2015, Americans reduced added sugars in their diet by 20% and stuck with it, then by 2035 — for every 100,000 people — about 20 fewer people would have type 2 diabetes and 10 fewer people would have coronary heart disease. Not to mention the estimated $10.3 billion in medical costs the country would save.
So, if you’re inspired to cut down on your sugar consumption, here are some tips.
What type of sugar to cut and keep
Before you start cutting every sweet treat under the sun, consider this: not all sugar is created equal.
There are natural sugars — like fructose in many fruits and lactose in dairy products — that you should still consume in moderation because they come with additional vitamins and minerals your body needs to function.
Then there are added sugars that you can often find added to certain foods and drinks like pre-packaged bread, ketchup, and soda, to name a few. These added sugars provide your body with no real nutrition. And, when consumed in excess with processed foods, have been linked to obesity, hypertension, and metabolic syndrome.
“The refined sugars, or things that you see on any food label that says sugar or sucrose, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, agave – it’s all sugar,” says Despina Hyde Gandhi, registered dietician and diabetes educator at the Weight Management Program at NYU Langone Health. “Those are all the things that we want to try to avoid.”
The first step to cutting added sugar out of your diet is being aware of the different foods that contain it. That means always reading the labels. According to Sugar Science by the University of California, San Francisco, added sugars can come in a variety of forms. Here are some to look out for on food labels:
- Cane juice
- Corn syrup
- Maple Syrup
- Rice syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate
- Date syrup
How to cut added sugar out of your diet
There are various things you can do to lower your sugar intake and get on the path to cutting unhealthy sugars out altogether:
- Assess what you eat on a daily basis. Take a look at what you normally eat. Read the labels and check for the ingredients mentioned above. You might be very surprised at just how much sugar is in certain items, or surprised to find sugar in the ingredient list at all in something you didn’t think was necessarily sweet.
- Start with small changes. Don’t try to quit sugar cold turkey. This might make sugar cravings and withdrawals worse. Starting small will make it easier for you to stick with the changes you’re making and form new habits.
- Don’t spring for artificial sweeteners. Sugar-free doesn’t always mean healthy. Many sugar-free snacks or beverages are sweetened with artificial sweeteners like aspartame or stevia extracts, which aren’t necessarily good for you. In fact, switching to these chemically sweetened drinks can backfire on you. “Because our brain tastes sweet and perceives the sweet taste when we’re having artificial sweetener metabolically, our body acts like we’re metabolizing sugar, so you may crave more sweets if you have that,” says Gandhi.
- Give yourself a “budget”. Gandhi says she often gives patients a “sugar budget” so they can know exactly how much sugar they should be consuming. “I might say, you can have a hundred calories of sugar per day to get started, and that may be enough to let them have a square of dark chocolate or one small cookie,” says Gandhi. Once you’ve gotten the hang of that, you can even move on to work with a smaller sugar budget.
- Use behavioral strategies. Create new habits that’ll deflect you from eating sugary foods. For example, if you’re prone to snacking on sweets at night, Gandhi recommends brushing your teeth and flossing after dinner, turning the lights in the kitchen off, anything that helps derail “the path to the pantry.”
- Find your new favorite substitutes. There’s plenty of food and drinks that are delicious and not loaded with added sugar. You might try trading your sweet drinks for flavored herbal teas, and your usual dessert for some fruit salad. Play around and try new options until you find what you like the most – something you’ll be happy to eat.
Withdrawals and cravings will last for around a week
If you normally consume a lot of sugar and are cutting down, you’ll likely experience cravings and even withdrawal symptoms. “You really can get a lot of pleasure from sugar. When cutting it out, you can hear people say they have ‘the carb flu’ or just feeling really lousy,” says Gandhi. Withdrawal symptoms may only last a couple of days for some, but it’s possible to last up to a couple of weeks.
Finding a healthy replacement is very helpful for fighting through these cravings, so you’re not just cutting something out of your diet, you’re substituting it with something new. For example, if soda is one of your main vices, you can try having a seltzer instead when the craving hits you.
Related stories about diet and nutrition:
- How to get protein as a vegan from fresh, whole foods
- Why you may not be losing weight on the keto diet
- What is resistant starch and why it’s healthier than simple starch
- What the different types of carbs are and how they can affect your health
- What is the Paleo diet and whether it helps you lose weight
- Does intermittent fasting work? Research doesn’t have a definite answer for its long-term effects
How to Eliminate Sugar From Your Diet in 21 Days
(c) Ray Massey Getty Images
Mounting research shows that going overboard on sugar can lead to high cholesterol and blood pressure and a greater risk of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease, not to mention excess weight gain. But there’s a difference between added sugars and the kinds found naturally in whole foods, like fructose in fruit and lactose in dairy: Eating naturally occurring sugars is generally considered healthy because they contain nutrients with metabolic benefits, such as fiber and antioxidants. Added sugars (sweeteners put into food for flavor) have no such perks; they are the type you’ll be eliminating during this challenge.
RELATED: 10 Artificial Sweeteners and Sugar Substitutes
Week 1 to-do list:
- Clean house: The more sugar you have, the more you crave it, says Mark Gold, MD, a professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine. Sleuth out and avoid common culprits.
- Learn sugar lingo: Sound the alarm when you spot cane, syrup, nectar, words ending in “-ose,” agave, and fruit juice concentrate in ingredient lists. Dining out? Skip glazed, honey-dipped, sticky, and BBQ options.
- Purge the pantry: Throw out sugary packaged food and drinks. When in doubt, check the ingredients rather than the sugar grams; nutrition labels don’t yet specify how much of a product’s sugar is added versus natural.
- Sticker sweeteners: Put a Post-it on items like honey and brown sugar to act as a caution sign when you open the cabinet.
- Have a backup plan: Stash an emergency snack (like a banana or low-sugar Kind bar) in your bag, advises David Katz, MD, director of the Yale-Griffin Prevention Research Center.
RELATED: 10 Coffee Drinks That Are Worse Than a Candy Bar
Week 2 to-do list:
- Start slashing: Retrain your palate by making incremental changes. “You can lower your taste for sweetness in two weeks,” says Dr. Katz.
- Measure carefully: Scoop the sweetener you think you need—then put back half. “Half a teaspoon goes a long way,” says Sally Kuzemchak, RD.
- Mix it up: Combine no-sugar-added foods with the sweet versions (think ½ cup of plain, unsweetened almond milk with ½ cup of vanilla).
- Drink only water: For a full week, down H20 instead of sodas (including diet kinds) and fruit juices.
RELATED: 9 Ways to Quit Sugar for Good
Week 3 to-do list:
- Plan long-term: You’ve upped your sugar IQ and neutralized your sweet tooth. “After about three months, this diet overhaul will be the new familiar,” says Dr. Katz.
- Eat dessert: Going cold turkey can cause headaches and cravings for some—so have a well-portioned treat if you want it.
- Increase healthy fat: Add a “good” fat—avocado, olive oil—to every meal, urges Mark Hyman, MD, director of the Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Functional Medicine: “Healthy fats shut off receptors in your brain that stimulate sweetness cravings.”
- Stick to a schedule: Aim to eat your meals and snacks at the same time each day. “Having a routine keeps you from getting caught off guard by hunger and giving in to something that comes in a wrapper,” says Maria Rodriguez, RD, program manager of the Diabetes Alliance at the Mount Sinai Health System.
30 Easy Ways to Stop Eating So Much Sugar
“Eat less sugar.” It may be a short and sweet suggestion (pun intended) but when it comes to how to stop eating added sugar, the reality isn’t as simple.
The USDA’s most recent dietary guidelines issued added sugar limits, recommending that we cut out sugar and keep our consumption of the stuff to no more than 10 percent of overall calories. That’s equal to 200 calories or 50 grams of added sugar per day for those following a 2,000-calorie diet. To put things into perspective, the average American eats between 73 grams and 77 grams of added sugar a day!
Even if you’re not downing sleeves of cookies or guzzling cans of Fanta, there are still opportunities for you to stop eating so much sugar. In fact, added sugar is often lurking in the places you’d least expect it—such as “wholesome” bread, your go-to “healthy” snack bar and your post-workout smoothie—and it may be just the reason you can’t get that flat belly you’ve been working on.
The good news is that it’s 100 percent possible to cut back! To help you do just that (and ward off tooth decay, diabetes, and high blood pressure), we’ve compiled a list of easy ways for how to stop eating sugar—without sacrificing the deliciousness of all your favorite foods.
Understand the difference between ‘naturally-occurring sugar’ and ‘added sugar.’
Before you freak out and throw out everything sweet in your kitchen, take a moment to fully understand the official sugar recommendation and the difference between added sugar and naturally-occurring sugar.
- Naturally-occurring sugar: Fruits, veggies, and plain dairy products have naturally-occurring sugar that shouldn’t overly concern you. Because fruits and veggies contain other digestion-slowing nutrients like fiber and healthy fats, your body doesn’t process the sugar as quickly as it would a cookie or a Twix bar. In other words, the sugar in apples and peppers won’t contribute to weight gain and diabetes like a soda will.
- Added sugar: The FDA defines “added sugars” as all sugars that are added during the processing of foods. This includes sugars from syrups, honey, and concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.
To remind you, the official recommendation is to cut back on added sugars, not all sugar. Beginning in January 2020, the Nutrition Facts Panel will have a column dedicated to added sugars, which will make it easy to detect which foods are high in added sugar.
Because some manufacturers will have until January 2021 to add this “added sugar” line, make sure to know how to calculate added sugar on your own. Naturally occurring sugars and added sugar are clumped together under “sugar.” This is particularly confusing when you’re buying things like flavored yogurt, which contain both types of the sweet stuff. So when in doubt, read the ingredients list.
RELATED: The easy guide to cutting back on sugar is finally here.
Learn and recognize all the different names for sugar.
Now that you know which ingredients to look for, don’t stop there. There are over 56 different names for added sugar including:
- cane sugar
- dried cane syrup
- dried cane juice
- fruit juice concentrates
- high-fructose corn syrup
- brown rice syrup
- maple syrup
- brown sugar
- sucrose, glucose, fructose, dextrose, maltose—or any word ending in “-ose”
Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight. So, the closer these sugar ingredients are to the beginning of the list, the more of that sweetener is used in the food.
If several forms of sugars appear on the label, think twice about making it a regular addition to your diet. Sometimes, manufacturers will use several forms of sugar on the label to prevent a single source from appearing close to the beginning of the ingredient list. In this case, check the nutrition facts panel to see just how much sugar is in the food.
To find out exactly how much added sugar, look at a similar, unflavored version of the product you’re interested in buying and see how they differ. For example, if a serving of plain oatmeal has 1 gram of sugar and a flavored version has 16 grams, it’s safe to assume you’d be consuming 15 grams of added sugar. When it comes to candy and sweets, assume all of it’s the added variety.
Stop drinking sugar-sweetened beverages.
According to the National Institutes of Health, the fourth-largest source of calories in the American diet comes from soda, which is also the largest contributor of added sugar. “One 12-ounce can of Mountain Dew delivers 52 grams of sugar, which is more than a day’s worth, says food expert and author of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse, Kelly Choi. “Ditch the sugar water and keep your taste buds happy with unsweetened teas or water infused with fresh fruit. This simple swap can help you shed over ten pounds in a year!”
Don’t rely on artificially-sweetened beverages as replacements.
Sean Locke Photography/
Though turning to artificial sweeteners may seem like the go-to move when cutting back on the real stuff, don’t be fooled! Splenda, Sweet n’ Low, diet soda and sugar-free candy aren’t any better than the real deal. What’s worse, some research, including a report in Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine and a separate American Journal of Public Health study both found an association between fake sugars and weight gain—not loss.
Buy ‘unsweetened’ versions of foods.
Whether you’re buying applesauce, milk alternatives, nut butter, or canned fruit, look for an unsweetened variety. Making products with “no added sugar” and “unsweetened” labels your BFFs will help you significantly cut sugar and calories over the course of a year.
Stock up on fresh fruit.
So what should you buy instead of all those sweet snacks? Nature’s candy, of course, is naturally free of all added sugars. In fact, dietitians say that eating fresh fruit is one of the healthiest ways to satisfy a sweet craving. To ensure your fruity nosh leaves you full and satisfied, pair it with protein and healthy fats, such as nuts or nut butter (which digest slowly), keeping you fuller for longer. Examples of fruit snack pairings include:
- raspberries and low-fat plain yogurt
- banana and peanut butter on whole-grain toast
- apple and low-fat cheddar cheese
- tangerine and cashews
Beware of dried fruit.
Though we’ve never met a raw fruit we didn’t love, dried and canned fruits are entirely different stories. Food manufacturers often add sugar, juice concentrates, vegetable oil, and syrups to extend their fruit’s shelf life and improve the flavor. Steer clear of these culprits to cut sugar and stay slim!
Shop on a full stomach.
It’s true what they say: Out of house, out of mouth. Seems simple enough—until you’re actually in the grocery store. To ensure you’ll have the restraint to stop eating sugar, have a small snack before you leave the house. Experts say that when we’re shopping hungry, we’re far more likely to lose sight of our dietary goals and load up on unhealthy, sugar-laden eats.
Chew Fennel Seeds
Can’t shake those post-dinner dessert cravings? Carolyn Brown, MS, RD of Foodtrainers on Manhattan’s Upper West Side recommends chewing fennel seeds to take the edge off. Why? They’re naturally sweet but don’t contain any sugars, so they will help quell your cravings without ballooning your belly. And, as a bonus, fennel seeds are known to stop belly bloat and act as an appetite suppressant, giving you a double dose of belly-trimming benefits.
Quash sugar cravings with tea.
Next time you’re having a hard to ignore the sweet-tooth attack, fix yourself a cuppa tea. Mint, ginger, cinnamon, and Chai teas will all help you fend off those longings by hitting that “sweet spot” without sugar overload, explains Brown. And with so many varieties, it’s hard to get bored. If you need to sweeten it up, add just a teaspoon of honey (measure it out to ensure you don’t overdo it), which is a bit healthier for you than straight sugar or sweeteners.
Consume smaller portions of high-sugar foods.
Typically grab a bag of M&Ms or a chocolate bar as an afternoon snack? Finish your day with a bowl of ice cream? If you want to cut back on sugar, you can start by cutting your serving sizes in half. By halving your regular portion sizes and saving the leftovers for tomorrow, you’ll cut back on 50 percent of your added sugar intake from those foods. Subsidize your plate with something fresh and healthy, like nuts, fruit, steel cut oats or one of our go-to high-protein snacks. You’ll get a smaller sugar boost, without sacrificing the sugary taste you crave.
Have a savory breakfast.
Get this: Having a sweet breakfast will set you up for all day long sugar cravings, says Brown. Yes, that means saying sayonara to your sugar-sweetened coffee and sugary cereal. Sorry! Though that may sound plain awful, it doesn’t have to be. Sprinkle cinnamon into your coffee or sweeten a low-sugar cereal with slices of fruit. Better yet, opt for a savory morning meal: Whip up a veggie omelet or top your oats with ground pepper, cheddar, scallions and a fried egg instead of fruit and honey. These filling, satisfying meals will help you stay on the road toward low-sugar success!
Buy plain flavors and sweeten naturally with fruit.
Sure, that key lime pie-flavored yogurt looks mouthwatering, but it’s also filled with sugar and excess calories. Instead, buy plain Greek yogurt and flavor it with fruit and spices like cinnamon and nutmeg. Aside from its heavenly scent, studies show that cinnamon may aid blood sugar control and boost metabolism, making it a win-win for your flat belly goals.
Buy dark chocolate.
Chocoholic? Reach for the dark chocolate instead of milk, which has nearly twice the sugar content. Dark chocolate also has four times more iron and belly-filling fiber than its milkier counterpart.
Use applesauce when baking.
Eat This, Not That!
If homemade baked goods are your dietary kryptonite, we get it. Warm, gooey cookies are hard to say no to and even harder to stop eating once you’ve started. The goods news is, simply swapping out sugar for unsweetened applesauce can save you hundreds of calories! While one cup of the white stuff has more than 770 calories, the same amount of applesauce has about 100. Depending on how big your cookies are that could easily save you between 20 and 80 calories a pop! While we don’t endorse eating cookies in excess, if your sweets have been healthified, eating one or two extra likely won’t do too much damage to your waistline.
Note: If you’re swapping out sugar for applesauce, a 1:1 ratio works fine; but for every cup of applesauce you use, reduce the amount of liquid in your recipe by 1/4 cup.
Swap marinara sauce for fresh tomatoes.
There’s really no need to add sugar to tomato sauce because, well, the fruit is naturally sweet. But that doesn’t stop food manufacturers from loading their cans to the brim with the stuff. Since store-bought tomato sauce is often made with things like dehydrated tomatoes and cheap oils, they rely on the sweet stuff to amp up the flavor. Your best bet? Switch to a no-sugar-added option like Ragu’s No Sugar Added Tomato Basil or combine chopped fresh tomatoes with olive oil and spices (we like garlic and basil) in a frypan to create a quick pasta topper right on your stovetop.
Try a nitro cold brew coffee.
Move over cold brew, a new java du jour has arrived—and it may just help you lose weight. It’s called nitrogen brew—or nitro brew for short—and it lives on barista countertops in a contraption that looks similar to a beer tap. The keg, filled with cold-brew coffee, is attached to a pressurized tap that infuses the brew with nitrogen gas, which makes the coffee bubble up, giving it a creamy, chocolaty taste that’s been described as being similar to chocolate milk. The foam at the top also adds a pleasing texture and seems to help cut through coffee’s naturally bitter taste. And since it’s naturally rich, you’ll probably be able to drink it sans sugar. For those of you without a nitro tap at your local coffee spot, opt for a lighter roast. The lighter the beans, the less bitter the brew.
Swap ketchup for salsa.
Two tablespoons of ketchup have just over 7 grams of sugar, while the same serving of salsa carries just 1.4 grams, according to the USDA. Thankfully, burgers and eggs taste just as tasty, regardless of which option you use. If your goal is to learn how to stop eating sugar, go with the latter one.
Beware of snack bars.
Unless you’re training for a marathon, that energy bar stashed away in your bag may not be your best snack option. PowerBar’s Performance Energy Bar, for example, has 26 grams of the sweet stuff, while the uber-popular Peanut Butter Balance Bar packs 17 grams—more than a third of the recommended intake. Instead, opt for one of the best low-sugar protein bars.
Buy natural peanut butter.
Conventional peanut butter spreads rely on sugar and trans-fats to give them playground appeal. To cut sugar and boost your meal’s health factor, stick with an all-natural variety made from nuts and a bit of salt.
Flavor coffee with ingredients besides sugar.
Use cocoa and vanilla powder in an unsweetened latte or coffee instead of table sugar. You’ll save 15 calories and 4 grams of sugar for every packet you keep out of your cup.
Check yourself out when grocery shopping.
Is your obsession with Reese’s and M&M’s some of the biggest sources of sugar in your diet? Using the self-checkout kiosks at the grocery store can help you keep these items out of your shopping cart so you can stop eating sugar. According to a study by IHL Consulting Group, impulse purchases dipped 32.1 percent for women—and 16.7 percent for men—when they were the ones to scan their items and swipe their credit card. Although not all impulse buys are bad for your belly, a whopping 80 percent of candy purchases are unplanned. Switching up your routine can help you slash sugar from your diet and may just be your ticket to slim-down success.
Make alterations when ordering out at restaurants.
Courtesy of Flickr
Don’t be afraid to make special requests at restaurants—ask for your smoothie without agave or get your chicken’s marinara on the side. This simple asks can slash hundreds of calories from your meal and keep excess sugar out of your mouth. When possible, scan sugar counts of restaurant dishes online before you dine and if the sugar count seems on the higher side, see how your server can alter your order.
Get rid of sugary cereals.
Even healthy-sounding cereals are packed with sugar. Kellogg’s Cracklin Oat Bran, for example, has 19 grams in a cup! That’s more than what you’d find in a bag of Pretzel M&M’s! Next time you hit the supermarket, look for a box with less than 6 grams of sugar per serving that provides a hefty dose of fiber. Some of our go-to healthy cereals include Fiber One Original Bran Cereal (0 g sugar, 28 g fiber) and Shredded Wheat Spoon Size Wheat ‘n Bran (0 g sugar, 7 g fiber). Add natural sweetness and flavor to your bowl by pouring in some fresh berries or shredded, unsweetened coconut for a healthy breakfast!
No, it’s not your imagination; the less you snooze, the more appetizing sugary snacks and meals become, found a UC Berkeley study. Lack of sleep has also been shown to increase appetite, so it’s all-around bad news to slack on the Zzz’s. Even turning in 30 minutes earlier can make a difference. So put on your jammies and crawl under the covers sooner rather than later to stop eating sugar—it’s also one of the things to do 30 minutes before bed to lose weight.
Buy a low-sugar dessert.
Is ice cream your dietary downfall? It doesn’t have to be. There are tons of low-sugar desserts in the freezer section to satisfy your sweet tooth while simultaneously flattening your belly. Swap out Haagen Dazs Butter Pecan (1/2 cup, 300 calories, 17 g sugar) or your favorite Blue Bunny Birthday Party Premium (1/2 cup, 140 calories, 16 g sugar) for a Snickers Minis Ice Cream Bar (90 calories, 8 g sugar) or scoop of Arctic Zero Cookie Dough Chip (1/2 cup, 75 calories, 8 g sugar).
Pick a low-sugar bread.
White bread may be comforting because it reminds you of your youth, but it’s also a sneaky source of the sweet stuff. In fact, each slice of Wonder Classic White Bread packs two grams of sugar. That means if you have a slice of toast with your breakfast and a sandwich for lunch, you’re getting 6 grams—or 13 percent—of the day’s sugar from your bread drawer. To cut sugar and flatten your belly, switch to Ezekiel Sprouted Whole Grain Bread, a zero sugar-variety we love.
Make your own salad dressing.
When food manufacturers strip the fat out of salad dressings they replace it with sugar and salt. The result? A waist expanding salad topper that doesn’t have the healthy fats you need to absorb the vital vitamins from the superfoods in your bowl. Keep calories and sugar in check by sticking to two tablespoons of an olive-oil based dressing like Bolthouse Farms Classic Balsamic Olive Oil Vinaigrette, and be sure to steer clear of varieties that use honey, sugar, concentrated fruit juice soybean or vegetable oils. They aren’t doing your body any favors. Or better yet, make a low-sugar dressing yourself!
Opt for plain oats.
To stop eating sugar, skip the pouches of flavored oats—many are just sugar and chemical bombs in a misleading package—and use kitchen staples like fruit, nutmeg, cinnamon, vanilla extract, and pumpkin pie spice to add flavor to your bowl.
Top foods with fruit rather than syrups.
Carlene Thomas/Eat This, Not That!
Pancakes and syrup is certainly a dynamic duo, but if you want to stop eating so much sugar, you’re going to need to separate the two. Now, that doesn’t mean you have to eat bland pancakes. Top your flapjacks with fresh fruit for a nice touch of sweetness. You can also make pancakes with ricotta cheese and lemon zest for a fresh take on the breakfast staple.
Get the New Book!
Want to lose 10, 20, even 30 pounds—all without dieting?! Get your copy of Eat This, Not That: The Best (& Worst) Foods in America!, and learn how to indulge smarter and lose weight fast!
Ever wondered why you couldn’t lose weight, or couldn’t seem to stick to a diet? It’s likely that you were roped in by a sugar addiction and didn’t even know it. Here’s a five-step plan to help you cut cravings for the sweet stuff and start filling up on whole foods. Eating this way won’t just help you kick sugar to the curb—you’ll feel better, lighter, and more energized. And you’ll find it so much easier to stick to your weight loss goals.
Phase 1: Eliminate Sugary Beverages
Time: 1 to 2 weeks
Why: There are many culprits: soft drinks, sweetened waters, coffee drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, and even apple juice. In fact, apple juice can be a combination of apple flavoring and 100% sweetener derived from concentrated fructose from the apple, so it can be called 100% apple juice.
One problem is that the size of these beverages can be deceiving; they also can be a way in which more sugar and calories can sneak into your diet without your knowledge. A conventional 12-ounce serving of a typical sugar-sweetened carbonated beverage, for example, is approximately 150 calories. But people rarely drink one serving. In fast-food chains, convenience stores, and movie theaters, these beverages are offered in portions that can contain around 300 to 500 calories.
Even cutting just one serving per day has been shown to produce a weight loss of 1.1 pounds at six months, and 1.4 pounds at 18 months. That might not sound like a tremendous amount, but remember that many people are not drinking just one 12-ounce serving per day. Approximately half of Americans drink sugary beverages “on a given day,” and within this half, about 25% derive 200 or more calories from them.
How: If you’re a big drinker of sugary beverages, this can be a tough one, and going cold turkey is your best bet. This is because they are not a part of your new way of eating, and it’s not suggested that you allow even small amounts of them into your diet. They have no value, other than giving you pleasure, which you’ll be getting elsewhere from now on.
Make a list of all the sugary beverages you drink and create a plan for substitutes so you don’t feel tempted to cheat. Pour the ones you have at home down the sink, and take them off of your shopping list.
Phase 2: Eliminate Junk Foods
Time: 2 to 3 weeks
Why: You’ll most likely find these foods in vending machines, at sporting events, and at fast-food restaurants. However, you’ll also likely find them lining the shelves of your pantry.
In fact, they are most likely fueling your addiction. It’s important to identify the sources of unnecessary sugars in your diet and cut them out. This means you’ll have to cut sweet foods like cakes, cookies, candy bars, and ice cream as well as savory and salty foods like chips, popcorn, and pretzels, all of which are classic examples of junk food. This even includes seemingly healthy items like most granola bars, energy bars, fruit bars, caramel-laced rice cakes, and buttery crackers. You know junk food when you see it, and if you’re in doubt, it’s most likely junk food.
How: To eliminate junk foods from your diet, take a modified cold-turkey approach. These types of foods have no place in your diet, and you should work to get rid of them all. Much like sugar-sweetened beverages, they are very likely fueling the vicious cycle of your dependence on them. Some people can vow to eat no more junk food at this phase and be fine, but you might need to taper down your intake more slowly and eliminate these items one by one.
If you tend to eat a lot of junk food, make a list of the items that you tend to overeat, and then figure out which ones are highest in sugars and other carbohydrates. You can then prioritize which ones should be eliminated first.
For example, if you regularly eat high-sugar-equivalency items such as coffee cake and candy bars and have a pair of prepackaged cupcakes for dessert every night, phase these out first. Once you’re confident that you’ve moved past them, target other items on your list and cut them out next. Work your way down your list of common junk foods until you have eliminated them all.
The key to cutting out junk foods is replacing them with healthy alternatives (not substituting them with other junk foods).
Phase 3: drastically Reduce Carbs
Time: 3 to 4 weeks
Why: When you reach this point, pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself! You have eliminated the sugar-rich, empty calories from your diet. At this point, you should start to see and feel a change: you have fewer withdrawal symptoms and more energy, and there is a noticeable difference in the way that you look and feel about yourself.
While you have already reduced your intake of simple carbohydrates, like sugars from beverages, you still have to tackle complex carbohydrates, like breads, pastas, and rice. Both simple and complex carbohydrates affect your blood sugar in ways that can detract from your weight loss. If you eat them in excess, you will soon be craving other foods, often those that are high in sugar or largely consist of other carbohydrates.
Eating too many carbohydrates is like putting yourself on a roller coaster; your blood sugar zooms up shortly after you eat, then goes crashing down after a short time. Before you know it, you’re hungry because your body quickly digested the food; you’re craving more, and so the ups and downs continue. There is a way to get off of the roller-coaster ride and take control: reduce your intake of any carbohydrates that you abuse, and by abuse, we mean eating them not necessarily because you need them due to hunger, but because you want them to feel normal and to avoid the awful feelings associated with the withdrawal syndrome.
How: The process of cutting back on bread, pasta, rice, and so on will probably take more time than the previous two stages. This is largely because many people are heavily dependent on these types of complex carbohydrates as the primary constituents in many meals.
Instead of having toast for breakfast or a sandwich for lunch, you’ll need to come up with alternatives. Instead, you may opt for eggs and fruit for breakfast, and a large green salad with chicken on top (hold the croutons and the sugar-laced dressings) for lunch.
A good strategy is to list the carbohydrates that you tend to overeat most, and then cut them out one by one. Make it a rule of thumb that once you cut something out, you cut it out for good. Phase out breads and pastas first, then move on to cereals (unless you’re eating lots of highly sweetened cereals, in which case you should cut those out first, as they’re loaded with added sugars).
Next, phase out rices and other starches. For example, instead of having two cups of spaghetti for dinner, try having one cup and topping it with some lean meat to complete your meal. Eventually, you could replace the pasta with a vegetable—squash is a great substitute. By making small changes as you feel ready and continuing to keep track of what you’re eating, you’ll find yourself transitioning to a new way of eating with ease.
Phase 4: Reduce Hidden Sugars
Time: 1 to 2 weeks
Why: Dressings, sauces, and condiments may seem to merely add some flavor to your food, but they often add sugars that can work against your weight-loss goals. A small amount of some condiments can add whole grams of sugar to your meal. Furthermore, we usually don’t use only one packet of sweet-and-sour sauce or ketchup; instead, we douse our food in these sugar-rich add-ons. Consequently, you might think that you’re doing all you can to reduce the amount of sugars you’re consuming, but that might not be the case if you continue to eat foods with hidden sugars.
Note that there are many foods that appear to be “diet” foods that actually might be bad to eat for your new eating plan. Many foods labeled as “diet,” “low-fat,” or “no-fat” replace the fat content with more carbohydrates. We tend to see “low-fat” and think this is a healthy option, but if “low-fat” is a synonym for “high-sugar,” then it is clearly a no-no.
There are also products on the market now that are labeled “sugar-free,” which appeal to people who are either diabetic or trying to restrict their sugar intake. Proceed cautiously with these products as well. While these products may indeed be sugar-free, they may still contain a lot of fast-metabolizing carbohydrates.
How: You may find, as you progress from one phase to the next, that reducing hidden or lesser-known sugars goes more smoothly than previous phases. This is because you’ll already have established healthy eating habits and be used to making substitutions for the foods that you used to overeat. The goal here is to use your knowledge of nutrition labels to identify the foods that you eat which contain hidden sugars and to identify sensible replacements for them, like the ones we suggest in the next chapter.
Phase 5: Maintain Your New Way of Eating
Time: The rest of your life
Why: This is a way of eating, not a temporary diet. That means once you cut out these sugary, carb-rich foods, you’ll continue eating this way for the rest of your life. If you only eat this way temporarily and eventually go back to your old ways of eating, you can be certain that the addiction will rope you back in pretty quickly. The four phases just described lay the foundation for a healthy eating style that you can maintain forever. The key to achieving your goals lies in your knowledge of where sugars exist and what you can replace them with, and the consistent desire and dedication to follow what you know.
How: Remember, each phase takes time. Follow the allotted time guidelines—as a minimum. Be patient with yourself. If you find that one phase takes longer than what is listed or than you expected, that’s fine! The important point is to achieve the goal of that phase, not how quickly you do it. Try to identify why certain phases are more difficult than others. This may help you to troubleshoot and figure out ways to transition through that phase that are specific to your needs. Invest the time you need; it will be well worth it in the long run.
Reprinted with permission from Why Diets Fail (Because You’re Addicted to Sugar): Science Explains How to End Cravings, Lose Weight, and Get Healthy by Nicole M. Avena, PhD, and John R. Talbott (Ten Speed Press, © 2014).
Keeping tabs on how much sugar you’re swallowing is an important part of a heart-healthy lifestyle, especially if you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes. The empty calories from added sugars in desserts, some drinks and candy can lead to weight gain and spikes in blood glucose levels.
The good news is that cutting down on sugar may be easier than you think.
Get started cutting down on sugar with these tips:
- Toss the table sugar (white and brown), syrup, honey and molasses. Cut back on the amount of sugar added to things you eat or drink regularly like cereal, pancakes, coffee or tea. Try cutting the usual amount of sugar you add by half and wean down from there.
- Swap out the soda. Water is best, but if you want something sweet to drink or are trying to lose weight, diet drinks can be a better choice than sugary drinks.
- Eat fresh, frozen, dried or canned fruits. Choose fruit canned in water or natural juice. Avoid fruit canned in syrup, especially heavy syrup. Drain and rinse in a colander to remove excess syrup or juice.
- Compare food labels and choose products with the lowest amounts of added sugars. Dairy and fruit products will contain some natural sugars. Added sugars can be identified in the ingredients list.
- Add fruit. Instead of adding sugar to cereal or oatmeal, try fresh fruit (bananas, cherries or strawberries) or dried fruit (raisins, cranberries or apricots).
- Cut the serving back. When baking cookies, brownies or cakes, cut the sugar called for in your recipe by one-third to one-half. Often you won’t notice the difference.
- Try extracts. Instead of adding sugar in recipes, use extracts like almond, vanilla, orange or lemon.
- Replace it completely. Enhance foods with spices instead of sugar. Try ginger, allspice, cinnamon or nutmeg.
- Substitute. Switch out sugar with unsweetened applesauce in recipes (use equal amounts).
- Limit Non-nutritive Sweeteners. If you are trying to lose weight, a temporary fix to satisfying your sweet tooth may be with non-nutritive sweeteners. But watch out! Make sure that swapping sugary options for non-nutritive sweeteners now doe=sn’t lead to eating more later.
Sugar and Weight Loss: How Sugar Affects Your Weight Loss Goals
Perhaps the biggest topic in health and wellness these days is sugar and how to cut back on consuming it. For ages, the average adult would add a spoonful of sugar here and there to food— it never seemed like a big deal. But over time, food manufacturers started adding sugar to just about everything in the grocery store, even foods that you don’t think of as sweet, like crackers and spaghetti sauce. Today it’s clear that sugar is linked to various illnesses and conditions, and it is likely a major culprit connected to the rise in obesity and weight gain in this country. The information below will give some background on the sugar debate and suggest ways in which you can cut it out for good.
Is Sugar Really That Bad?
There’s a lot that can be said about how sugar affects the body, but it’s worth taking a closer look at how sugar can increase the risk of certain diseases. Here are some of the important ways sugar can affect your health and ability to manage body weight.
Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease
It may come as a surprise, but the most common form of liver disease is non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, affecting up to 100 million people in the U.S. As the name suggests, it’s a group of diseases that share the characteristic of having too much fat stored in your liver, and for many adults it causes no symptoms. However, the most severe form of this disease is called steatohepatitis, which is a form of inflammation of the liver that can lead to cirrhosis and liver failure. Studies have shown that sugar, in particular, fructose, plays a major role in the progression of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, and it seems that eliminating sugar from the diet may be one of the best ways to treat this condition.
Poor Nutritional Value
One reason that sugar is bad: foods that are high in sugar are generally not as nutritious as foods that are lower in sugar. The only caveat to this is with fruit, as some are high in fructose, but they’re also loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. With that said, most foods that contain added sugar (such as ice cream, juices, pastries, and candies) typically have little nutritive value, which means you gain very little from them to benefit your health.
You were probably told by your parents at a young age that candy rots your teeth. You probably didn’t listen to them back then, and now their words may come back to haunt you. Any sugar you consume, whether it is added sugar, natural sugar, or processed, breaks down tooth enamel and can cause cavities. The mouth typically has good bacteria living in it, but in the presence of sugar from your diet, harmful bacteria can grow and multiply to lead to tooth decay.
Hindrance to Weight Loss
One common reason many adults have trouble losing weight is hidden sugar. Sometimes, it can be a challenge to know how much sugar you consume each day, since sugar is added to so many foods that don’t seem sweet (like bread, crackers, ketchup, and salad dressings) or that you may think of as healthy (like fruit yogurt and smoothies). However, regardless of where the sugar comes from, it can still have a major impact on your weight loss program. Consider watching what sugar you consume, such as in desserts, and avoid adding any to your coffee or tea.
How Much Sugar a day Does the Average Person Consume?
According to the USDA, the current estimate of the average sugar intake for adults is about 82 grams every single day, which translates to close to 66 pounds of sugar consumed each year. To put that into perspective, it is important to understand the current guidelines recommend for sugar intake. The American Heart Association, for example, recommends that women should consume no more than six teaspoons of sugar daily. This is the same as 25 grams of sugar and about 100 calories. Men should consume no more than nine teaspoons of sugar each day. This equates to roughly 36 grams of sugar or about 150 calories per day. One 12-ounce can of regular soda contains more than the amount of sugar recommended for an entire day.
Now that you have an idea of how much sugar health authorities recommend each day compare that to what the standard diet contains. The figure is an average so that some adults will consume way less than this, but that also means there are many people who eat far more than the average. If the average American consumes 82 grams of sugar a day, that’s the same as 21 teaspoons or about 330 calories daily that come entirely from sugar. That means that Americans are eating more than double the amount of sugar than they should— and remember, this is just an average.
Does Sugar Make You Fat?
Obesity has been a hot topic in recent years, and with good reason. Roughly 38 percent of adults over the age of 19 in the U.S. are obese. What’s more staggering is that more than 70 percent of adults over the age of 19 are overweight or obese, suggesting that most people in this country have weight problems. Just think about these statistics a bit: seven out of every ten adults are overweight or obese. From a public health standpoint, effective weight loss programs are important, and it seems that sugar may play a role. Let’s take a look at how sugar is associated with weight gain.
Sugar Contains Energy.
One of the first things with any body weight management program is to consider how much you eat and to cut out whatever is unnecessary. Sugar is a major culprit in weight gain since it contains calories, but not much else in the way of vitamins, minerals, or anything else that’s good for you. You can find a detailed description of the number of calories in our calories in sugar guide, but overall, if you eat more than what you need, you will store the extra energy as fat. Some weight loss programs suggest that eating fat is the path to gaining fat, but in reality, it does not matter what nutrient you over consume; the more you eat, the more you gain.
Sugar Causes Fat Gain.
Studies have shown that excessive sugar consumption can lead to the development of certain illnesses and diseases indirectly from weight gain. These same studies have shown that high-sugar diets increased weight gain when compared to a low-sugar diet. While the mechanism is still in debate, it seems that consuming too much in a chronic sense can lead to excessive weight gain and fat storage throughout the body.
Sugar May Lead to Obesity.
Considering the difference between how much sugar we should be eating and how much we’re eating, that excess sugar consumption might be one of the key factors in the rise in obesity levels in this country. If the recommended amount of sugar is at most 150 calories each day and the average adult is consuming more than double this value, perhaps the increase in overweight or obese adults is caused by this excess. If a pound of fat equates to roughly 3,500 calories, and men consume 180 calories (at least) in excess and women consume 230 calories (at least) in excess, this could add up over the years. If you do the math on the extra amount men eat, 180 calories of sugar in excess from what is recommended each day, for a total of 365 days over an entire year, and this amounts to about 19 pounds of fat per year. Do the same math for women, and this equates to 24 pounds of fat added each year. Doing the math, it seems clear how sugar can contribute to obesity across the nation.
Cutting Sugar to Lose Weight
One of the first rules in any weight loss program is to burn more calories than what you eat. This method suggests that for every 3,500 calorie deficit, you lose roughly one pound of fat. His is not an exact science, but it is a good way to estimate weight loss. In contrast, if you eat more than what your body needs, then you will gain weight. Figuring out the balance between the energy in and the energy out can be a challenge, but cutting sugar may be one of the best ways to reduce your excessive caloric intake.
Cutting Sugar for Fat Loss
Imagine if you were to cut all sources of sugar from your diet when you go on a weight loss program. The results could be impressive when you consider the amount of sugar you consume daily. If you use the figure of 82 grams of sugar consumed by the average adult each day, it should be no surprise that you could lose some serious weight from sugar alone. Consider this: if you eat a standard 2,000 calorie diet (men or women) each day and you immediately cut all sources of sugar from your usual food and drink, you would reduce your caloric load by 330 calories each day, assuming you eat the average of 82 grams of sugar each day. Reducing your caloric load by 330 calories in sugar each day would translate to about 34 pounds of fat loss each year, or close to three pounds per month.
If you are like many adults out there, and you feel your diet is impeccable and that sugar is not an issue, consider this: one medium apple contains about 19 grams of sugar, a banana has 12 grams, one orange has 17 grams, and 1 cup of grapes has 15 grams You can see that sugar is everywhere, even if you have a healthy diet. It is easy to hit the average 82 grams of sugar each day from fruits alone, but considering a plethora of other foods has sugar in them, it would be easy to consume this much without even touching a candy bar.
Challenges of Cutting Sugar to Lose Weight
One of the biggest issues in any weight loss plan is avoiding things that your brain wants. This is where many adults have issues when it comes to cutting sugar from the diet. The brain has a strong desire to obtain sugar as a way to boost dopamine (known as the happiness hormone), which can be a major sign of sugar addiction. Sugar also provides a quick burst of energy that also floods the brain with compounds that make you feel euphoric. This craving for euphoria is hard to defeat, and it is one of the biggest challenges people have when they’re trying to cut out sugar for good.
What are Some Additional Names for Sugar?
To cut sugar from your diet, you should first have an understanding of the various names that sugar can be called. Remember the names listed below to help cut sugar from your eating for good. The information ahead is a condensed version of what you should know about particular names of sugars, but a complete list can be found in our guide on other names for sugar.
What About Natural vs Added Sugars?
There is a lot of talk about consuming natural versus added sugars in the diet and how each source affects health. Though some people think that eating natural sugars are a way to promote adding nutrient-dense foods to the diet, too much of any kind of sugar is still problematic. In-depth information can be found in our guide natural vs added sugar, but here is a condensed version:
Generally speaking, natural sugars are those that are found in nature, like fruits, vegetables, and dairy.
In contrast to natural sugars, added sugars are those that a food manufacturer, restaurant, or you have put in foods. That spoonful or two of sugar in your coffee is added sugar, for example. So is sugar used as an ingredient in cereals, bread, pastries, yogurts, and juices? Added sugars are e refined or processed, and they are not as nutrient dense as foods with natural sugars.
7 Effective Ways to Cut Sugar From Your Diet
Now that you have some information on how sugar impacts your weight management, some of the names that it goes by, and the difference between natural and added sugars, you will want to learn about some effective ways to cut sugar out for good. Consider the following tips to aid in your journey to successfully avoid sugar in your daily eating habits.
1. Substitute sugary beverages for water.
It may taste boring when you first make this switch, but beverages are the primary source of added sugars in the adult diet. Consider drinking your coffee black without sweetener or sugars and avoid all forms of soda, including ones with artificial sweeteners.
2. Be mindful of sugar substitutes.
Avoiding sugar is something that adults on diets aim to do, and many switches to artificial sweeteners as an alternative. While they may be calorie-free, artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes can be up to 600 times sweeter than regular sugar, which means your brain thinks you are consuming enormous amounts of sugar at one time. This strategy often leads to you having intense sugar cravings throughout the day.
3. Avoid fruit juices.
An orange has plenty of sugar, and a cup of orange juice has the juice of five oranges in there—so it has five times the amount of sugar. And that’s if you make the juice yourself. Orange juice found in cartons in the grocery store—even the ones that say they’re not from concentrate— are highly processed, and many brands have added sugar.
4. Limit fruit.
If you are serious about cutting sugar from your diet, you should pay attention to how much sugar is in the fruit you’re eating. Fruit can be healthy for you, but you need to limit your intake to 2-3 pieces at most a day—and count that as part of your sugar consumption.
5. Avoid jams, jellies, honey, or other preserves.
American breakfasts are often sweet, and jams, jellies, and other options are a source of sugar that you may not think about.
6. Eat plain Greek yogurt.
You may be surprised that yogurt is a common source of added sugar—sometimes up to 30 or 40 grams in a serving! Choose plain Greek yogurt, which only has the natural sugars in dairy and no added sugars. Make sure to read the food label to double-check.
7. Consider Sweet Defeat.
One amazing way to cut back on sugar and to fight some of the associated sugar cravings is to consider getting a little help. Sweet Defeat is a product that helps fight sugar cravings so that you can effectively eliminate it from your diet. It comes as a lozenge, and it contains only five ingredients: Gymnema, zinc, mint, sorbitol, and spirulina. The Gymnema and zinc work together to temporarily block the sweet taste receptors in the mouth, so you can’t taste sweetness. The lozenge works in a few seconds, and it is clinically proven to stop cravings. Consider taking a look at Sweet Defeat if you are serious about quitting sugar.
Weight Loss Tips
If you have ever been on a diet plan only to see it work briefly and then go south from there, then you should consider a lifestyle change to make your plan more effective. Consider the tips below as some of the most effective ways to boost your weight loss journey so that your previous frustrations turn into successes.
Adjust your exercise routine.
One way to boost your weight loss success is to adjust your exercise routine. Many adults hit the gym, perform an endless amount of cardio exercise day after day, only to see minimal results. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, your cardio intensity may not be high enough. Consider high-intensity interval training (HIIT) for better results. Second, add a resistance training program—lifting weights, for example—which will help build muscle. Muscle burns more energy than fat, so this will help with weight loss. Changing your workouts to include high-intensity interval training as well as resistance training is a great way to boost your metabolism and add lean muscle mass.
Avoid long periods of sitting.
One of the biggest issues with weight loss is that adults go all-out at the gym, only to lose all of the benefits directly afterward. Studies have shown that sitting for long periods can lead to weight gain, suggesting that changing this habit may help with n your weight loss goals. Avoid sitting for longer than 30-60 minutes at a time throughout the day for best results. Taking standing breaks can help to circulate your blood, and it increases your heart rate and metabolism just enough to where your body is not in continuous fat storage mode.
Be mindful of alcohol.
Another factor that adults should watch when attempting to lose weight is alcohol consumption. Alcohol may have some health benefits, but consuming it often can lead to increased fat production as well as inflammation. Consider cutting alcohol from your diet any time you are looking to lose weight and only drink amounts that current health guidelines suggest you consume.
Make a Habit of Walking.
One effective way to control your body weight is to take a brisk walk after each meal. Research has shown that brisk walking after a meal for about 15-45 minutes can lead to an improvement in overall glycemic control in older adults. An improvement in glycemic control could cause better usage of insulin, which could lead to a reduction of fat in your body. Consider making a brisk walk a habit after each meal, and you may see great benefits in both weight and mood.
Sugar consumption is linked to some health concerns. Perhaps the most concerning one is obesity. Obesity is a highly prevalent issue in the U.S.: seven out of every ten adults are overweight or obese. And sugar plays a major role in this statistic.
The average American consumes twice as much sugar as what’s recommended. That excess sugar adds up to about 330 calories each day, which means the average adult could be gaining close to 20 pounds a year simply from eating too much sugar. Sugar consumption is likely a major element contributing to obesity levels in this country.
Consider finding healthy ways to cut sugar from your life to help you lose weight. If you find that the easy tips listed above on how to cut back on sugar isn’t enough, and if you are finding it challenging to fight sugar cravings, then consider getting help from Sweet Defeat to boost your success.
By now, you know that sugar is bad for you, and that it’s generally smart to eat less sugar if you can. Case in point: Eating too much of it ups your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity. The problem is that the standard American diet is chock-full of the sweet stuff, so cutting back is a pretty big feat (I know, I’ve tried, and kind of failed).
While avoiding sugar completely is impossible and not a good health move—fruits are healthy for so many reasons and happen to also contain sugar—cutting back on added sugars (that is, sugar that isn’t naturally occurring in your food) is always a good idea. (And no, that doesn’t mean replacing them with fake sugars either. They’re not totally risk-free.) But it’s hard to know where to begin to help yourself eat less sugar.
To help you figure out a game plan, SELF spoke with Partha Nandi, M.D., an internist and the creator and host of the medical television show, Ask Dr. Nandi. Here are his nine best tips for finally changing your relationship with sugar and learning how to live with less of it.
1. Eat more often.
Letting yourself get ravenously hungry increases the chances you’ll reach for quick energy, low-quality foods instead of choosing your meals and snacks wisely. “When you don’t eat regularly, you get these cravings, and it’s easy to fill yourself with empty calories,” Nandi says. “You may get busy and forget about meals and skip them, but when you do that is when you fall prey to eating stuff that’s terrible for you.” He suggests eating five smaller meals a day, or three meals and a healthy snack in between each.
2. Drink more water.
Another way to curb hunger and reduce cravings for sweets is to stay hydrated. Sometimes we mistake thirst for hunger, so sipping on H2O all day long will give your body a better understanding of when it actually needs fuel.
3. Eat fresh instead of processed foods.
Processed foods are notorious for having added sugar (and sodium, but that’s another story). “Avoid the box as much as you can,” says Nandi. Instead of eating a packaged snack, reach for something like cut up apple slices and yogurt. The more whole foods you can eat, and the more meal prepping you can do at home, the easier it will be to avoid processed stuff and still eat enough to feel satiated.
4. Read labels.
When you do buy packaged foods, read the labels. Check the ingredients list to see if sugar is listed as an ingredient—that means it’s added. While naturally occurring sugar and added sugar are both sugar at the end of the day, the reason we eat way more than we should is because it’s added to so many things unnecessarily (for instance: peanut butter and whole-grain bread).
5. Spice things up.
Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, and turmeric can give food a new and different flavor that can replace the sweetness you’re used to. Nandi suggests adding cinnamon to coffee in place of sugar.
6. Get enough sleep.
Being tired—which most of us are—puts your body in a vulnerable position. “You’re tired and think you can beat that fatigue by eating simple carbs, because you get energy that’s immediate,” Nandi says. “But that’s short-lived and you then crash and feel more fatigued.” It’s a vicious cycle that leaves you craving even more sugar. This constant spike and drop in blood sugar and insulin is also what, over the years, can throw your natural insulin production out of whack and lead to things like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.
7. Cut back slowly.
Drastically reducing your sugar intake all of a sudden can be a bit shocking to your body (and taste buds). “You need to reset your appetite and brain,” Nandi says. “It’s easier for your body and more realistic if you do it gradually over a period of time.” Psychologically, weaning yourself off sugar slowly will make it easier to stop relying on it as a crutch. For example, use half as much sugar in your coffee each week until you can cut it out completely without even noticing.
8. Avoid low- and nonfat foods.
It’s a known fact that when removing fat, many food manufacturers add sugar to keep the product flavorful. “So you’re just defeating the purpose,” Nandi says. “You think you’re getting no fat, but when you take in those simple sugars, your body converts it to fat.” Instead, eat healthy fats in small amounts so you don’t feel deprived of those flavorful, filling foods.
9. Eat these healthy snacks instead.
You know what you’re not supposed to eat…so what can you eat? Of course fresh fruits and veggies are good healthy snacks. But when you’re feeling a little produce fatigue, Nandi suggests eating things like hard-boiled eggs, avocado, and nuts instead. For even more ideas, check out these snack ideas with zero added sugar. The key is to get plenty of protein and some healthy fats. Over time, your sweet tooth will calm down a bit and you won’t expect sugar in every meal.
You might also like: 5 Victoria’s Secret Angels Share Their Fave Healthy Snacks For All-Day Energy
Our Year of No Sugar: One Family’s Grand Adventure
By Eve O. Schaub, Special to Everyday Health
Once upon a time, I was healthy; at least I thought I was.
Sure, I lacked enough energy to get me through the day, but with all the commercials on TV touting energy drinks for America’s tired masses, I always assumed I wasn’t the only one suffering. And sure, everyone in my family dreaded the coming cold and flu season, but again, I thought come January everyone develops some degree of germophobia.
At least, that’s what I thought until I heard some disturbing new information about the effects of sugar. According to several experts, sugar is the thing that is making so many Americans fat and sick. The more I thought about it the more this made sense to me — a lot of sense. One in seven Americans has metabolic syndrome. One in three Americans is obese. The rate of diabetes is skyrocketing and cardiovascular disease is America’s number one killer.
According to this theory, all of these maladies and more can be traced back to one large toxic presence in our diet… sugar.
A Bright Idea
I took all of this newfound knowledge and formulated an idea. I wanted to see how hard it would be to have our family — me, my husband, and our two children (ages 6 and 11) — spend an entire year eating foods that contained no added sugar. We’d cut out anything with an added sweetener, be it table sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave or fruit juice. We also excluded anything made with fake sugar or sugar alcohols. Unless the sweetness was attached to its original source (e.g., a piece of fruit), we didn’t eat it.
Once we started looking we found sugar in the most amazing places: tortillas, sausages, chicken broth, salad dressing, cold cuts, crackers, mayonnaise, bacon, bread, and even baby food. Why add all of this sugar? To make these items more palatable, add shelf life, and make packaged food production ever cheaper.
Call me crazy, but avoiding added sugar for a year struck me as a grand adventure. I was curious as to what would happen. I wanted to know how hard it would be, what interesting things could happen, how my cooking and shopping would change. After continuing my research, I was convinced removing sugar would make us all healthier. What I didn’t expect was how not eating sugar would make me feel better in a very real and tangible way.
A Sugar-Free Year Later
It was subtle, but noticeable; the longer I went on eating without added sugar, the better and more energetic I felt. If I doubted the connection, something happened next which would prove it to me: my husband’s birthday.
During our year of no sugar, one of the rules was that, as a family, we could have one actual sugar-containing dessert per month; if it was your birthday, you got to choose the dessert. By the time September rolled around we noticed our palates starting to change, and slowly, we began enjoying our monthly “treat” less and less.
But when we ate the decadent multi-layered banana cream pie my husband had requested for his birthday celebration, I knew something new was happening. Not only did I not enjoy my slice of pie, I couldn’t even finish it. It tasted sickly sweet to my now sensitive palate. It actually made my teeth hurt. My head began to pound and my heart began to race; I felt awful.
It took a good hour lying on the couch holding my head before I began to recover. “Geez,” I thought, “has sugar always made me feel bad, but because it was everywhere, I just never noticed it before?”
After our year of no sugar ended, I went back and counted the absences my kids had in school and compared them to those of previous years. The difference was dramatic. My older daughter, Greta, went from missing 15 days the year before to missing only two.
Now that our year of no sugar is over, we’ll occasionally indulge, but the way we eat it is very different. We appreciate sugar in drastically smaller amounts, avoid it in everyday foods (that it shouldn’t be in in the first place), and save dessert for truly special occasions. My body seems to be thanking me for it. I don’t worry about running out of energy. And when flu season comes around I somehow no longer feel the urge to go and hide with my children under the bed. But if we do come down with something, our bodies are better equipped to fight it. We get sick less and get well faster. Much to my surprise, after our no-sugar life, we all feel healthier and stronger. And that is nothing to sneeze at.
Eve O. Schaub is the author of Year of No Sugar: A Memoir. She holds a BA and a BFA from Cornell University, and a MFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology. Her personal essays have been featured many times on the Albany, New York, NPR station WAMC. You can join Schaub’s family and take your own Day of No Sugar Challenge on April 9, 2014.
Read more stories of struggle, strength, and survival on Everyday Health’s My Health Story column.
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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Looking to Reduce Your Family’s Intake of Added Sugars? Here’s How.”
American Heart Association: “Added Sugars,” “Triglycerides: Frequently Asked Questions.”
American Medical Association: “Why added-sugar nutrition labeling could save lives, money.”
Critical Reviews in Clinical Laboratory Sciences: “Sugar consumption, metabolic disease and obesity: The state of the controversy.”
European Journal of Nutrition: “Controversies about sugars: results from systematic reviews and meta-analyses on obesity, cardiometabolic disease and diabetes.”
Harvard Health: “Eating too much added sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease,” “Why—and how—you should steer clear of added sugars.”
Harvard School of Public Health: “Carbohydrates and Blood Sugar.”
JAMA Internal Medicine: “Added Sugar Intake and Cardiovascular Diseases Mortality Among US Adults.”
Mayo Clinic: “Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics,” “Triglycerides: Why do they matter?”
Michigan State University: “How to convert grams of sugars into teaspoons.”
National Health Service: “Tooth decay.”
NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute: “NIH Guidelines on Overweight and Obesity: Electronic Textbook,” “Limit Fat and Sugar.”
Nutrients: “Relationship between Added Sugars Consumption and Chronic Disease Risk Factors: Current Understanding.”
Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: “Cut Down on Added Sugars.”
Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition: “Expert nutritionists recommend halving sugar in diet,” “Carbohydrates and Health.”
UCSF SugarScience: “Sugar-Sweetened Beverages,” “Too Much Can Make Us Sick,” “Hidden in Plain Sight,” “Frequently Asked Questions.”
FDA: “Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label.”
University of California San Francisco SugarScience: “Hidden In Plain Sight.”
USDA: “Find Your Healthy Eating Style & Maintain It for a Lifetime.”
World Health Organization: “Sugars and dental caries.”
6 Really Good Things That Happen to Your Body When You Quit Sugar
Kicking a sugar habit is challenging—even for the most strong-willed among us. See, research has found that sugar tricks your brain into wanting more and more of it. But there’s good news. A little sweetness is OK—emphasis on little. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women. Also okay: the sugar found in whole foods like fruits and veggies, says Kimber Stanhope, PhD, a nutritional biologist at the University of California, Davis. “These naturally occurring sugars come packaged with good-for-you vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients.” But if you can dial back your intake of added sugar, she says, you’ll start to rack up some amazing health benefits. In fact, the perks of the less-sugar life are so good, they may help motivate you to try to cut it (mostly) out.
RELATED: Are You Eating Too Much Sugar? Take Our Quiz to Find Out!
Get ready for younger-looking skin
The sugar in your diet affects the amount of sugar in your bloodstream—and studies suggest that high blood sugar levels set up a molecular domino effect called glycation. Say what? That’s just a fancy term for a process that can hinder the repair of your skin’s collagen, the protein that keeps it looking plump. A diet full of treats can also lead to reduced elasticity and premature wrinkles. Thankfully, research suggests that slashing your sugar intake can help lessen sagging and other visible signs of aging.
RELATED: 3 Crazy Easy Ways to Cut Back on Sugar
Score lasting energy
Added sugars are simple carbohydrates. This means they’re digested fast and enter your bloodstream quickly, providing that familiar rush. But once that shot of sugar is metabolized, you’re in for a crash. You may be riding this energy roller coaster all day, since added sugar is hiding in countless sneaky places—even salad dressing and barbecue sauce. “When you eat foods high in protein and healthy fat instead, such as a handful of almonds, they’ll supply you with a steadier stream of energy that lasts longer,” says Diane Sanfilippo, a nutrition consultant and author of The 21-Day Sugar Detox Daily Guide.
RELATED: For a Mid-Day Energy Boost, Choose the Stairs Over Soda
Say bye-bye to abdominal fat
Everyone knows that a daily sugary-soda habit can pack on the pounds, especially in the tummy area. But what you may not realize are the potential risks associated with abdominal fat. Sugary fare spikes your blood sugar, triggering a flood of insulin through your body, which over time encourages fat to accumulate around your middle. Known as visceral fat, these fat cells deep in the abdomen are the riskiest kind because they generate adipokines and adipose hormones—chemical troublemakers that travel to your organs and blood vessels, where they bring on inflammation that can contribute to conditions like heart disease and cancer. So, when you cut back on pop and desserts, you’ll start reducing belly fat and the dangerous conditions that come with it.
RELATED: What Makes Belly Fat Different From Other Fat?
Drop extra pounds
Increased insulin levels don’t just add pounds to your stomach; they put fat cells all over your body into calorie-storage overdrive, says endocrinologist David Ludwig, MD, a professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and coauthor of Always Delicious. “I call insulin the Miracle-Gro for your fat cells. It’s just not the sort of miracle you want happening in your body.” Replacing refined carbs and sugary foods in your diet with healthy fats helps keep your insulin stable, he says, so fewer calories get stored as fat. As a result, “hunger decreases, metabolism speeds up, and you can lose weight with less struggle.”
RELATED: This Woman Lost 185 Pounds In One Year By Cutting Back On Added Sugars and Carbs
Reduce your risk for diabetes
Since having fewer sweets helps you keep off excess pounds, you’ll also be more protected against type 2 diabetes. But eating less sugar also lowers your risk of the disease in another way: “A diet with lots of fast-digesting carbohydrates, like sugar, requires the pancreas to release lots of insulin, meal after meal, day after day,” explains Dr. Ludwig. “That excessive demand may overtax insulin-producing cells, causing them to malfunction, eventually leading to diabetes.”
RELATED: 7 Healthy Snack Ideas to Keep Blood Sugar in Check
Set your ticker up for success
Good heart health helps you power through everything from intense spin classes to late-night work deadlines. But fueling up with cookies and caramel lattes doesn’t do your heart any favors. Research suggests added sugar can take a real toll on the cardiovascular system. A 2014 study revealed that people who consumed 17% to 21% of their daily calories from the sweet stuff had a 38% higher risk of dying from heart disease compared with those who kept their added sugar intake to 8% of their daily calories. The bottom line: Cutting back now will pay off big-time later.
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