It’s unfortunate, but you find sugar in the most unlikely places – “healthy” snacks like granola bars, yogurt, fruit smoothies, salsa, salad dressing, dried fruits, energy drinks – and that makes it difficult to avoid.
If you don’t read food labels, you may have no clue how much sugar you’re consuming on a daily basis.
According to the American Heart Association, Americans adults consume up to 60 pounds of sugar a year and the numbers for children are even higher.
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Consuming too much sugar can lead to severe health problems over time such as obesity, heart disease, and possibly cancer. For this reason, it’s important to be hyper aware of how much sugar you are consuming each day and make some big cutbacks in your diet.
The good news is, it’s completely doable to cut sugar from your diet without a ton of time and effort. With a few of these simple ideas, you’ll be able kick your sugar habit for good and start living a healthier, sugar free life.
How to Reduce Sugar Consumption
1. Start Slow
When you first begin to cut sugar from your diet, you may be tempted to go cold turkey and do it all at once. Going from loads of sugar each day to none at all can be somewhat of a shock to your system.
A more realistic way to rid your body and life of sugar is to start slow and do it gradually over time. For example, instead of 3 sodas a day, cut back to two and then one.
Reduce the amount of sugar you put in your coffee each day until you’re using only a small amount or none.
Opt for a bowl of fruit instead of ice cream as your evening snack. Instead of eating a chocolate bar, savor a few chocolate chips.
The best choice I made to reduce sugar was to start baking with and using a sugar substitute like allulose, monkfruit, and erythritol. These substitutes taste very similar to sugar but don’t have the same effect on blood sugar and are very low in carbs and calories.
Make small changes to your daily habits and over time you’ll be amazed at how much less sugar you consume.
Also, don’t beat yourself up if you mess up a time or two. Cutting sugar from your life is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s all about a lifestyle change, not a temporary choice. Keep that in mind and you’ll be carving out a path to sugar freedom in no time.
Learn more about low-carb sweeteners and conversion here.
2. Eat before you shop
The next time you make a trip to the grocery store, make sure you go on a full stomach. Otherwise, there are aisles and aisles of temptation just waiting for you to fill your cart with sugar filled goodies.
Hunger has a way of making us lose sight of our goals in a big way. Everything looks good when your stomach is making a fuss, especially those cookies and cakes they place at the entrance, enticing you to check out all the bakery items before you leave.
Don’t allow yourself to go down this path. Have a small snack before you head out and keep those sugar cravings at bay. This will help you stay on track and load up on those foods that are actually on your shopping list and support that sugar free lifestyle.
3. Eat Breakfast
This is such a simple task, but one that so many people omit from their lives. Don’t skip breakfast. If you’re attempting to cut sugar from your life, one of the best things you can do is have a savory breakfast that will help you feel full and satisfied as you kick off your day.
A good breakfast isn’t a bowl of cereal and a sugar-laden iced coffee. Having a sugary breakfast like this will bring about all day sugar cravings and really throw you off track.
This doesn’t mean you have to spend a ton of time in the kitchen cooking up a fancy breakfast at 7 am. Keep it simple. Have fruit, throw together a veggie omelet or scrambled eggs and avocado slices, or eat a sausage patty with melted cheese.
If your mornings are crazy, you can even pre-cook some egg muffins that will be ready to go as soon as you wake up.
There are ton of simple breakfast ideas that will help you kickstart your day and set you up for sugar free success.
4. Purge the Pantry
Your pantry probably has a ton of sugar-filled foods and drinks that you’ve been keeping around. Most of our pantries do. But one of the best ways to cut sugar out of your diet is to make it inaccessible for when those cravings hit.
Begin by Marie Kondo-ing your fridge and pantry. Take everything out and look at the sugar content as you sort. Keep in mind that added sugar is hidden in a many food, even those that are deemed “healthy.”
Scour the nutrition facts and ingredients with a fine-tooth comb. Become familiar with all the different names that sugar could be listed under to pinpoint which products you can keep and which you need to ditch.
Whether you donate to a local food pantry or give them to your neighbor, just make sure to remove the temptation from your home.
Start to slowly replace these items with healthier, sugar-free choices that you can reach for when those hunger pangs hit. Before you know it, you’ll have a pantry full of go-to meals and snacks with zero sugar and zero regret.
5. Read Food Labels
The majority of people have no idea how much sugar they consume on a daily basis. The reason is we don’t often check the nutrition labels of the foods we eat.
We purchase the products we feel comfortable with and don’t really question the nutrition facts or ingredients in then. When you want to cut sugar from your diet, it’s important to get used to questioning each food you eat.
Even foods that are marketed as “healthy” can have more sugar than you expect.
This is where it can be tricky. You have to be on the lookout for other words, such as syrup, agave, cane, and words ending in -ose, just to name a few.
As you start becoming more familiar with the ingredients in your food and see how much sugar you are actually consuming, it will be that much easier to make healthier choices and cut out the bad stuff altogether.
6. Plan Your Meals
Meal planning is a life saver when it comes to cutting sugar out of your diet for good. Once you have cleared your pantry and fridge of any foods that have excess/added sugars, begin to replace them with lean meats, fish, veggies, and healthy snacks such as fresh fruit or raw nuts and seeds with hummus.
Use these new, healthier choices as a basis to plan your meals for the next few days, a week, or even a month. With a meal plan you’ll know exactly what’s on the menu and you won’t have to second guess what you’re eating from day to day.
This will also eliminate the temptation to order take out or reach for sugary snacks at the grocery store.
By planning ahead of time, you will be much more likely to stay the course and not stray from your sugar free goals.
7. Opt for No Added Sugar
A great way to cut out sugar is to opt for the no-added-sugar version, if it’s available. For example, if you would normally buy cinnamon applesauce or vanilla almond milk, try switching these out for the unsweetened variety.
If you usually buy full sugar ketchup, switch to the no added sugar version. It might take some getting used to at first, but soon the new taste will become what you expect and the full sugar version will be too sweet.
Make a habit of searching out labels that say “unsweetened” and/or “no added sugar,” and make these items a staple on your future grocery runs. By making a simple switch like this, you will cut out so much excess sugar in your diet, not to mention calories.
Make homemade spice mixes. Many store bought sauces and spice blends have hidden sugar that you don’t know is there if you don’t scour the labels.
8. Stop Drinking Soda & Fruit Juice
If you are an avid soda drinker, this one may hit you right in the heartstrings. However, changing up this one daily habit will do you a world of good when it comes to cutting back on your daily sugar intake.
One 12 ounce can of soda contains 8 teaspoons of sugar and with zero nutritional value. That’s just one can a day and if you drink more than that…well, you can do the math.
You don’t have to go cold turkey and eliminate soda from your life right away (unless you choose to). Simply, cut back to one a day for a while and then ease yourself into going completely soda free.
The same goes for juice which already has a high amount of sugar from the fruit itself, but also has a lot of added sugar.
Replace this habit with sugar-free sparking water, tea, or start using a Soda Stream to make your own low or no-sugar sodas.
Cutting back on soda has been known to help support weight loss and will also make your dentist a lot happier at the next visit.
9. Spice it up
Instead of using sugar as a go-to for added sweetness and flavor in your food, try something off the spice rack instead. It’s a great way to replace all the excess sugar without taking away the great taste.
For example, try some cinnamon or nutmeg in your coffee, yogurt, or anything you would normally sweeten with sugar.
You can also try allspice, fennel, star anise and so many more – the options really are limitless. Just experiment and see which ones fit your taste buds.
Many of these spices have added benefits as well. For example, allspice aids in digestion and nutmeg can assist as a sleep aid when paired with milk. Give spices a try to help cut sugar from your life.
You’ll still be able to satisfy your sweet tooth without all the negative aspects to go along with it.
10. Find an Accountability Partner
Ditching sugar is not an easy task and it’s even harder if you go it alone. Before you begin cutting back, make an effort to search out an accountability partner or support group who understands your overall goal and will hold you accountable during the process.
Your support partner can be a family member, friend, neighbor, co-worker – anyone who has similar goals and wants to support and cheer you on as you go.
Having someone to call on, vent to and cry with is so important, especially during those tough times when you want to throw in the towel due to intense cravings, fatigue, headaches or other symptoms that may arise from sugar withdrawals.
Knowing you have that accountability and support as you work towards this lifestyle change can make all the difference in your overall success.
A life without sugar may seem crazy in today’s world full of processed foods and fast food on speed dial. However, it’s not impossible. In fact, cutting sugar out of your life could be one of the most beneficial things you do for your overall health and lifestyle.
Although it’s not easy giving up foods that have become near and dear to your heart, the pros of this lifestyle change far outweigh the cons. Start gradually and be patient with yourself.
You’re not going to be perfect and there will be days that you may want to give up. Remind yourself of your overall why and keep pushing forward. By incorporating some or all of these tips into your daily life, you’ll slowly start to ease away from all that sugar you used to consume and work towards sugar freedom.
By making small, healthier choices each day, it will add up to big success over time and a life with better teeth and zero guilt.
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Laura is an avid home cook and recipe creator. She shares her favorite low-carb recipes here that are both easy to make and full of flavor, so you don’t even miss the carbs.