9 ways to cut sugar from your diet


It’s no secret that eating too much sugar is bad for your health. It increases your risk of, heart disease and obesity, and leads to poor blood glucose control for those with type 2 diabetes. The standard American diet is loaded with sweets, so cutting sugar isn’t as easy as we’d like it to be.

It might be easy to think of cutting out candy, sodas and other sweet treats, but the reality is that trying to curb sugar cravings goes beyond cutting out sweets and sugar-loaded drinks. Added sugar lurks in foods you’d never suspect, disguised on nutrition labels with names such as corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, evaporated cane juice, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, rice malt, molasses, honey, maple syrup and malt syrup (just to name a few).

The more sugar we eat, the more we crave. It’s addictive. 

Surprisingly, sugar sneaks its way into many of the foods you may typically buy at the grocery store. Foods like low-fat yogurt, barbecue sauce, ketchup, fruit-flavored drinks, spaghetti sauce, cereal, granola, boxed "helper meals" and many canned foods can contain added sugar. Even many foods considered “health foods,” like cereal bars and fruit smoothies, are often packed with added sugar.

If you’re ready to take the leap and cut sugar from your diet, use these tips to help you break the habit.

Don’t go hungry. When you get so hungry your stomach begins to growl, you’re more likely to reach for quick and easy foods (which are chock full of sugar) rather than choosing your foods wisely. Eating small, frequent meals with fiber and protein helps you stay in control of what you eat and will keep your stomach full of nutritious foods rather than empty calories.

Drink more water. Just like skipping meals can increase your cravings, so can being dehydrated. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to curb hunger and reduce those sweet cravings.

Eat real foods. Avoid processed foods. These products are notorious for being loaded with added sugar (not to mention sodium and preservatives) and are usually found in the center aisles of the grocery store. Stick to real, whole foods like fruits and veggies, yogurt and lean meats.

Meal prep. Take time each week to prepare ready-made meals and snacks you can grab when hunger strikes. Take your lunch and snacks to work with you so you’ll be less tempted to stop by the vending machine or swing through the drive-through for an unhealthy, sugar-laden meal or snack.

Read labels. If you do buy packaged or canned foods, always read the labels. Learn the various names for added sugar and check product ingredient lists for these names. Another tip: Check the labels on various brands of the same food. You might be surprised to find that some brands add sugar, while others do not.

Use spices. There are plenty of ways to add flavor to a meal without adding sugar. For example, cinnamon adds a touch of sweetness to your morning cup of coffee without the need for sugar or sweetened creamer.

Sleep. Let’s face it: Lack of sleep impairs judgment, particularly when it comes to food. If you’re missing out on shut-eye, you’re more likely to grab a sweet snack that will give you a quick energy boost. The problem is that this energy is often short-lived and leads to a crash, leaving you feeling even more fatigued. The constant blood sugar roller coaster can throw your insulin production off, leading to type 2 diabetes down the road.

Don’t go cold turkey. Take small steps to slowly reduce your sugar intake, rather than shocking your body by suddenly removing all sugar. Wean yourself off sugar slowly by gradually reducing sugar in your daily diet. For example, cut the sugar in your morning coffee in half each week until you’re able to drink a cup of coffee without any sugar.

Read labels on low-fat and nonfat foods. When fat is removed, other ingredients — generally sugar — are often added to help maintain flavor.

Now that you’re aware of all the ways sugar can sneak into your diet, use these tips to help slash sugar, improving your health and helping you feel better overall.

If you're looking for other ways you can improve your diet, get in touch with the registered dietitians at Goshen Hospital Nutrition Therapy