Most people are aware that eating too much sugar is bad for their health, however, kicking the sweet habit is not as easy as it might seem. So if you struggle with a sweet tooth, or just can’t seem to figure out where your sugar intake is coming from, here are 11 tips to help you eat less sugar.
Accordingly to dietary survey intakes, Canadians consume an average of 51 grams of added sugar per day, which is the equivalent of two chocolate bars per day! The problem largely lies in the fact that people are often consuming added sugar in foods without even knowing they are there, which only causes people to crave it more and more. It is certainly important to enjoy treats from time to time, however, it is the ongoing consumption of refined sugars in our daily meals and snacks that is problematic.
How to Eat Less Sugar
Here are 11 tips to eat less sugar that you can start implementing today.
1. Eat a Savoury Breakfast
When it comes to sugar, breakfast is probably the most dangerous meal of the day. Everything from cereal to granola to yogurt and bagels contains sugar. Even the “healthiest” brands contain added sweeteners so it can be really difficult to avoid (which is exactly why the standard North American breakfast looks more like dessert than actual breakfast). Instead, starting your day with a savory breakfast is a great way to help reduce your overall sugar intake. Something as simple as eating eggs instead of cereal can help to eliminate up to 20 grams of added sugar while adding more protein and healthy fats to the diet and alleviating afternoon cravings.
2. Avoid Liquid Sugars
Liquid sugars are probably one of the most dangerous forms of sugar because they hit your bloodstream fast, as they don’t need to be digested, and therefore spike your blood sugar quickly. Even if you don’t drink soda, many pre-made drinks such as smoothies, chocolate milk, energy drinks, sports drink, flavored coffees, iced coffees, and even kombucha contain added sugar. In fact, some of the most popular smoothie chains use frozen yogurt as the base for their smoothies, so you end up drinking more of a milkshake than an actual smoothie. When it comes to liquids, it is really important to focus on drinking the basics; water and perhaps some coffee or tea. Anything in addition to these should be considered a treat and used once in a while because something as simple as a morning latte + a pre-made smoothie + a pre-workout energy drink + a post-workout chocolate milk can add up to hundreds of grams of added sugar before you know it.
3. Focus on Fresh Fruit
People love them some dried fruit, and although it is technically a whole food, many brands will add vegetable oils and added sugars which is less than ideal. Plus, dried fruit is a concentrated form of sugar, so the combination of raisins in your granola, dried cranberries on your salad, and snacks of dates in the afternoon adds up to a lot of sugar very quickly. Instead, if you want a sweet treat opt for fresh fruit full of fibre and water that can help to slow the absorption of sugar to the bloodstream and comes packed with water-soluble nutrients at the same time.
4. Learn the Code Words
When it comes to sugar, manufacturers are really sneaky. Because they know that consumers are aware that sugar is less than ideal for them, they will use different words to represent sugar on labels. The list is long and you don’t need to memorize them all, but in order to be more mindful of your sugar intake knowing some of the code words for sugar will help to ensure you are equipped with the tools to identify it on a label.
5. Make your Own Dressings and Sauces
Next to breakfast, dressings and sauces are one of the worst places for added sugars. Literally, everything in the grocery store has added sugar when you start digging deeper and reading the label. I know it might seem like a lot of work, but learning a couple of basic salad dressing recipes, a quick stir-fry sauce recipe and some spice combinations can help to alleviate the need for store-bought dressings and sauces and, in turn, help you eat less sugar.
6. Drink Herbal Teas
I know this one might sound boring, but trust me it works. When you have a sugar craving sometimes just occupying your hands, your mouth and your taste buds can help make it go away. Drinking herbal tea is a wonderful way to enjoy something with flavor without any added sugar. Teas have come a long way in the past few years, outside of the basics of chamomile and peppermint, and now you can get tons of different flavors to help you satisfy a sweet tooth. Everything from vanilla chai to chocolate mint is now available for your sipping pleasure and is a great alternative to that sweet late-night treat to help ensure you eat less sugar.
7. Put Cinnamon on Everything
Cinnamon not only provides a nice warm flavor to foods but it is known to help balance blood sugar and also provides a natural sweetness to meals. Adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to your plain yogurt, oatmeal, into your smoothie, or simply onto slices of apple (my personal favorite) is another great way to add some sweetness to whole foods and eat less sugar throughout the day.
8. Eat Savoury Snacks
For most people, go-to snacks include items like granola bars, crackers, or flavored yogurt. Unfortunately, all of these snacks are sources of refined carbohydrates which means sugar, sugar, and more sugar. So instead of going the sweet route, opt for a savory snack with lots of protein and healthy fats like hummus and vegetables, cheese and almonds, or popcorn with butter. Not only are these snacks salty and savory and delicious, but they are another simple hack to help you eat less sugar one snack at snack time.
9. Use Natural Sweeteners
If you must sweeten something, then opting for a natural sweetener is your best choice. Although sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, or molasses are still sources of sugar, they do come with some nutritional benefits which help to mitigate their effects on the body.
10. Read Labels
When it comes to added sugars, the only way to really know what you are getting when you buy something in the grocery store is to read the label. In an ideal world, you are buying whole foods (fresh vegetables, fruit, meat, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils, and whole grains) which don’t contain added sugar in the first place, however, if you must buy something packaged it is absolutely imperative that you read the label! Look for all of the code words for sugar so know exactly what you are getting and compare flavors and brands to ensure you are getting the very best option.
11. Eat your Treats Out
When it comes time to have a treat the simplest thing to do is to eat them outside of the house. If you buy the entire box of cookies at the grocery store you aren’t really setting yourself up for success when they are sitting in the pantry at home, are you? You are likely much better off simply enjoying a dessert after a meal out, or a cookie with your coffee at the local coffee shop, or an ice cream on the weekend with the family as opposed to having an entire box of cookies, a pint of ice cream and entire cake sitting in your kitchen at home. Part of setting yourself up for success means controlling your environment, so keeping treats out of the house is a really helpful way to ensure you eat less sugar.