10 Easy Ways To Cut Back On Sugar
Reducing your sugar intake can be beneficial to your long-term health. While it can seem difficult to cut sugar out completely when it’s hidden in so many foods (and sweet treats can also bring us a lot of joy!), there are a few things you can do to reduce the amount you’re consuming.
Below is a quick rundown of how sugar affects your body and 10 easy ways you can cut back, starting today!
Sugar and your body
Sugar doesn’t have a great reputation, but it’s important to understand there are different types of sugar that affect the body in different ways.
For instance, all carbohydrates contain naturally-occurring sugars, even nutritious foods such as bananas, carrots, sweet potatoes or whole grains. Those aren’t sugars you need to be particularly concerned about!
When we talk about reducing sugar, we’re primarily referring to added and refined sugars - the kind you would find in fizzy drinks, baked goods, sweets and desserts.
Added sugars can even show up in some surprising places like dressings, spreads, crackers, yoghurt, cereals, muesli bars and bread.
According to Mayo Clinic, food and drinks that are high in sugar tend to be high in energy and low in nutrients, which means a high sugar diet can increase your risk of poor nutrition and weight gain.
Consuming too much sugar can also lead to tooth decay and increase your triglycerides - a type of fat in the blood and fat tissue - which can in turn increase your risk of cardiovascular disease.
To help reduce rates of obesity and heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends cutting back on added sugar, suggesting adult women consume no more than 100 calories per day of added sugar (that’s about 6 teaspoons or 24 grams).
So how can you minimise your intake and avoid those high-sugar foods? Here are 10 easy ways.
1. Cut out sugary drinks
For anyone who loves soft drinks, cordials, iced teas, sports or energy drinks, this can be a tough one. But remember that some soft drinks can have as much as 8-10 spoonfuls of sugar per can as well as other additives!
If you’re finding this hard to visualise, try getting a clean glass and filling it with 10 teaspoons of sugar. Seeing how much sugar is in just ONE drink can really help put things in perspective and make it easier to say no or choose no-sugar alternatives.
Focusing on hitting your daily water intake before you drink anything else can also help keep those cravings at bay!
2. Switch dessert for a healthier alternative
Don’t worry, you can cut back on sugar and still enjoy dessert! Phew. The key is finding healthier options that aren’t loaded with refined sugar, or limiting your sweet treats to special occasions rather than making it a daily habit. By making a few swaps, you can have your cake and eat it too.
Not sure where to start? Try this chocolate cake with avocado frosting, or nice cream, which is a healthy ice cream alternative made from frozen bananas. You could also have fresh or frozen fruit, low-sugar yoghurt, or a few squares of dark chocolate.
3. Start your day without a sugar hit
It’s surprisingly easy for added sugars to sneak their way into your breakfast. Maple syrup, honey, granola, sweet spreads like jam, marmalade, Nutella and even ‘fruit spreads’ can have quite a lot of sugar (some varieties can be made up of up to 60% sugar!) in them.
For topping alternatives, try nut butter, cottage cheese or sliced banana and cinnamon. Savoury breakfasts like eggs, tomato or avocado on toast can also be a great option.
4. Make smarter dressing choices
Many store-bought dressings and sauces are high in added sugar, particularly those claiming to be fat-free. Look for low-sugar options like vinaigrettes, use lemon, lime juice or avocado, or try making your own, such as a vinaigrette with apple cider vinegar.
5. Nutritious snacks are where it’s at!
Have hummus or nut butter with veggie sticks or wholegrain crackers, boiled eggs, or these homemade matcha pistachio balls! The hint of sweetness comes from the dates and matcha powder.
6. Understand food labels
When reading food labels, the word ‘sugar’ isn’t the only thing you need to look out for. Added sugars can also be listed as things like high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose, cane syrup and caramel - just to name a few!
Remembering all these different words can be tricky, so it can help to look at the nutrition breakdown panel, keeping in mind the recommended 100 calories or 24 gram daily sugar limit.
7. Opt for the unsweetened or low sugar version
Many brands now offer unsweetened or low sugar versions of popular products such as non-dairy milks, canned fruit, ketchup, applesauce and yoghurt. Easy!
8. Prioritise your sleep
One of the reasons many of us reach for sugary foods or drinks is because we feel tired and want a hit of energy. Mid-afternoon sugar craving, anyone? However, this 2022 study even concluded that poor sleep quality is significantly related to high sugar intake. Getting 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night can be a huge help!
9. Be mindful of alcoholic beverages
Alcohol is already high in calories to begin with, and many cocktails, sweet wines and pre-mixed drinks have a particularly high sugar content.
Reducing or avoiding alcohol is great for your health, but if you are going to drink, limit your intake and opt for soda water mixes or low-sugar wine and beer options.
10. Everything in moderation
Sweet treats can be a delicious and joyful part of life and a big part of social occasions such as birthdays, so it’s all about finding balance and enjoying them every now and then rather than having a big sugar hit every day. Yes, Sweat Trainers have sweets, too!
If denying yourself too much means you crave sugar or overdo it later in the week, try having something small each day like a few squares of chocolate. For many people, portion control is a much more sustainable (and enjoyable) strategy than avoiding it completely.
Craving something sweet? 15 ideas to try!
- Fruit - fresh, frozen, grilled (mmm grilled stone fruit…), blended into a smoothie, however you like it! Frozen bananas can also be blended into nice cream or frozen grapes are a yummy swap for sweets.
- Unsweetened yoghurt with berries or protein powder
- Sweet potato - roasted, steamed or even sliced thinly and grilled or put in the toaster
- Oatmeal with some nut butter, berries or a drizzle of honey
- Dark chocolate
- Bliss balls
- Dates - eat by themselves or add some protein and healthy fats by adding nut butter or even a brazil nut inside
- Chia pudding
- A handful of nuts or trail mix
- Peppermint or liquorice tea for a hot beverage with a touch of sweetness
- Low sugar homemade popsicles using ingredients such as blended fruit and coconut milk
- Eggs - these definitely aren’t a sweet food, but protein and healthy fats can make you feel full and satisfied
- Avocado on crackers or toast - same as above!
- Experiment with healthier baking and dessert options such as black bean brownies, flourless chocolate cake, avocado chocolate mousse, carrot muffins or mashed banana as a sweetener in baking - like in this chocolate peanut butter banana bread!
- Have a small portion of whatever it is you are TRULY craving! We are all for finding healthy options, but sometimes this can be more effective and satisfying than trying to deny yourself and find an alternative.
Cutting back on your sugar consumption can be tough, but it’s so worthwhile for your health! Don’t feel like you have to make all of these changes in one week. Try making them gradually, see how good you feel, and be proud of the progress you make!
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.