added sugar

3 Ways to Dramatically Reduce Your Daily Sugar Intake (Without Cutting Treats)

Nutrition experts don’t agree about a lot of things, unfortunately. That’s why in my own diet, I generally choose to focus on two things scientists seem to agree on: eat more veggies, and eat less sugar.

Nutrition experts don’t agree about a lot of things, unfortunately. That’s why in my own diet, I generally choose to focus on two things scientists seem to agree on: eat more veggies, and eat less sugar.

Harms of Added Sugar

Our body needs some sugar as fuel — the kind of sugars we find in complex carbohydrates, in fruits, and even in vegetables. Eating too much added sugar, however, comes at a cost.

Here are just a few of the problems that can come from high consumption of added sugar:

I really could go on an on about the ways sugar can destroy our bodies and minds. But suffice it to say, too much sugar is just all-around bad! While most of us know that sugar is something to be eaten in moderation, we may not realize just how much sugar we’re consuming — even when we avoid high-sugar foods and drinks like doughnuts or soda. (And by the way — even natural sweeteners like maple syrup or honey count as added sugars! Read more on that in my article here.)

Here are a few places you might be able to cut back on added sugar in your daily diet, other than simply cutting out treats altogether.

Where to Cut Back on Added Sugar

1. Jams and jellies

PB & J is such a classic lunch food that it took me a while to notice how much sugar this basic sandwich was adding to my diet. Store-bought jams and jellies can have anywhere from six to twelve grams of sugar — in just ONE tablespoon! A lot of jams also have high fructose corn syrup in them as well, which in and of itself isn’t the greatest thing to consume.

As an alternative, try a peanut butter banana sandwich (or any fruit for that matter!). Some fresh berries or sliced grapes can be a fun way to mix up this age-old classic sandwich too. That way you still get the sweetness without adding unnecessary refined sugar.

Now don’t get me wrong. You are certainly not going to kill your diet by eating the occasional peanut butter and jelly sandwich or feeding it to your picky eater child. Let’s face it — PB & J’s are convenient and tasty! But if you’re going to eat jam or jelly, just make sure you’re being intentional and aware of the sugar content. We still occasionally eat jam at our house, but I like to think of it as a treat instead of part of a healthy lunch.

2. Flavored yogurt

Another surprisingly high-sugar food is flavored yogurt. While yogurt can be a great high-protein, high-calcium snack, not all yogurt is created equal. A regular Walmart-brand low-fat strawberry yogurt has 16 grams of sugar per serving!

On the other hand, if you opt for a plain nonfat Greek yogurt, you’ll get higher protein and NO added sugar. If you’re hoping for a sweeter fruity snack, just add some mashed banana, applesauce, or other fruit as a natural sweetener.


3. Breakfast cereal

For years I ate a bowl of cereal for breakfast. I didn’t eat anything crazy — usually Frosted Mini Wheats or some knock-off of Special K. But even these “healthy” cereals can have a lot of added sugar. Frosted Mini Wheats come in at 12 grams per serving, and Special K with strawberries does a little better at 9 grams per serving. While the healthier cereals have a little more fiber, Fruit Loops ties with Frosted Mini Wheats at 12 grams per serving too. So look out for cereals that are advertised as the healthy option.

While it is a little better than straight up dessert thanks to all those added vitamins and minerals, starting your day off with that much added sugar may not be the best for your body. That said, I know cereal is extremely convenient. I’m not saying you have to ditch it altogether. But maybe switch up your breakfast routine and find some lower sugar options, reserving cereal for when you’re really in a time crunch. I like to make whole wheat pancakes, modifying this recipe from Cookie and Kate by swapping the syrup and melted butter for a few tablespoons of unsweetened applesauce. Add some peanut butter and banana to the top and you have a delicious lower sugar breakfast!

Eating Sugar Intentionally

Eating too much sugar is of course a problem. But I am still human and enjoy eating a sweet treat every now and again! I especially like finding some slightly lower sugar treats, like these brownies from Minimalist Baker or some yummy vegan banana nice cream. (For more healthy treat ideas, see my post here!)

By cutting back on unintentional added sugars in your daily diet, you can choose to use your sugar quota for the occasional dessert. These are just a few ideas of how to cut back, but there are loads more! (Check out your ketchup and salad dressings, for example.) As you become more intentional about how you consume added sugars, your body and mind will thank you.


How will you cut back on added sugar? Let me know in the comments below!


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