8 Tips for Cutting Back On Sugar

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8 Tips for Cutting Back On Sugar

The American diet is known for being relatively unhealthy. The average U.S. citizen eats upwards of 126 grams of sugar every day. While all of us aren’t guilty of such wayward dietary choices, most of us could probably benefit from indulging in less of the white stuff. But how can you overhaul your current lifestyle without feeling deprived? Here’s how to gradually cut back on sugar—without driving yourself crazy—for good.

1. Ditch fruit juices and sodas

The problem with sweet beverages is that they’re easy to consume in large quantities and we often don’t check how much sugar is lurking in them. Some sodas have a whopping 39 grams of sugar per can, while lemonades and fruit juices can be packed with nearly as much. Instead of filling your glass with cola or sweetened juice, try flavored seltzer or unsweetened teas. Your taste buds will become acclimated to the more natural tastes and you will crave sugary beverages less and less with each passing week.

2. Rethink dessert

Many people would happily scarf down a plate of cookies, a hearty slice of cake, or a dish of ice cream after every meal. But dessert shouldn’t be an excuse to load up on refined sugars. Instead, think about what naturally sweet foods might satisfy your craving without sacrificing your health. Try a yogurt parfait with nuts or granola, frozen fruit like banana chunks, or a protein shake with fresh fruit.

3. Eat fruit in moderation

Fresh fruits are an important part of a healthy diet, but too much of a good thing can backfire. A piece of whole fruit is a smart and healthy snack, but digging into an oversized bowl of fruit salad without any notion of how much you’re eating isn’t a great idea. Fruits with a higher sugar content include pineapple, apple, grapes, and mangos. It would be unwise to remove these foods from your diet entirely, but keep in mind how much sweet stuff they have when you’re chowing down. And try to stay away from too much dried fruit, which is higher in sugar than regular fruit.

4. Replace fruits with vegetables3

Just like fruits, cut-up veggies can make for a refreshing and satisfying snack, with added crunch. They’re full of healthy fiber and vitamins (especially A and C), and are naturally low in both fat and calories. Plus, they’re incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of cuisines and dishes, or eaten raw as a between-meal bite.

5. Get creative in the kitchen

When a recipe calls for sugar, try to come up with substitute ingredients that you can use instead. Sometimes unsweetened or homemade applesauce is the perfect alternative. Other times, various spices like cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg can do the trick.

6. Cut back on table sugar

Some might think this is easier said than done, but cutting back in small increments is the key to weaning yourself off of added sugar. If you usually take four sugars in your morning coffee, try three for at least three weeks—the average amount of time it takes to adopt a new habit. Once you’ve gotten used to the taste of three sugars, try two. If you typically pour sugar onto cereal or syrup onto pancakes, try topping your breakfast with a little fresh fruit instead.

7. Look at labels

Educate yourself when it comes to what you’re putting in your grocery cart, and your stomach. Carefully scan both the nutritional content and the ingredients list on all food labels. Check for added sugar in the form of anhydrous dextrose, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, lactose, maltose, sucrose, and, of course, white granulated sugar and brown sugar. And be sure to take a closer look at foods you might not consider sugar culprits, such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce, marinades, salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, instant oatmeal, breads, and yogurt.

8. Stay away from fat-free foods

If a food is naturally fat free, like dark leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables, then by all means, enjoy to your heart’s content! But packaged foods that are labeled as being “fat-free” are usually replacing fat with sugar or other additives that are much worse for you then the lard itself. Forego these fake health foods and enjoy a small amount of the full-fat variety. It’s a much healthier and more natural approach.