Top 10 Tips for Breaking up with Added Sugar

Like so many life changes, my journey to health and to a new career choice started with a tumultuous relationship. This relationship began when I was very young, naive and ignorant, and I didn’t know what I was giving up to be in it. Of course, I’m talking about my relationship with sugar. From the time I was a small child, and an ice cream cone or a cupcake or even Fun Dip (yup, a sugar stick dipped in colored sugar) was a reward, a special treat for being an precocious little girl. I drank juice boxes by the dozen, sodas like water, lemonade by the gallon. It took many years and finally seeing a dietitian to realize that sugar was something to be respected and limited, not gulped down or practically placed in a constant IV drip. Here are some tips to help you limit added sugar in your diet: 

  1. To start, it’s good to know what the difference is between added sugar and naturally occurring sugar. Added sugar is refined sugar added to foods when they are made. Naturally occurring sugar is sugar like that in fruit and milk that is already in a food as it occurs in nature. Generally we want to limit added sugar as much as possible. 
  2. Take a look at the ingredient list on your beverage of choice – are there 20… 30 or more grams of added sugar? It may be time to switch it out for good old water, fruit infused water, bubbly water (did someone say La Croix?), coconut water (amounts of sugar vary), kombucha (again, read the label), milk or another low sugar beverage.
  3. Speaking of beverages, juice is a tricky one here. Even though 100% juice is technically all naturally occurring sugar, it’s been stripped of all the fiber, micronutrients and water that come with it in its fruit form. This causes your blood sugar to spike a lot like a beverage with added sugar would. So, ditch the juice or water it down with plain or sparkling water.
  4. Learn to identify the sneaky names of sugar on labels. Yup, this bugger goes by many names. Here are a few to look out for: high fructose corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, brown sugar, cane juice, molasses, honey, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, corn syrup, agave, evaporated cane juice, and more!
  5. Check your yogurt – another hidden source of added sugar. Try plain and add your own sweetener, honey, jam or granola.
  6. Take the bar exam – do you eat granola bars or protein bars? Try to find one with no more than 10 grams of added sugar per bar. It’s surprisingly hard!
  7. Et tu cereal? Yup, your morning bowl of crispy oaties may be laden with added sugar, so check that label (sensing a theme here?) and replace with a cereal or granola with less than 10 grams of added sugar per serving or consider making your own oatmeal or granola.
  8. Ditch the sugar substitutes – this one is kind of controversial. Technically, fake sugars like aspartame, Splenda and even Stevia don’t increase blood sugar levels. And yet, some have been banned in other countries due to their potential health hazards. Also, they get your palette used to that super sweet flavor. Our goal is to change your palette to need less sweet, not more.
  9. Try subbing out sugar for healthy fats – yup, nut butters, olive oil and other vegetable oil, seed butters and more can sometimes satisfy that sweet tooth in ways you might not expect. Try adding some nut butter to your morning cereal or oatmeal and see what I mean.
  10. As with all things in life, moderation is key. If you’re just craving that gorgeous glazed doughnut or fresh baked chocolate chip cookie, go for it! Life is short, and we should enjoy desserts when we can. Just be sure you really want it, and then, skip the part where you beat yourself up and just enjoy the joie de vivre of a tasty treat!


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