We all know that sugar isn’t great for us. It’s linked with heart disease yet Americans eat too much of the sweet stuff. But the idea of living a sugar-free life sounds pretty daunting as well. If you’re looking to phase out some (or all) of your sugar intake, start with some baby steps.
We know going cold turkey won’t work. Despite its nasty side effects, Americans still have a sweet spot for sugar. Let go of the addiction one step at a time. We’ve got 7 ways you can make small changes in your life that add up to way less sugar in your diet so you can lose weight and finally break up with that diet disaster—for good!
1. WATCH YOUR MORNING CUP OF COFFEE (OR TEA)
If you are one of the many who adds a little sugar to your tea or coffee, start adding only half the amount you normally use. You’ll get used to the slight flavor change over time, and it’s an easy way to cut back on your sugar. If you want to keep going, you can slowly scale down until you drink your tea or coffee without any sugar.
Another option is to switch to agave nectar instead of sugar in your morning cup. Agave has a much lower glycemic index than sugar, so it won’t spike your blood sugar as much. Although some are wary of agave, it’s alright to use it as a stepping stone away from sugar—eventually, you’ll probably want to limit how much agave you consume as well. Most grocery stores carry agave, and tons of coffee shops are starting to provide it as a sweetener, too. In case your coffee shop doesn’t carry agave, or you don’t like the taste, you can stick with halving your normal portion of sugar.
2. KNOW YOUR FOOD
You might be surprised to discover just how much sugar is in your yogurt, “wheat” bread, or salad dressing. There are lots of sneaky sources of sugar out there, so it’s important to be aware of them before you buy and indulge. Knowledge is power. Choose less sugary versions of your weekly grocery staples and you’ll cut out a fair amount of sugar that you might not have known you were consuming.
3. SWAP THE STORE-BOUGHT TREAT FOR A HOMEMADE VERSION
If you find yourself craving sweets—like brownies, cookies, or cake—try making your own version of the treat from scratch. It takes more time, but having control of how much sugar goes into the product can really help limit your sugar intake (and, as a bonus, your treat won’t have any processed ingredients).
One of the best swaps is to trade in your store-bought pint of ice cream for homemade banana ice cream. Banana ice cream is made from blending frozen bananas together to create a delicious, frozen yogurt-like treat that’s much healthier than ice cream.
4. CHOOSE LESS-SUGARY FRUITS
Yes, although it might seem like you’re making a healthy decision by grabbing a piece of fruit, some fruits contain much more sugar than others (especially dried fruits). When you’re looking for a snack, focus on the less-sugary options—like blackberries, raspberries, and grapefruit. If you’re keen on the dried kinds, be sure to check the label for added sugars. There are plenty of kinds out there that don’t sweeten their product, you just have to do some reading.
5. MAKE SURE YOU EAT FILLING MEALS
Since sugar tends to sneak in during snack time or mindless eating, rather than during meals, make sure that your meals keep you going through the day. Choose meals that are higher in protein and fiber to keep you feeling fuller for longer, which can ward off the sugar craving in the afternoon.
6. MIX IN HEALTHY OPTIONS WITH YOUR SUGAR INTAKE
In the mood for a sugary snack? Go for it, but make half of your snack healthy and sugar-free. A great example would be to pair some chocolate with nuts, sugar-free oatmeal, or strawberries. You get the (smaller) sugar boost, without sacrificing your snack to lots of sugar.
7. WATCH YOUR SMOOTHIES
Smoothies can seem like the perfect low-sugar treat, but it all depends on what goes in them. Some smoothies can be worse for you than a Big Mac, with hidden sugary ingredients like sweeteners, frozen yogurt, or sorbet—you definitely want to stay away from those. Try making a smoothie at home with low-sugar yogurt or add dates, agave, or honey for sweetness instead of sugar.