There’s no debate on the damaging effects of high sugar consumption for our bodies. Scientists around the globe are all in agreement that reducing sugar intake for those with high sugar diets can drastically improve your health and life expectancy. In fact studies have found many benefits to reducing sugar intake, including: improved heart health, reduced cholesterol, reduced risk of skin cancer, reduced inflammation, and more.
There is no doubt that reducing daily sugar intake should be a priority for your health, but actually doing so is no easy feat. Many staples in our everyday diets are loaded with sugar. Even things you may not have thought contained a high amount of sugar actually do. Below are 11 simple actions you can take to start reducing the amount of sugar you consume each day.
1) Avoid Canned Foods With Sugar
Canned foods are great because they don’t spoil easily and they’re often relatively cheap, which is great for the food budget. While canned foods help save money, certain canned foods can deteriorate your health. We associated canned food with being high in sodium, but they can also contain large amounts of added sugar.
Read the labels of the canned products you purchase. If they contain sugar or syrup in the ingredients list, they should be avoided. If you’ve already purchased a canned product with added sugar, you can remove some of the sugar by washing the items before consuming them. It’s important to note that many fruits contain natural sugar. The natural sugar in the fruit is okay. It’s the added sugar you have to worry about.
2) Read Labels For Processed Snacks
In this day and age, most consumers know that traditional processed snacks like Oreo cookies, chocolate bars, and Cheetos are unhealthy. As a result, many food manufacturers have started creating and promoting “healthy” snacks.
The labeling or perception of certain snacks as healthy can actually be deceptive. Snacks like dried fruit, granola bars, and protein bars can actually contain the same amount of sugar or more when compared to their unhealthy rivals. In fact, some granola bars can contain up to 32 grams of added sugar.
Like the canned food products, you’ll want to thoroughly inspect the labels for the snacks you’re considering purchasing. If you’re shopping for dried fruit, look for labels that say something to the effect of 100% fruit to avoid added sugar. Snacks that are truly healthy for you include nuts, real fruit, and trail mix (without added sugar).
3) Use Natural Sweeteners As A Replacement
Natural sweeteners should be used sparingly, but they can be used as healthier replacements for processed sugar. If you’re trying to reduce the amount of sugar you consume, you can suffer from sugar withdrawals. It’s possible to exhibit symptoms of anxiety and depression after departing from a high sugar diet. Natural sweeteners like Stevia, Xylitol, and Erythritol don’t cause blood sugar levels to spike. They can be used to help combat withdrawals and keep you focused and motivated on reducing your sugar intake.
4) Remove Sugar From The Pantry
You are in complete control of the foods that reside in your home. If you have high-sugar snacks available to you, you’ll be tempted to eat them. Reducing sugar consumption starts with a conscious effort to avoid packing the pantry with foods high in artificial sugar. If you are married or living with a significant other, you’ll need to coordinate with your spouse to make sure you’re both on the same page. Eliminating added sugars from your pantry will be a team effort.
5) Get More Sleep
There are many different health problems that can arise if you’re not getting the right amount of sleep each night. In fact, poor sleep has been linked to obesity, poor concentration, depression, and reduced immune function. What you may not have known is that lack of sleep also affects how you eat.
Research has shown that sleep deprivation causes the part of the brain that responds to rewards to be more stimulated, resulting in a higher consumption of sweet and salty foods. Studies indicate that getting the right amount of sleep each night can help you curb your cravings for sugary foods.
6) Choose Full-Fat Over Low-Fat
When shopping in the grocery store, you’ll often find that many food items have low-fat options. Items like peanut butter, salad dressing, and yogurt all have low-fat choices. Our bodies ultimately have two energy sources: fat and sugar.
Low-fat options essentially swap the energy sources. You get less fat, but you get more added sugar. It may seem counterintuitive, but if you’re looking to lose weight, you’d actually be better off with the full-fat products instead of a low-fat product. High sugar intake has been proven to cause weight gain.
7) Switch Out Your Sugar-Filled Drinks
There are many drinks you likely already know contain heaps of processed sugar. Doctors have been warning against drinks like sodas, energy drinks, kid’s fruit juices, and sports drinks for years now. However, drinks touted as healthy like smoothies and fruit juices can still contain quite a large amount of sugar.
For instance, Naked Juice contains the same grams of sugar as a can of Mountain Dew does. When juice is extracted from fruit, it loses a lot of the natural fiber, which keeps you full longer and helps to regulate blood sugar levels. It’s better to get your sugar intake from natural fruit and quench your thirst with water or tea instead of reaching for a smoothie or pressed juice.
8) Avoid Sugary Desserts
It should come as no surprise that most desserts are loaded with sugar and provide little in the form of nutritional value. Studies have found that grain and dairy-based desserts such as ice cream, cake, and doughnuts actually account for 18% of all added sugar in the average American diet.
If you need a better dessert, there are better alternatives outside of grain and dairy-based desserts. Baked fruit, fresh fruit, greek yogurt, and dark chocolate would all be better dessert alternatives with little to no added sugar.
9) Review Your Sauces
There’s nothing wrong with utilizing sauces in your kitchen to give food more flavor. You may want to review the brand of sauces you’re using though. As an example, certain brands of ketchup can contain up to 4 grams of sugar in a 14 gram serving. Certain pasta sauces may also use added sugar instead of using vegetables like carrots and peppers to provide a sweeter flavor. If you’re having trouble finding low-sugar sauces to use, there are other ways you can give your food flavor to reduce your sauce consumption. Dried herbs and spices, vinegar, yellow mustard, pesto, and mayonnaise would all be good options depending on what you’re making. If you’re looking to lose weight, you’ll want to be careful with mayonnaise, as it is high in fat content.
10) Eat More Whole Foods
Approximately 90% of the sugar consumed in the Average American diet comes from ultra-processed foods. On the other hand, only 8.7% of consumed sugar is estimated to come from cooking from scratch with whole foods. When possible, it’s in your best interest to cook things from scratch with real, whole food instead of buying canned or packaged processed foods from the grocery store.
You can make your own sauces, cook your own mac & cheese instead of buying it in a box, etc. When you make more food on your own, you’ll not only be reducing sugar intake, but you’ll also be reducing your consumption of harmful colors, artificial flavors, emulsifiers, and other additives.
11) Work Your Way Towards Moderation Instead Of Going Cold Turkey
Finally, it’s important to be cognizant of the fact that sugar has addictive properties. If you try to eliminate too much sugar too fast, you’re more likely to relapse and return to your old eating habits. It’s better to slowly work your way towards moderation, by eliminating one thing at a time each month. This slow reduction of sugar intake will help you build and maintain a healthier lifestyle.