7 Ways to Cut Sugar from Your Diet

  • Overhead view of muffin tin with cups filled with different types of sugar
    Yes, it’s possible to reduce the sugar in your diet.
    Sugar is everywhere! According to the National Health Institute, American adults now get 15% of their calories from sugar that is added at the table or during food processing. Sugar is in in the cereals, bread, condiments and snacks in our kitchen pantries. It’s in the beverages we drink. It’s in our restaurant meals. And it’s contributing to increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. Reducing the sugar in your diet is a surefire way to improve your overall health. Here are seven ways to cut sugar from your diet.

  • Young male African American athlete drinking a sports drink
    1. Skip soda, sweet tea, and sports drinks.
    These beverages are the leading sources of added sugar in the American diet. If you’re serious about a sugar reduction diet, opt for healthier drink alternatives. Try fruit-infused water; you can make your own by floating some slices of cut fruit in a water pitcher. After workouts, reach for milk instead of a sports drink. Milk has naturally occurring sugar, but far less sugar than all commercially available sports drinks. And unlike sports drinks, milk contains protein to boost muscle recovery.

  • Two female Caucasian friends smiling and hiking outdoors
    2. Create new rituals.
    One of the biggest challenges of adopting a no-sugar diet is that many of our rituals and celebrations include sweets. Wedding? Wedding cake! Birthday? Birthday cake! Retirement party? More cake! Plan ahead and create new rituals. Instead of celebrating your birthday with cake, why not try a new-to-you activity? Instead of meeting a friend for dinner and drinks, head out for a hike instead. When the holidays roll around, decorate ornaments together instead of baking cookies.

  • Bowl of oatmeal with ground cinnamon and cinnamon stick
    3. Spice things up.
    Let’s face it: Our taste buds are acclimated to sugar. If you routinely eat presweetened instant oatmeal for breakfast, a bowl of plain oatmeal is going to seem pretty bland. Spice it up by adding ginger, nutmeg or cinnamon. You can also use flavored extracts (think vanilla, almond, orange and lemon) to add flavor to food and drinks. Experiment with new and novel combinations. Peruse recipe books or watch cooking shows to glean ideas.

  • Group of young friends enjoying healthy meal together
    4. Fill up on nutrient-dense foods.
    When you’re hungry, you’re more likely to reach for a sweet treat. Instead, keep your body fueled with a consistent supply of nutrient-dense foods, or foods that are high in the vitamins, minerals and other substances your body needs to function optimally. At meal times, aim to fill half of your plate with fruits and vegetables. Snack on whole fruits, cubes of cheese, or bits of lean protein. Don’t snack on prepackaged cookies or granola bars; instead, wrap a peeled banana in a whole-wheat tortilla.

  • Gay female Caucasian couple cooking together in home kitchen
    5. Cook from scratch.
    Did you know commercially prepared spaghetti sauce and salad dressing are high in sugar? If you really want to decrease the sugar in your diet, try making homemade versions of prepackaged foods, including spaghetti sauce and salad dressing. (There are hundreds of recipes available online!) In fact, cooking at home is one of the most effective ways to reduce your sugar intake. When baking, add less sugar than called for; you can typically cut the amount of sugar by one-third without affecting the taste.

  • Caucasian grandmother sharing piece of birthday cake with granddaughters
    6. Plan sugar-smart desserts.
    In some households, dessert is a cherished part of the meal, especially on holidays and special occasions. Planning some sugar-smart desserts in advance will allow you to indulge your sweet tooth while keeping your sugar intake in check. Smarter options include low-fat or fat-free yogurt topped with fresh fruit and nuts covered in dark chocolate. Don’t want to completely give up your favorite desserts? Eat a smaller portion. Share a slice of pie or cake with a spouse, child or friend.

  • Young female Hispanic woman reading food nutrition label in grocery aisle
    7. Read labels.
    Almost all prepackaged foods contain added sugar. However, some formulations or brands contain more than others. Whenever possible, select the lowest-sugar option. You can find the total amount of sugar in a serving by looking under the “Total Carbohydrate” heading on the Nutrition Facts label. Avoid foods that list “sugar” within the first few ingredients. Watch out for the words “sucrose,” “malt syrup,” “high-fructose corn syrup,” and “corn sweetener.” These are all different forms of added sugar. Initially, reading labels may add some time to your grocery shopping. Soon, though, you’ll know exactly which foods to grab off the shelf.

7 Ways to Cut Sugar from Your Diet | Sugar Reduction Diet

About The Author

Jennifer L.W. Fink, RN, BSN is a Registered Nurse-turned-writer. She’s also the creator of BuildingBoys.net and co-creator/co-host of the podcast On Boys: Real Talk about Parenting, Teaching & Reaching Tomorrow’s Men.
  1. How Much is Too Much? University of California San Francisco. http://sugarscience.ucsf.edu/the-growing-concern-of-overconsumption.html#.XDz-blxKiUk
  2. How Sugars and Sweeteners Affect Your Health. National Institute of Health. https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2014/10/sweet-stuff
  3. How to Cut Back on Sugar and Salt. Harvard Medical School. https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthy-eating/how-to-cut-back-on-sugar-and-salt
  4. Simple heart-smart substitutions. U.S. National Library of Medicine. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/patientinstructions/000746.htm
  5. Rethink Your Drink: Reducing Sugary Drinks in Your Diet. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/rethink-your-drink-reducing-sugary-drinks-in-your-diet
  6. Fitting in Sweets. American Diabetes Association. http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/planning-meals/holiday-meal-planning/making-sugar-count-during-the-holidays.html
  7. How to Cut Back on Sugar. Northwestern Medicine. https://www.nm.org/healthbeat/healthy-tips/nutrition/how-to-cut-back-on-sugar
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Last Review Date: 2021 Feb 6
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