Sugar can be habit forming, and reducing the amount you eat can be a challenge even if you have plenty of will-power.
A little sugar in your diet is OK, but too much can have negative health effects.
Too many sweetened drinks and food can increase your weight, lead to blood sugar problems (diabetes) and put you at increased risk of developing heart disease.
Irregular blood sugar levels can make you have mood swings, lead to headaches and make you tired.
In contrast, people who avoid sugar have fewer cravings and report feeling more balanced emotionally.
Here are 10 ways to cut down on sugar:
1. Sauces and dressings.
Sauces such as tomato ketchup, HP sauce, pickle, and mayonnaise can be a whopping one-third sugar.
Many manufacturers are now producing low sugar / reduced sugar alternatives to these products.
These don’t taste very different and are a quick way to cut down on hidden sugar.
Another source of sugar is salad dressing.
This can easily be replaced with a good virgin olive oil flavored with a squeeze of lemon or some fresh herbs.
Pesto and harissa make good alternatives to pickle.
2. Halve the amount of sugar you add to hot drinks, cereals, etc.
Halve the amount of sugar you normally add to your cup of coffee or tea.
Do the same with the sugar you normally sprinkle on your breakfast cereal.
After a couple of days, you’ll hardly notice the difference in taste.
If you are tempted to replace sugar with an artificial sweetener, a natural product like stevia has zero calories and can also be used in baking.
As an alternative add fresh fruit such as raspberries or bananas or dried fruit to your cereal or porridge.
3. Baking – reduce the amount of sugar in your recipes.
If you are baking cookies or cakes it is fine to reduce the sugar in your recipe by a third or even a half.
Many times you won’t notice any difference in taste.
Find extracts to use instead of sugar.
Orange, lemon, and vanilla are good options.
Many spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg make great replacements for sugar and will give your baking a wonderful taste and aroma.
4. Snacks – switch to low sugar snacks.
This needs a little pre-planning so that when a craving strikes you have a low sugar snack to hand.
Many of these can be stored in a small reusable container and kept in your handbag or car.
Nuts and dried fruit are nutritious and cashew nuts and almonds have a naturally sweet taste.
Oatcakes are a good snack, they are tasty as well as filling and 3 or 4 usually come wrapped in a handy small packet.
They can be made into sandwiches with sliced cheese or spread.
Rice cakes are equally tasty and come in a variety of flavors. Be careful to choose a low salt variety.
5. Breakfast – consider some low sugar options.
As well as low sugar cereals and fresh fruit there are a few other alternatives worth considering.
Plain porridge is more savory, being just oats and water/milk.
It can be made more palatable sprinkled with coconut flakes, sultanas or raisins.
Milk contains sugar, so to further reduce sugar consumption, try switching to an alternative like almond milk or a no added sugar coconut milk.
Wholemeal toast can be combined with low sugar baked beans, mushrooms, poached or scrambled egg.
Eggs are full of protein which will help stave off hunger cravings mid-morning.
6. Eat a healthy lunch.
It is hard sometimes to eat a healthy lunch.
Supermarkets are full of unhealthy meal deals, many of which contain high quantities of sugar and salt.
If you don’t have time to make your own packed lunch, look at the food labels and choose healthier options.
Salad is healthy and tasty and a great choice for lunch.
To make a salad more filling add some pasta.
If you want a sweeter taste, try adding some fruit such as apple or orange.
Sandwiches are OK as long as mayonnaise and sauces aren’t added.
Definitely avoid fizzy, sugary drinks if you can, water is much better.
7. Eat a healthier dinner.
Try not to add too much sugar and salt to your cooking.
Add flavor by using herbs and spices.
As well as avoiding sauces and dressings with high sugar content.
Remember that many cooking sauces contain high quantities of sugar.
If you like dessert try to eat fruit salad, instead of cakes and ice cream.
If you like canned fruit, buy fruit that is canned in fruit juice rather than syrup.
Again avoid fizzy drinks loaded with sugar and stick to drinking water.
8. Smarter shopping.
All food products today are labeled.
Many supermarkets have adopted a traffic light system.
Sugar content is one of the items given its own indicator.
Wherever possible choose food with a green or orange light.
Beware of hidden sugars, these are found in the most unlikely places.
Pasta sauces have a lot of added sugar.
Many so-called healthy granola bars are full of sugar.
Yogurts have a lot of added sugar.
So check the packaging and look for low-sugar options.
9. Watch out for sugar in disguise.
Sugar comes in many different forms and may not be labelled as sugar.
It is common to add sugar to virtually all processed foods.
Manufacturers will often add several different sugars in order to hide the real amount.
Some common alternatives are corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, honey and sucrose.
Any word ending in “-ose” will often be a sugar of some sort.
10. Watch what you drink.
Sugary, fizzy drinks we have already discussed.
However, these are not the only drinks with high sugar content.
Energy drinks, fruit smoothies, iced tea, and even some flavored water all contain several spoonfuls of sugar.
Blood sugar levels can be rapidly increased by sugary drinks, this, in turn, can lead to tiredness and increased hunger.
Sugar is present in many natural foods and there is no reason to avoid these.
Dairy products, fruit, and vegetables all contain small amounts of sugar.
Unlike processed foods, they also contain fiber, vitamins and other beneficial compounds.
The main health problems associated with the Western diet are all to do with the amount of added sugar we eat.
Therefore the easiest way to reduce your sugar intake is to eat more whole and unprocessed food.
If you do decide to buy packaged food check the labeling for sugar and its many aliases.