When we talk about people who eat a lot of sugar, it probably brings to mind a Homer Simpson-like character, who lives on donuts, colas and the like. While I’m pretty sure Homer Simpson has type 2 diabetes and hypertension in his world, the truth in real life is that you and I and a large percentage of the population fall in that category.
If we were to make a note of how many grams of sugar we’re actually consuming in a single day, we’re likely to be shocked. And this refers to added sugars, not the natural sugars present in fruit and milk. The WHO recommends that added sugars or free sugars be limited to less than 10% of the day’s total energy intake.
And it’s not just diabetes that you should fear. Too much sugar can lead to tooth decay, skin problems, cardiovascular illnesses and a slump in energy. Excessive sugar consumption has also been linked to rising obesity, which has been identified as a possible cause for 11 different cancers. So I think we all agree with WHO, that cutting down on sugar in our diet is something that needs to be done.
However, if a low-sugar diet sounds impossible to implement, don’t worry – help is at hand! Making any lifestyle change is a challenge, especially if it’s been constant for several years. But you can still undo the damage and make a new start, and we have tips to do it painlessly!
15 Painless Ways to Cut Down on Sugar
1. Keep it out of sight
If you tend to keep a sugar bowl or jar on your dining table, move it! Do a ‘sugar-raid’ of your kitchen and pantry, and get rid of the obviously sugary stuff – snacks, candy or sodas. You’re far less likely to eat these if they’re not available easily. If this pains you too much, ask a friend or family member to do it.
2. Go halvsies
If you just can’t do without a sweet cuppa every day, try halving the sugar you put into it. If you’re used to two teaspoons, go for one. If you use one, try half a teaspoon. The difference in sweetness is quite subtle, and after a few days, you’ll get used to it.
3. Don’t drink sugar
A lot of the sugar entering your body may be doing so through liquids, so take a good look at what you drink. Soft drinks and sodas are obvious culprits, but so are fruit juices, flavored milk and energy drinks.
You don’t absolutely need sugar when you want to make something sweet! You can try various natural or homemade substitutes. For instance, applesauce works well in baking, and mashed bananas or dates syrup are quite effective in desserts, porridge or other recipes.
5. Chuck the cereal
No matter how healthy they make it appear, breakfast cereals still contain an obscene amount of sugar. What’s worse is that manufacturers are increasing the sugar content to pick up declining sales, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. If you really need cereal, go for ones without any added sugar, and try limiting it’s consumption to once a week.
6. Go Savory
peaking of sugary cereals, an easy way to cut down on sugar is to opt for more savory meals, especially for breakfast. Eggs, cheese, toast, savory crepes and porridge with fruit are all excellent choices.
7. Bake with caution
Recipes for baked goods often call for far more sugar than needed. If you like to bake, cut down the sugar in the recipe by half or at least one third. Trust me, it hardly makes a difference in the end result!
8. Can the condiments
Sugar is pretty sneaky, and it can appear in the most innocent-looking forms. Things we commonly use, like tomato ketchup, salad dressing, sauces, peanut butter or pancake syrups – all contain a good amount of sugar. Choose versions with ‘no added sugar’ or try making it at home.
9. Eat wholesome
Processed foods are convenient and keep you out of the kitchen, but ready to eat meals, biscuits, energy bars, flavored yogurt, instant oatmeal and others all pack a sugar punch. So make menu plan, do some meal prep and eat wholesome, preservative-free meals.
10. Be snack savvy
When it’s late and your tummy is grumbling, it can be hard to cook up an entire meal from scratch. Prepare for such occasions by stocking up on non-sugary snack options – whole grain bread, cheese, nuts, fruit, veggie sticks, hummus and eggs.
11. Read the labels
Did I mention that sugar is sneaky? Make that super-sneaky, because sugar has many aliases! It also goes by the names sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, molasses, hydrolyzed starch or corn syrup. So keep this in mind when reading ingredient labels so you can make an informed choice.
12. Go high on flavor
Sugar isn’t the only thing that makes food taste good. You can use many other healthier ingredients that increase flavor and not your waistline. Add ginger or lemon to tea, vanilla or almond essence to porridge, cinnamon in pancakes or oatmeal.
13. Push it to Sunday
If you’re the kind of person who must have something sweet to end every meal, you’re in for a lifetime of medical bills and doctor visits. Instead, restrict dessert to weekends, so you’re not depriving yourself completely. On weekdays, opt for dark chocolate or a fruit salad if you get a craving.
14. Be just with desserts
Don’t be unfair with your desserts! Split it with your partner or friend – you’ll increase the love and decrease the sugar. When getting dessert, avoid anything with a glaze or a syrup – those are loaded with sugar.
15. Eat home
Eating out can add a lot of unwanted sugar, salt and unhealthy fats to your body, and you may not even realize it. If you eat out or order in thrice a week, cut it down to twice a week and then once. Soon, you won’t even miss the oily, greasy food!
When you’re thinking of cutting down on sugar, you’re likely to consider just replacing your sugar with an artificial sweetener. While it may be okay once in a while, nutritionists generally do not recommend them. They often increase sweet cravings and may disrupt natural metabolic functions. The same goes for diet sodas or the paradoxical ‘sugar-free’ candy.
In the end, don’t be too hard on yourself. Remember that your body has been consuming sugar for several years now, and your taste buds need time to adjust to a low-sugar diet. Make small changes every day and cut down more sugar as each week passes – going cold turkey doesn’t work for most people. So stay active, get good rest and you’ll soon find yourself feeling lighter, happier and healthier!
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