Cakes, ice cream and cookies — occasionally satisfying your sweet tooth with these foods is okay. But eating more and going over the limit of what is recommended can have an impact on weight, heart health and the body’s sugar level.
If you love eating sweet foods but find a sugar-free diet extreme, cutting back on your intake is the best approach. Here are seven simple ways to reduce the amount of sugar in your foods and live healthier.
1. Check Food Labels for Sugar Content
Use food labels as guidelines to determine how much sugar one product has. The Nutrition Facts at the back list all product’s ingredients and percent Daily Value (%DV).
Look for two things on the label — added sugars and %DV of sugar. If the product has 7 grams of added sugar and you see 14% besides that, it means it has 14% of the Daily Value for added sugars.
A product has low sugar content if the label indicates 5% DV or less added sugars. If it has 20% DV, the added sugar is high, so skip it.
Almost all of the products on grocery shelves have sugar, so check prepackaged snacks and ingredients for content. Look for less- or sugar-free alternatives for other grocery staples that have high sugar. Many brands these days manufacture sugar-free options for their products.
2. Cut Back on Table Sugar
Another easy way is to use less sugar in your food or beverages. For instance, if you usually put two teaspoons of sugar in your coffee, reduce it to one. You might find the taste more bitter at first, but you’ll eventually appreciate the health benefits, such as avoiding sugar crashes.
Do the same when you’re baking. Most baked goods have cups of sugar and taste very sweet. You can cut down on the amount of sugar in the recipe, or use a replacement sweetener like maple syrup or honey.
3. Stop Drinking Sugary Beverages
A 12-ounce Coke has 39 grams of sugar or about 10 teaspoons, which is over the recommended daily intake. To visualize this amount of sugar, just imagine scooping 10 teaspoons of sugar into a 12-ounce water bottle.
You may be tempted to grab a soft drink after a meal, but it’s best if you don’t. Sugary beverages — such as soda, tonic, fruit punch and sports and energy drinks — are associated with an elevated risk for obesity, diabetes and heart disease. Instead, replace cola with a more nutritious glass of fresh carrot or watermelon juice.
If you find it challenging to avoid sugary drinks altogether, reduce the times you drink them. For example, if you tend to drink one every other day, limit your intake to one per week as a special treat.
4. Replace Sugar With Fruits as Sweeteners
Sugar adds calories to your food. Removing it means fewer calories and a more regulated weight. Rather than adding sugar to oatmeal or cereal, replace it with bananas or berries. Fruits contain two forms of sugar — glucose and fructose.
Glucose raises sugar levels, but fructose doesn’t, making fruits a better alternative to pair with cereal or pancakes than table sugar. Moreover, fruits have fiber, vitamins and minerals that are good for the body. They have fewer calories, so you can snack on them throughout the day whenever you crave something sweet.
5. Use Natural Non-Sugar Sweeteners
Natural and zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia and monk fruit are healthier substitutes for sugars.
Stevia extracts come from the leaves of stevia rebaudiana, a plant native to South America. It has steviol glycosides, compounds that make the leaves of this plant sweet. Stevia is about 200 to 300 times sweeter than sugar, has zero calories and is very low carb. Adding it to your coffee or fresh juice won’t contribute carbs or calories to your diet — and, therefore, doesn’t affect your sugar levels. This benefit is crucial for people with diabetes.
Like stevia, monk fruits can also give you the satisfaction of eating something sweet without raising sugar counts. These options can replace sugar in drinks, foods and baking.
6. Enhance Flavors With Spices
Several ways can enhance the flavors of foods — not just sugar. While it’s an ingredient in many tasty recipes, spices like cinnamons, ginger and nutmeg can give a healthier flavor spin to your food. They have hints of sweetness and you can use them almost anywhere.
Use cinnamon or allspice to garnish muffins or a bowl of oatmeal. Replace sugar with ginger in baked goods recipes. Vanilla is another good option — its smell can trick anyone into thinking foods are sweeter. In one study, people think sweetened milk is sweeter by adding vanilla.
Spices make your food taste sweet and flavorful. The next time you reach out for sugar when cooking, look around the kitchen for spice substitutes.
7. Trade Desserts With Fruits
If you always crave desserts after meals, go for fruits. Eating cakes or ice cream sounds like the perfect way to end a sumptuous meal, but these contain a hefty amount of sugar and calories. Fruit slices are healthier and since they generally have lower sugar, you won’t feel excessively full after finishing a few slices, unlike when you eat a cake.
Women must limit sugar to 25 grams or 100 calories daily for good heart health and men to 36 grams or 150 calories. It’s easy to exceed the limit with just one serving of cake for dessert.
A slice of caramel cake has 64 grams of sugar, almost three times the recommended value for women and two times for men. Many people consider desserts as bad foods due to their high sugar content. But, if you can bake a homemade cake and reduce its sugar, you may not have to skip desserts all the time.
Reduce Sugar Intake and Live Longer and Healthier
Going beyond the recommended value for sugar can affect your health. Moderation is vital in staying within the healthy and recommended limit, so track your sugar intake starting from your coffee to other beverages and foods.
You don’t have to eliminate sugar in your life, and you’ll still get to enjoy plenty of sweet treats, but cutting back can reduce your risk of various diseases, regulate your weight and help you live a longer life.