Trimming sugar from the diet is on everyone’s radar these days. In fact, surveys show that it’s one of the top ingredients in foods that people are trying to avoid. Eating too much added sugar—for example, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, and honey—is linked with metabolic and cardiovascular health problems. So, I asked some of my favorite dietitians to weigh in with their best tips for helping you skim the sweet stuff from your diet. Get ready to be inspired with these top tips for skimming sugar!
Nutritionists Top Tips for Skimming Sugar
1. Become familiar with the sneakier sources of sugar. “Products like jarred pasta sauce, whole grain bread, natural peanut butter, and commercial salad dressings are great examples. Reading and comparing nutrition facts and ingredient lists can be eye-opening!” says Michelle Loy, MPH, MS, RDN, CSSD, Go Wellness Co.
2. Familiarize yourself with the many names for sugar. “Just because an ingredient list doesn’t list “sugar”, it’s good to recognize that items can still contain a lot of sugar under different names, such a HFCS, fruit juice concentrates, molasses, corn sweetener, syrup; sugar molecules ending in ‘-ose’ dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose; honey, malt; Florida crystals, caramel, panocha,” says Nikki Nies, MS, RDN.
3. Go real. “My biggest, simplest tip: Eat real food. Avoid processed foods. And give it at least 2 to 3 weeks. Research suggests your taste buds will adapt, much like they do with adjusting salt in your diet, so that less sugar will be satisfying if you give it enough time,” says Diane Norwood, RDN, The Wandering RD.
4. Use natural sweetness. “I use chopped dates, raisins or cranberries in oatmeal and plain yogurt parfait to cut the added sugar I might use. I also cut the sugar in quick breads by 1/4 to 1/3 and also add some fruit for natural sweetness. Cinnamon and other spices add perceived sweetness without sugar,” says Bridget Swinney MS, RD Author and Blogger at Eat Right Mama.
5. Reduce the amount of sugar in a recipe. “I usually make treats and desserts with one-fourth less sugar than called for, and find this doesn’t affect the texture. It takes a little while to accommodate your taste buds, but you quickly adapt. Now, when I go out to eat dessert, or purchase something pre-made, it usually tastes way too sweet to me,” says EA Stewart, RDN, The Spicy RD.
6. Fruit is the best sweetener around. “I recommend people use their own fruit to add sweetness to dishes such as oatmeal and yogurt, instead of adding sugar or purchasing sweetened varieties. If fresh fruit doesn’t add enough sweetness for someone, I recommend they try heating and defrosting frozen berries (with berries being the only ingredient in the frozen berry), since defrosted frozen berries get syrupy and add a lot of sweetness,” says Linzy Ziegelbaum, MS, RD, CDN, LNZ Nutrition.
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Image: Easy Chocolate Chia Pudding with Strawberries, Sharon Palmer, MSFS, RDN