Welcome to the 7-Day Sugar Step-Down Challenge! In just one week, you’ll learn to spot and reduce added sugars in your diet and begin to realize how delicious food can be without added sugars. But, don’t worry, you aren’t really giving up sugary indulgences completely because you’ll enjoy naturally sweet foods to satisfy your cravings. Sweet!
Sugars added to food in the factory—or your own kitchen or table–are different from sugars found naturally in fruit, vegetables or even 100% honey or maple syrup. In fact, research links excessive consumption of added sugars to chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease. The recommended daily limit for added sugar intake: 25 grams (6 teaspoons, 100 calories) for women, and 36 grams (9 teaspoons, 150 calories) for men.
This challenge is your first step to reducing the amount of added sugar you consume. You’ll eat significantly less sugar this week as you learn where and when sugar is present in the foods you’re eating. But, in just one week, you’ll learn to savor and enjoy sugar more. That’s because you’ll return sugary foods to their proper place in a healthy diet—as a treat–and eat more whole foods, which contain the fiber and natural sweetness that help reduce sugar cravings, says Nicole McGloshen MS, RD. The sweetest part? Going low-sugar may be easier than you think!
Today’s challenge is about educating yourself to identify added sugars in packaged products. We’ve all heard of high-fructose corn syrup, but added sugars go by at least 60 different names! In fact, one study found that 74% of packaged foods contained added sugars. Familiarize yourself with the many different names for sugar, so you learn where sugar is hiding in the food you eat.
15 Sneaky Terms for Sugar
Today you’ll swap the sugar bombs in your fridge, freezer and pantry for lower-sugar options. You may have to give away your favorite brand of bread, bottled salad dressings, and jarred pasta sauce—these processed foods often are high in added sugars. You can try the products suggested or choose alternatives with less than 10 grams of sugar (2.5 teaspoons) per serving.
Sleuth out these sneaky sugars. If they show up as one of a food’s first three ingredients, choose a lower-sugar alternative, says Theresa Boyd, MS, RD. Once you swap sugar-laden foods for lower-sugar alternatives, you’re free to “spend” your sugar grams on foods you truly love. “It’s all about checking food labels and making smart choices,” says Boyd.
Give Away These Sugary Groceries
Check out these high-sugar foods and how many teaspoons of sugar they contain!
Cola (12-oz. can): 39 grams (9.3 teaspoons)
Strawberry yogurt (6-oz container): 19 grams (4.75 teaspoons)
Barbecue sauce: Each 2 tablespoon servings contains 16 grams (4 teaspoons)
Frozen yogurt (½ cup): 14 grams (3.5 teaspoons)
Pasta sauce (½ cup): 11 grams (2.75 teaspoons)
Swap for Groceries with Less Added Sugar
Try these lower-sugar products.
Pasta sauce: Lucini Tomato Basil Pasta Sauce (½ cup): 80 calories, 6 grams sugar
Honey mustard dressing: Primal Kitchen’s Honey Mustard Vinaigrette and Marinade (2 tablespoons): 110 calories, 2 grams sugar
Bread: Ezekiel 4:9® Sprouted Whole Grain Bread (1 slice): 80 calories, 0 grams sugar
Now that you can identify added sugars and have swapped sugar bombs for low-sugar alternatives, today’s the day you’ll focus on your daily diet and give it a makeover, if necessary. And you’ll take it one plate at a time by building healthy, tasty meals that leave you satisfied, with no between-meal hunger or cravings. Follow this simple formula for lunch and dinner.
Build your lunch and dinner plate with:
Today, you’ll trade at least one sugary drink—be it your favorite coffeehouse beverage, soda, juice, or sweet tea—for a sip that get its natural sweetness from spices, flowers, or splashes of juice. There are plenty of refreshing choices to enjoy. Try these suggestions, or scope out your own alternatives:
Honest Tea Unsweet Peach Ginger Tea: 16.9-oz. bottle, 0 calories, 0 grams added sugars
Spindrift Lemon Sparkling Water: 12 fl oz., 0 calories, 0 grams added sugars
Teavana® Shaken Iced Passion Tango™ Tea by Starbucks (tall): 30 calories, 8 grams sugar
If you typically don’t eat breakfast, today you tackle a double challenge—by eating breakfast and by making it a low-sugar meal. Try making fruit your morning bite because it’s a natural for breakfast and a good source of belly-satisfying fiber and nutrients. Dietary guidelines suggest 4 servings a day, so you can enjoy its natural sweetness guilt-free. With plenty of low-sugar options available, check out these suggestions for super-quick breakfasts.
“No Time for Breakfast” Bars
2-Minute Morning Meals
Today you’ll focus on flavor—and you’ll challenge yourself with ice cream! Instead of indulging in a big bowl of ice cream, you’ll learn to eat your treat more slowly and with more appreciation for each sweet, creamy bite.
When you eat “mindfully,” you focus on what you’re eating in the moment and how it makes you feel, says Susan Albers, Psy.D., a clinical psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic and an expert on eating issues and mindfulness. “My patients tell me that when they eat really tune in to eating sweets, they tend to be satisfied with smaller portions,” she says.
To eat ice cream mindfully, place your scoop on a cake cone. Close your eyes, indulge, and focus fully on its sweetness and the thoughts and feelings you experience. Your goal today is to enjoy each bite of what you chose to the fullest.
Your last challenge today is the sweetest of all: End one of your daily meals with a sweet splurge. It can be an ounce of the best chocolate, a serving of real ice cream, or a low-sugar indulgence. This trio of treats pack just 3 grams to 6 grams of added sugars per serving. There are many sweet, low-sugar options available, so have fun finding new favorites!
Kind Mini Dark Chocolate Cherry Cashew: 80 calories, 6 grams sugars/3 grams added sugars
GoodPop ColdBrew Coffee Pops: 80 calories, 8 grams sugar
Sliced strawberries (½ cup) drizzled with 2 teaspoons melted chocolate chips: 99 calories, 5.9 grams added sugars
Congratulations on finishing the 7-Day Sugar Step-Down Challenge! You’re on your way to enjoying added sugars more, even as you eat less of them. Continue to follow each day’s challenge, and add these:
Learn How to Make Healthy Choices
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