Ask Our Dietitian - Kate Moran, RD, LDN, Sports Dietitian, Sodexo
How can I satisfy my sweet tooth without adding extra sugar to my diet?
Sugar doesn’t offer our bodies much except for taste bud satisfaction. Yes, sugar can be delicious, but many of us simply consume too much of it. According to the latest Dietary Guidelines, 70 percent of Americans exceed the daily recommendation for added sugars. In fact, the new recommendations suggest getting less than 10 percent of your calories per day from added sugars.
But if you’re not one to count calories or grams of sugar, you don’t have to start now. Instead, just follow my six easy tips for cutting back on sugar.
- Choose naturally sweet, whole foods. Opt for real foods without long ingredient lists in a variety of colors, like freshly-cut pineapple, dried apricots, bell peppers and kiwi fruit.
- Read labels. While reading ingredient lists, look for “unsweetened” and “no added sugar.” If the item is processed, and sugar is one of the first three ingredients, seek out a smarter option.
- Get to know sugar synonyms. Sugar isn’t always easy to spot on a label. Sugar goes by many names, including brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, malt sugar, molasses, syrup, and raw sugar, as well as those “ose” words—dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, and maltose—they’re all sugar molecules.
- Mind your portions. Dietary guidelines suggest eating three to four servings of fruit a day. One serving of whole fruits, such as oranges, apples or pears are about the size of a tennis ball. Dried fruits, such as raisins, should be ¼ cup, or about the size of a golf ball.
- Go for dark chocolate. Have a serious love for chocolate? Along with cocoa powder, dark chocolate is the least processed and contains the highest levels of flavonoids, which are antioxidants that may help reduce the risk of heart disease and other chronic diseases.
- Make smart swaps. It can be difficult to cut added sugar from your diet cold turkey. So I suggest starting with just one small change each day; like swapping out a can of soda with a piece of fruit. Once you are successful in making that change, select another to reach for. This chart below can help you find healthy alternatives to sugar-filled foods.
Fruit products with added sugars, such as fruit chews and bars
Dried fruit with no added sugar or whole fresh fruit
Candy with added sugar
A piece or two of dark chocolate
Maple syrup on pancakes
Dried or fresh-fruit infused whole wheat pancakes
Frozen fruit bars
Homemade fruit bars with 100% real fruit, lemon, mint and water
Canned fruits packed in syrup
Fruits “packed in own juice” or water
Flavored yogurt with added sugar
Plain yogurt with fresh fruit, cinnamon, and flaxseed
Ice cream, frozen yogurt
Frozen banana with melted semi-sweet dark chocolate chips and shredded coconut
Sugary cereals and granolas
Whole grain cereals, oatmeal with fruit or homemade granola with oats, seeds and cinnamon
Sugary beverages such as soda, energy drinks, bottled ice tea
Water with fresh citrus fruit
Added sugar, syrup or flavored creamer in coffee or tea
Add cinnamon, nutmeg to coffee and lemon to tea
Condiments, such as ketchup or BBQ sauce
Fresh tomato, salsa, herbs or spices
Flavored instant oatmeal
Steel cut or rolled oats with cinnamon or nutmeg
Jarred pasta sauce
Homemade marinara made with sautéed tomatoes, garlic, onions and vegetables
Sports bars, granola bars, protein or cereal bars with added sugars
Trail mix with dried fruit, seeds and nuts or bars that contain these foods
Bottled salad dressing
Olive oil, fresh herbs such as parsley, white vinegar or fresh squeezed lemon
Breakfast pastries, such as Danish or croissants
Whole-grain breads with plain Greek yogurt spread, fresh berries and cinnamon
Mix shredded cabbage and carrots with EVOO, white vinegar and mustard for a kick.