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Guest post by Vanessa Imus, MS, RDN Integrated Nutrition for Weight Loss

Reviewed by Melissa Mitri, MS, RD

sugar reduction strategies for weight loss

Is your sugar habit getting in the way of your weight loss goals? If so, implementing some easy sugar-reduction strategies can make all the difference.

It can feel super hard to cut down on your sugar intake, especially if you’re not addressing the underlying culprits for those cravings.

I’ve got the tips you need to get your sugar habit under control so you can feel better and lose those extra pounds. 

5 Sugar Reduction Strategies to Start Now

1. Swap your Beverages 

The best place to start is to cut out (or at least down) your intake of sugary beverages. These are the largest sources of added sugars in most U.S. diets. 

Swap out your soda for sparkling water, such as La Croix or Spindrift – there are so many flavors to choose from!

In addition, reduce the amount of sugar added to your coffee drinks. When ordering a flavored latte, ask for just 1 pump of syrup versus the standard 3 pumps used in a tall latte. 

And lastly, make your main beverage water. Keep a water bottle on you, and be sure to stay hydrated by drinking water all day long.  

2. Read Labels

You may be eating way more added sugar than you think. To start paying closer attention to your intake, look at nutrition labels to see the amount of added sugar these foods contain. 

Then, compare similar products to find the brands that contain lower amounts of added sugar. For example, you can find a BBQ sauce that contains 16 grams of added sugar per serving, or you can choose one that only has only 4 grams. 

Compare dressings, yogurts, nut butter, and sauces to find the lowest-sugar brands. 

3. Satisfy Your Cravings

Aim to satisfy your cravings at times so your sugar cravings don’t intensify. For example, if it’s your birthday, have some cake and fully enjoy it!

If it’s the holidays and your grandma made your favorite pecan pie, go ahead and have a slice. But maybe the store-bought cake doesn’t appeal to you as much. If this is the case, don’t eat something just because it’s there.

Be choosy. Choose the desserts that you are actually going to enjoy. This will help you not to overdo it. And then sit there and enjoy it, slowly, bite by bite. This will help it feel like a manageable solution to lowering your sugar permanently. 

Completely cutting out sugar can set you up for failure when you decide it’s okay to indulge again. That sets people up for overdoing it once they add sugar back. 

4. Take Care of Physiological Reasons for Cravings

Some sugar cravings may be related to actual hunger, thirst, lack of sleep, or nutrient deprivation. Check in with yourself to see if you are actually hungry first. You may be mistaking actual hunger cues for sugar cravings. 

Have lunch, and then decide if you still want that chocolate chip cookie calling your name in the pantry. Stay mindful. This could be the easiest step you take in reducing your sugar intake. 

5. Remove Sugar Cues

It will be tough to reduce your sugar intake if there are sweets everywhere you look. Go through your house and remove the cookies, candy, muffins, etc., that may be calling your name. Throw them out or give them away if you can. 

You can keep them on hand for occasional indulgences, then move them to a place where you are less likely to see them. 

Or perhaps you live with someone who wants to keep these foods around. See if they can keep their sweets in a separate cupboard or at least on a high shelf – out of sight, out of mind. 

Overall, the goal is to make your house a safe place when it feels easier to limit high-sugar foods. 

The Difference Between Added Sugar & Natural Sugar

When talking about reducing sugar, we’re talking about reducing the added sugars in your diet, not the natural sugars in healthy carbs

Added sugars are sugars added to a food product during cooking or processing, often in corn syrup or refined white/brown sugars. Natural sugars are the sugars that can be found in whole fruit or milk. 

Added sugars don’t typically have any health benefits,  whereas natural sugars do. 

Fruit contains vitamins, antioxidants, and fiber, while milk contains protein and calcium. It’s important not to fear these natural sugar sources but to focus on reducing the added sugar sources.

Why You Need to Reduce Your Sugar Intake

sugar reduction cane sugar

There are numerous benefits to gain from reducing your sugar intake. You’ll feel better, and your health will improve in many areas. 

Excess calorie intake

Too many added sugars in the diet often leads to excess calorie intake, which is likely to lead to weight gain and obesity. 

Chronic disease risk

Research has also shown that a high intake of added sugar leads to an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Too much-added sugar is also linked to an increased risk of insulin resistance, diabetes, and fatty liver. 

Mental health

High sugar intake can also cause anxiety and depression due to its inflammatory effect on the brain. 

Energy levels

It can also sabotage your energy levels. Every time you consume high-sugar foods, you may notice a slight bump in energy from the blood sugar spike it causes, which leads to a subsequent drop in blood sugar and energy levels. 

A significant part of improving your health and losing weight is to cut down on your sugar intake and stick to a diet that adheres to the guidelines below. 

The Recommended Sugar Limit 

The American Heart Association recommends women limit their intake to 25 grams (or about 6 teaspoons) per day of added sugar and that men limit their intake to 36 grams (or about 9 teaspoons) of added sugar per day. 

To give a good visual of how much sugar is in your food, you must recognize that 4 grams is equivalent to 1 teaspoon. 

So, when you read the nutrition label on a 12-ounce Coke, you will see that it contains 39 grams of added sugar. That’s about 10 teaspoons of added sugar – more than the recommended allotment for the whole day. 

Feel free to get an empty glass and scoop 10 teaspoons into it for a real shock. Spend a day trying to track your added sugar intake using food labels. Check how you compare to the recommended daily allowances to know what you need to work on the most. 

Sugar Reduction: Put It Into Action

Reducing added sugars will lead to significant health benefits. Using the strategies above can help you cut back on your sugar intake and reap the benefits that follow. You may lose a few pounds, better manage your diabetes, or improve your liver labs. It’ll all be worth it. 

Enlist a friend or family member to make it more fun, and to have someone hold you accountable. Once you get through the initial week, you’ll feel much more confident in keeping it going. 

So, what are you waiting for? You can do this!

Vanessa Imus, MS, RDN