Sugar can be a kind of addiction. Cutting back the added sugar in your diet may be one of the best things you can do for your overall health. Most of us consume WAAAY too much of the sweet stuff. The average adult takes in 32 teaspoons per day (the recommended daily allowance for women is only 9). So if you’re serious about cutting back, here are some tips to help you reach your sugar reduction goals.

Commit & Give It Time

First, make a firm decision to cut back. This isn’t going to be easy, so you need to be committed and have a plan. Then set up a timetable that’s realistic for you and your family to get from where you are, to where you want to be. 30 days is usually a reasonable amount of time to make a habit change, but really it’s whatever timetable works for you.

Start With Your #1 Offender

Look closely at your current diet to determine what your #1 source of added sugar currently is… Are you a soda drinker? Do you add lots of sugar to your daily coffee? Do you have a sweet tooth?  

Once you’ve identified the #1 sugar source in your diet, focus your efforts there. Slowly reduce your consumption down to a level you feel comfortable with (in line with your goals). By taking on the biggest item first you won’t feel overwhelmed. Success here will be measurable and help motivate you to cut back in other areas.

Read Food Labels

This one should go without saying, but you can’t know how much added sugar you’re consuming unless you carefully read the label! In addition to total grams of sugar in a product, also check the serving size. Many times a single serving is so small, you might regularly be eating 2-3X that amount and will need to increase the grams of sugar accordingly.

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Don’t Drink Your Sugar 

We all know that avoiding soda is a good way to cut back on sugar, but the sweet stuff lurks in plenty of other beverages too. Juices, bottled iced teas, and coffee drinks, “enhanced” waters, and store-bought smoothies are all notoriously loaded with sugar. If you’re not sure just how many grams are in your favorite beverage, you might want to skip it and stick with water or unsweetened tea instead. If water is too boring, try infusing your water with a little fruit for flavor or Stevia water enhancers.

Don’t Fake It

When you’re reducing your sugar intake and cutting back on sweet drinks, you might feel like switching to artificial sweeteners, diet soda, or sugar-free candy. Resist the urge to go fake! Aside from the potential negative health effects posed by artificial sweeteners, the taste can fool your brain and mess with your sweet tooth. Your body will expect the calories and nutrition of sugar but won’t get it. This may be why fake sugars have been associated with weight gain (not loss) by a 2010 review in the Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine.  If you have to go fake, use stevia. It doesn’t raise blood sugar levels like sugar and other artificial sweeteners do.  

Eat Real

The more processed food you eat, the more you expose yourself to added sugar. It’s lurking everywhere; in your cereal, crackers, sauces, breads, dressings, and condiments. Foods marketed as “low-fat” or “no-fat” are particularly bad offenders. Oftentimes the removed fat is replaced with added sugar or artificial sweetener to make the product more palatable. Replacing packaged or processed foods with whole foods you cook at home can dramatically reduce your sugar cravings and consumption over time.

Add Flavor

Sugar is not the only way to make things taste good. Get creative! Add flavors like vanilla, lemon zest, cinnamon, cocoa, nutmeg, or ginger. Spices are a great way to punch up the flavor, without adding extra calories or sugar. Try reading some new recipes online to get inspired.

Get Enough ZZZs 

Yes, you read that right. Several studies have found sleep deprivation (less than six hours a night) leads to overeating and junk food cravings. So if you’re not logging in a good 7-9 hours of sleep every night, hit the sack a little earlier. A good night’s rest can help curb cravings and keep that sweet tooth in check.