5 Easy Ways to Break Your Sugar Habit - Virtua Article

5 Easy Ways to Break Your Sugar Habit

By , Virtua Registered Dietitian
Virtua Weight Loss and Wellness Center

Did you know that the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day? For most people, that amounts to nearly 150 pounds of added sugar a year! In contrast, the recommended daily intake of added sugar is 36 grams (9 teaspoons) a day for men and only 24 grams (6 teaspoons) a day for women.

While it can take up to 3 weeks to break your sugar habit—it can be done. 

With these tips, you’ll cut your cravings.

Ditch the sweetened drinks

Sweetened drinks are the most common source of added sugar in American diets. To start, skip sugar in your coffee and add sweetness with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Also, nix sweetened iced tea and sodas, and switch to fruit-infused water or flavored seltzer. Artificial sweeteners can help with the transition, but they’re not the best choice as some research suggests they can raise insulin.

Switch to natural sugar sources

Sugar in the form of whole fruit (fructose) or dairy (lactose) is a healthier alternative to sugary foods. Fruit and dairy come packed with fiber, protein, fat, and/or phytochemicals (the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables). Add fruits to your oatmeal or cereal; swap white potatoes for sweet potatoes; or, enjoy 100% fruit juice in controlled portions. The added nutritional value of fruit and dairy helps slow the absorption of sugar, preventing insulin spikes. If you really don't want to give up dessert, try to limit yourself to one 100-calorie treat a day or less.

Log your food intake for a few days 

You may be surprised to find you’re consuming way more sugar than you realized. Tracking helps increase your awareness and helps you find ways to cut back. Apps like My Fitness Pal allow you to track the nutrition content of the foods you eat. The USDA also has a very useful food-tracking website called SuperTracker.

Check food labels for sugar content

Some foods that you THINK are healthy are often loaded with added sugar. The worst offenders include:

  • Instant oatmeal
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Jarred pasta sauce
  • Condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce
  • Salad dressings, especially fat-free dressings
  • Granola bars

As a general rule, add up the grams of fiber plus the grams of protein per serving—the number should be greater than the amount of sugar. Or, simply stick to foods that have less than 5 grams of added sugar per serving.

Drink some water or take a nap

You may not be surprised to hear that you crave sugar when you’re tired. But, you MIGHT be surprised to find that you crave sugar when you’re actually just thirsty. Think about whether you need to rest or simply drink a cold glass of water before you reach for the sweets.

The downside of too much sugar

Your body needs sugar to make energy. But, cranking your blood sugar too high and too often is harmful to your health. Your body has to produce a lot of insulin and work hard to restore your blood sugar back to normal levels so it can deliver the sugar to your cells. But, when you have all the energy you need and more sugar to spare, it’s converted into fat. This excess fat can lead to weight gain, insulin resistance and, eventually, type-2 diabetes.

By making some changes now, you’ll be feeling happier and healthier in no time. 

A Virtua registered dietitian can help you create a healthy eating plan that's customized to your health goals and food preferences. 

Call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 for an appointment. 

Updated March 21, 2017

Registered Dietitian

Make an appointment with a Virtua registered dietitian

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