15 Simple Hacks for Eating Less Sugar

by Kristina LaRue, RD, CSSD, LDN
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15 Simple Hacks for Eating Less Sugar

All it takes is one Google search to confirm that too much sugar is bad for you. We hear it all the time that we need to eat less sugar. But with the current state of the food label it can be very confusing and hard to identify how much sugar we are actually eating.

Obesity rates are on the rise and sugar sweetened beverages have undoubtedly taken the heat, but that’s only the short story. Leading researchers are finding that added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup might be the causing the liver to work overtime leading to a myriad of issues from metabolic syndrome to fatty liver disease.

With all this talk about lowering sugar intake, the World Health Organization (WHO} is now slashing their sugar recommendations in half, from less than 10% of total calories coming from “free sugars” to 5% for additional health benefits. According to the WHO, “free sugars refer to all monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrup, and fruit juices.” However, the majority of your sugar intake should be derived from natural sources. Keep in mind the amount of natural sugar each person requires is highly individualized so it’s not a one size fits all as it depends on one’s activity level, medical history, and other factors.

There is currently no formal recommendation or upper limit for natural sugars in the diet. Currently, MyFitnessPal’s sugar recommendations are based on 15% of total calories coming from sugar, which is based on recommendations to increase fruit and vegetable intake in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines as well as sample menus representative of a healthy diet free of added sugars.

Limiting sugar consumption to 15% of total calories is a great starting point for lowering intake from all sources. If following a “low sugar” diet based on WHO recommendations, a 2000-calorie diet with 5%, or 10% calories from sugar translates to 25 or 50 grams, respectively. To calculate your daily “added” sugar goals: multiply total calories by 10% (or 5%) and then divide by 4 to get total grams of added sugar.

You might ask, what about fruit? Fruit sugar, also known as fructose, is a simple naturally occurring sugar, like lactose found in milk. While fruit does contain sugar, it’s sugar in the way nature intended it, and it’s also loaded with essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber. Fruit is a fundamental part of the diet but it should be balanced with other foods like vegetables, proteins, healthy fats, whole grains, and dairy.

If you’re looking to cut back on sugar, here are 15 simple hacks for slashing the sweet stuff from your diet:

  1. Go natural. Eat natural sources of sugar over added sugars. Added sugars like honey, agave, and high fructose corn syrup contain empty calories meaning they have zero nutritional value. Fill up on fresh fruit and vegetables instead because they contain fiber that slows the rate of absorption of carbohydrates along with improving cholesterol levels, digestion, and satiety to help with weight loss.
  2. Pick low sugar produce. If you’re aiming to eat less sugar overall, pick the fruits and veggies with the lowest sugar load like lemons, limes, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, leafy greens, mushrooms, green beans, and zucchini. Essentially all veggies are low in sugar. To compare, 1 cup raspberries contains 5 grams of sugar, 1 cup black beans contains less than 1 gram of sugar, and a medium red potato contains less than 3 grams of sugar. Keep in mind, low sugar intake doesn’t necessarily mean low carbohydrate.
  3. Know your portions. Following a low sugar diet requires some diligence in knowing how much you should be eating. In general, most people should consume 2 fruits (or 2 cups) and at least 3 cups of veggies per day. On average 1 serving of fruit contains 15 grams of sugar. Ideally, try to space out your servings so that you aren’t getting a big sugar rush all at once.
  4. Eat whole and fresh. Limit fruit juices and dried fruit if you are watching the sugar intake. Generally speaking, just 4 fluid ounces (1/2 cup or 120mL) of 100% fruit juice and ¼ cup unsweetened dried fruit is equivalent to 1 piece or 1 cup of fresh, whole fruit.
  5. Learn the label lingo. The food label doesn’t differentiate between added and natural sugars (though it may in the future), instead it lumps them all together. To get natural sugar sources check the ingredient list to know if there are any added sugars in the product. Sugar lurks behind these words in the ingredient list: molasses, organic cane sugar, fruit juice concentrate, malt sugar, corn syrup, honey, syrup, and words ending in “ose” dextrose, lactose, maltose, fructose, glucose, sucrose. Here’s a more thorough list of sugar’s most common nicknames.
  6. Compare products. Looking for the lowest sugar foods? Check the nutrition label to see which product is lowest in sugar. Don’t be fooled by “low sugar” or “diet foods” as they are often packed with artificial sugars, which is another blog for another day. Bottom line: eat real “natural” convenience foods lowest in added sugar.
  7. Track it! Logging your food in MyFitnessPal can help with staying on top of your sugar intake and goals so that you become aware of how much sugar you are really ingesting since they can sure add up fast.
  8. Fill up on healthy fats. Eat more nuts, seeds, avocados, olives, and salmon. Not only are these foods heart healthy and help with blood sugar control, healthy fats will displace excess sugar from the diet and keep the body satisfied for longer so you are less likely to have energy dips between meals prompting a quick sugar fix.
  9. Set boundaries on the sweet tooth. Do you have a mean sweet tooth? Set limits on when and how you’re going to enjoy your sweets. Maybe you have ice cream once per week or possibly you’ll include a dark chocolate square after dinner nightly? Setting boundaries around what sweet treats are worth the indulgence, when is appropriate to enjoy them and how much you can enjoy will keep you from reaching in the office candy jar out of habit.
  10. Eat less packaged food. Foods in their whole form are going to be your best bet when it comes to lowering your sugar intake. According to the New York Times, 75% of packaged foods in the U.S. contain added sugar, so you can simplify your sugar doses by keeping these to a minimum.
  11. Choose unsweetened dairy. Opt for plain milk and yogurt, and no, vanilla isn’t plain! While there are naturally occurring sugars in milk and yogurt (lactose), many are spiked with sweeteners.  So read the labels to get dairy varieties without the sweet stuff, and keep in mind fat-free milk naturally contains more sugar than reduced-fat. Add your own flavor by topping yogurt with chia seeds, blueberries, and cinnamon.
  12. Pump up the protein. Eating more protein will keep you amped. Protein takes longest to digest so you will be less likely to crash if you’re eating good quality proteins every three to four hours.
  13. Beware of sugar bombs. Even healthy foods can have sneaky sources of added sugar. Foods like energy bars, lattes, smoothies, juices, enhanced waters, salad dressing, cereals, tomato sauce, and medications are common culprits.
  14. Lower it gradually. Instead of cutting sugar cold turkey, lower your intakes slowly. If you usually eat sweets after lunch and dinner, start by taking it down to one meal a day.
  15. Clean out the pantry. If you have tempting foods in the kitchen, you might need to do a little pantry detox. Go out for the ice cream sundae instead of bringing a carton it into the house.

Do you watch your sugar intake? How do you slash sugar from your diet?


  • JofJLTNCB6

    How do I let my body know the sugars I’m eating are “natural” sugar and not “added” sugar? Because I don’t think my body will be able to differentiate “natural” fructose from “added” fructose.

    Also, does it really matter how much sugar *from all sources* I consume if I keep my calories at an appropriate level and meet my overall nutritional requirements? I thought it was surplus calories *from all sources* that caused obesity and the related obesity-related problems.

    • 3lsbeth

      Well I understand where you are coming from. However, excess sugar is stored as glycogen(?) in the muscles and fat deposits until they are required. Most carbohydrates are only used as fuel during exercise while proteins and fats are used as fuel during homeostasis (I.e. Sleeping, digesting food).
      In theory eating excessive amounts of sugar can lead to increase in body fat as the sugar is just being stored as glycogen / fat.

      But I’m not sure how accurate that is. I did a class on nutrition last year – it’s a tad hazy now

      • JofJLTNCB6

        The reason it only works “in theory” is because no one eats *only* carbs or *only* fats or *only* protein.

        In general, obesity and the related problems are the result of eating at a caloric surplus from all sources over a sufficient period of time. In general, the solution to this is to eat at a caloric deficit over a sufficient period of time. This is true regardless of natural/added sugars. To set an arbitrary sugar limit and the related “hacks” around it that results in a caloric deficit and then credit the weight loss to reducing sugar creates a completely bogus and unnecessary correlation. At best, it masks a true understanding of the process. At worst, it sets people up for failure and they won’t even understand why they failed…so they will continue the pattern with the next bogeyman food.


        I don’t know why I bother to speak out against these consistent articles that MFP pays for even though they contradict the very underlying premise of MFP’s approach to weight management. I know why they do it…because page views…but it’s still frustrating to watch it happen.

        • 3lsbeth

          Not to mention the statistics they pull out of thin air with very little research to back it up 😛 I’ll still eat my sugars, and enjoy them

        • MorticiaBrowFace

          so I get my sugar from fruits, how do you feel about that? I’m curious because I like what you have to say. I eat very well rounded and work hard to do so, but for fiber I often reach for fruit and veggies. I often go over my “MFP set amount”… Yet I still lose weight and I have no diabetic problems…..

          • JofJLTNCB6

            Sounds great! Fruits are delicious and can provide a lot of nutrients. (That said, if you eat fruits at a caloric surplus, you’ll still gain weight.)

            There is simply no compelling support I’m aware of for someone without a medical issue to need to restrict sugar regardless of source assuming appropriate nutrition requirements are met.

          • MorticiaBrowFace

            Thanks! It’s how I’ve always felt as well… Then some people tried to argue with me…

          • PeacefulSeraph

            In twin studies, sugar has proven to advance wrinkling/aging – at least superficially on the outside of the body. Too much sugar is also proven to cause plaque & rot your teeth. Studies are currently being conducted to prove a sugary diet increases inflammation in the body. My point is not “sugar is bad for you”, it’s that too much of anything (even a good thing) is a bad thing. Everything in moderation!! I like sweets (a lot), but I accept that I can’t eat them all day and still expect to lose weight. I think that’s the essence that this article is trying to state- “less is best”- and they’d be right.

          • JofJLTNCB6

            I don’t think anyone is arguing for a diet of mostly sugar.

            And I disagree that “less is best”. Are you saying that a diet comprised of 5g of daily sugar is inherently better than one with 10g? 20g? 30g? The problem is when you take this position, and people inevitably fail to meet the “ideal” guidelines you have given them, they get understandably discouraged…and someone who is 50-100 pounds overweight doesn’t need unnecessary discouragement like this. It’s also a dangerous path for many to work with an “if less is better, then even less is even better” approach.

            (Like I said, I get it. If these blog posts were only about the things that *really* matter, they would be far less clickworthy.)

          • JofJLTNCB6

            Could you please post a link to the twin studies/wrinkling/aging research you referenced? The only thing I can find online are claims of practitioners who are promoting/selling cleanses.

          • Jof – See my above comment. I’m pretty well versed on the skin and the aging/wrinkling process. I have never heard that sugar causes aging or wrinkling. Even by by doctors selling their magical anti-aging/anti-wrinkle elixirs.

          • JofJLTNCB6

            I wonder if they’re taking the fact that glycation is part of the aging/wrinkle process and the understanding that more sugar leads to more glycation and theorizing that it inevitably must mean that it accelerates/increases the aging process?

            I don’t believe this is true…but I can see how someone could make that claim. Also, I’m just guessing here as finding support for the other side’s claims is difficult/a remarkably inefficient approach.

          • I apologize Sharon, they won’t let me post my response because it has a link in it. It is a Swedish study using twins that explains sugar’s aging effects on the body- even on our brains! But alas, I can’t post that link or the numerous others that reference it around the world… so please just google it if you’re still interested. Thanks.

          • Cfh

            Sorry, I mentioned glycation before scrolling down to see that someone else had already provided you with the science. Why would they tell you that when they can sell you magical beauty products. Btw, I use them too and know a lot about the science but it’s not the full picture by any means.

          • I’m sorry, they won’t let me post the article or the link to the twin studies- it has my comment under pending for the last 3 days… but just look up the Swedish study (using twin studies) that discusses sugar’s aging effect on the body. I tried posting article snippets, but that was a no go as well. I apologize if eventually they do post my other comments, because they’re a mishmash of different articles from different countries…

          • I’m sorry, they won’t let me post the article or the link to the twin studies- it has my comment under pending for the last 3 days… but just look up the Swedish study (using twin studies) that discusses sugar’s aging effect on the body. I tried posting article snippets, but that was a no go as well. I apologize if eventually they do post my other comments, because they’re a mishmash of different articles from different countries…

          • I work in the beauty industry. I’m trained on the skin and products that help the skin. In all of my six years of training I have never, ever been told that sugar advances the wrinkling and aging process of the skin.

          • Cfh

            It’s true. Look up glycation.

          • Diane Kennedy

            The point is to reduce added sugars. No one has ever gotten fat by eating too many apples.

        • Ada

          Perhaps if you remember that MFP isn’t only about weight loss the article will make more sense. There are many reasons to cut down on sugar & have an awareness that sugar is often crowbarred into food purely to make it taste better (usually to balance the flavour list from fat reduction).

          • JofJLTNCB6

            Huh? I never forgot. I am contending that the health benefits of meeting this arbitrary restriction are minuscule at best and it unnecessarily distracts people from what matters or should matter more.

            And how would you know there are reasons for someone to cut down on sugar? How do you know how much sugar they’re consuming currently? Or is less always better?

            TL;DR – I just don’t believe that current research supports the argument that less sugar is better…or if it is, that it’s even in the top 20 prioritized things to do for better health.

          • Nicci Wiedenhoft

            Just curious, in your opinion, what are the top 20?

          • Jeri DeCarlo Sessler

            Tons of research and clinical trials coming out of major academic research centers around the globe in the last 14 years indicates that sugar, not fat, is a very real culprit in weight gain, obesity, and contributes to issues in dementia, Alzheimer’s, MS, etc. Additionally, the “calories in/calories out model” has been proven antiquated and simplistic. Weight loss and obesity are far more complex issues than to chalk it up to “you eat too much/move too little”. While overeating is a factor, it plays more of a minor role in weight gain than anyone thought 20 years ago.

          • DannielleFarmerona

            like Ellen answered I am taken by surprise that anyone able to get paid $6076 in a few weeks on the computer . see it here

          • Farah

            i guess what the author is trying to say is that white sugar has just empty calories. if u want to eat something sweet then why not eat a fruit which has nutrients as well, so that you are satisfying sweet craving and getting a health benefit too..

        • Nicci Wiedenhoft

          I’m not sure why it “set’s people up for failure.” While I only read two tiny parts of this article and I think it stinks (so, I am NOT defending it), I wonder why you don’t think that reducing sugar intake “works” for some people. I think that when people find what works for them for weight loss, it’s not always going to be the same thing. Of course, you can argue that everyone reduces calories so, it’s always the same thing that “works,” but if simply “eating everything in moderation” works better for one person than reducing sugar does, that’s great. But the next person might do better with reducing sugar in order to reduce their overall caloric intake.

          • JofJLTNCB6

            Because creating bad information about what actually causes weight loss is bad…even if it accidentally leads to some accidentally succeeding.

            If someone wants to reduce sugar to meet their required caloric deficit, that’s fine. Just don’t tell them that the reduced sugar is what caused it…or that it’s necessary…or that it’s beneficial…(and if you do, certainly don’t use a vague reference to a google search to do it).

          • Nicci Wiedenhoft

            I see your point. I just don’t think there’s a whole lot of cases where reducing sugar could cause harm (save the few who it would cause to binge on sugar or something to that effect).

        • Nathan Rapana

          Watch “That Sugar Film” to see why I think your thinking is off. You’re not entirely wrong, like when you say eating at a calorie surplus will result in obesity you’re making a good point but you’ve got to recognise that the quality of the calories you consume will have profound impact of your overall health. I would like to point out that the thought out there that all calories are equal is completely false. Think about it do you really believe that 1400 calories of crap food would be equal to 1400 calories of lean meat, fruits and veg in terms of overall health value and the impact it has on the body?

          Another thing to consider is the addictive nature of sugar and the lack of sustainable energy it provides. You want it more often and lots of it. You need to eat more of it to feel fuller than you do with whole foods. You feel full for a much shorter amount of time leading you to want to eat more often making it extremely difficult to keep that calorie count down. But seriously have a watch of that film it gets you thinking. I used to think along the same lines as you before I watched it.

        • donalda

          I agree with you! Everything in moderation, serving size awareness and regular activity will help most people avoid obesity.

    • Kevin Timmons

      Your body treats all sugars the same. In the case of high fructose corn syrup, there is scientific evidence that suggests it may stifle the brains ability to know when it is full. Fructose in the form of fruit comes with the nutritional benefits of having fiber as well as vitamins. Fructose derivatives contain none of the nutrition, so its simply added sugar. Fruits aren’t calorie dense and are mostly water, fructose in the form of fruits thus has little immediate effect on blood sugar and insulin production. Hope that helps.

    • Kevin Timmons

      Your body treats all sugars the same. In the case of high fructose corn syrup, there is scientific evidence that suggests it may stifle the brains ability to know when it is full. Fructose in the form of fruit comes with the nutritional benefits of having fiber as well as vitamins. Fructose derivatives contain none of the nutrition, so its simply added sugar. Fruits aren’t calorie dense and are mostly water, fructose in the form of fruits thus has little immediate effect on blood sugar and insulin production. Hope that helps.

      • Lynn Scott

        Not all sugars are the same! You body cannot process fructose. It treats is pretty much the same as alcohol only you don’t get the same type of buzz. Maltose, dextrose, glucose etc get metabolized differently.

        • JofJLTNCB6

          My body cannot process fructose? Sweet! That means I can eat as much as I want without gaining weight! Artificial sweeteners will be obsolete given this information.

          But seriously…what?

          • Kevin Timmons

            Fructose is broken down in the liver, other sugars are metabolized as energy. What the responder fails to understand is my point, that all sugars are not really that good for us. Neither are most carbohydrates that get turned into simple sugars. Limitation of sugar in the diet is key to long term health, fruit being one of the few sources that offer sugar in conjunction with nutrients. Most breads and rices have very little nutritional value along with their dense calorie counts. That is the point that needs to be taken from my statement. All sugars are the same in that they should be avoided equally. But if you are going to have some, which you should in small quantities, it should be high fiber, vitamin rich sources.

          • JofJLTNCB6

            But if you’re meeting your nutritional needs in your overall diet, why would the nutrient density of the fruit be relevant? In other words, once I’ve reached my nutritional requirements for the nutrients that a particular type of fruit provides, do I get extra credit for exceeding them by having more of that fruit? Or might it actually be more advisable to have the “simple sugars” without the nutrients at that point?

            If I were to eat my daily 3300ish calories only from these nutrient-dense powerhouses that everyone likes to preach, I don’t understand how I would be any healthier than if several hundred of those calories were “empty”…(even though they really aren’t “empty” as the energy they provide…the energy I require to accomplish what I do…is the benefit I derive from them).

            So, if I’m using all of the sugars that I’m eating for energy…as is anyone who is eating at or below required net maintenance calories, then why would I necessarily benefit from reducing these sugars?

            Or is it your contention that anything other than absolute minimal sugar consumption actually *causes* health problems?

            (And for what it’s worth, I’ve tried before to meet my calorie requirements from only whole foods…for an entire year…in 2012 when my calorie requirements were lower than now…and I was absolutely miserable and was actually tired of eating so much food.)

          • Kevin Timmons

            Yes absolutely is what I am trying to say. Its very important how we fill those calories. Carbohydrates starches and non natrualy occurring sugars be the least efficient way and most health destroying form of the nutrients our diets consist of. Carbs aren’t energy any more than fat is. Its just an easy source of calories, but leaves many overeating because they rarely leave us full. They also wreak havoc on insulin levels and many other processes. The whole calories in calories out thing really is kind of only part of the story. If that was true, you could eat solely bread to your calorie expenditure and maintain weight, bit likely that wouldn’t be the case. There is so much more to bring healthy than eating a ratio of macros. Really its why we fluctuate weight when we discontinue exercise. I doubt you would continue to eat 3300 calories if you werent burning any, or you would gain some serious weight. Also, exercise makes you hungry anyways. But if you continue a carb centric diet you will go soft, or store fat. Its not because you quit exercising, its likely the carb centric diet. These kind of weight fluctuating in life, is hard on the system and is not the way of sustainable health. One can only blame the carbs really. We have already cut out the fat, so why do we gain weight when we stop going to the gym? Even if we eat (healthy). There is only one culprit, we took on fat along time ago and it did nothing to help and really only made things worse.

          • Kevin Timmons

            For the record I do not gain weight outside of the gym when I do not exercise, my body weight remains the same, but since cutting out carbohydrates to less than 15% of my diet I have lost 4% body fat, regardless of whether I wreck myself in the gym or run 20 miles. Still I lose fat. Even though I eat more fat. Like around 110 grams sometimes more. Which leaves me at 9% body fat. So one can only come to the conclusion that carbs are really what’s causing the fluctuations and retain of fat.

          • myfelinepal

            I think you mistyped the word water as fat at the end there.

          • JofJLTNCB6

            I think you’re missing my point…or points, actually. In fact, your whole post is absolutely full of bogus myths and misunderstandings.

            If I have met my nutritional needs, I don’t get extra credit for more of certain nutrients than I need. It is actually beneficial for me for various reasons to have “empty” calories instead of more nutrients I don’t need.

            I’m not overeating because I am not sated. I am eating to a calorie limit. And of course I’m burning calories…approximately 3300 daily of them (based on daily food/weight logs). I said it in my post that I needed that amount to maintain my weight for my activity level. If you’re eating X calories and maintaining your weight, then you’re burning the number of calories you’re consuming.

            You’re claiming that “a carb centric diet” will make me “go soft, or store fat”??? Even though I’m eating at net caloric neutral levels? Completely bogus. Defies logic. Now if I eat at a caloric surplus level, then sure, I’ll gain weight…but that’s true regardless of carbs or not.

            Why do you keep adding satiety to the discussion? I ignore satiety. It is a complete nonfactor. Others do this too. It’s called feeling hungry (at least when in a calorie deficit).

            And on what basis are you claiming weight fluctuations are hard on the system and not the way of sustainable health? Do you truly believe it is unhealthy for weight to fluctuate? Or said another way, do you truly believe maintaining a consistent weight is more healthy?

            And you’re blaming the carbs because people gain weight when they stop going to the gym??? They gain weight because they went from being calorie neutral or even a deficit to being in a surplus. This has nothing to do with carbs.

            Anyhow, you and I are remarkably far apart on our understanding of this. One of us is (more) right and one of us is (more) wrong…but I have no interest in trying to convince you that you’re wrong. Best of luck with all of your health and fitness goals.

          • Kevin Timmons

            No your wrong on so many levels, this conversation is over now. If you believe that calories in calories out is the only leading cause of sustainable weight gain and health as a system you really need to do some research on those claims. But keep in mind, under that principle somebody would only have to consume one quarter piece of bread more than their needs to gain 20 pounds in ten years. Or 80 in 40. Which would mean obese people wouldn’t be guilty of being pig eaters. See where that logic doesn’t line up. Nutrient quality has a lot to do with it. If you want to slave away in the gym for the rest of your life, feel free. But as you get older and your insulin resistance increases, your gonna be barking at yourself every time you pick up those ‘necessary’ empty calories.

          • myfelinepal

            So, your conclusion is all obese people eat pies? Interesting…

          • David Mathis

            What I think people here were trying to say, and I may be mistaken, is that the empty carbs in the form of sugar does cause health issues like inflammation, etc. That’s what the data and interpretation of the data shows in some studies.

            I’m sorr of in the same mentality as you in that I usually meet my nutritional goals quick each day but have tons of calories left to fill because I am highly active. When first faced with this problem I did the same thing as what I think you are doing based on what I see you typing. I met my calories requirements with various whole food carb and sugar sources like fruits, quinoa, brown rice, etc.

            In the end I just started eating more meats and nuts to get more fat to be used as an energy source. I am following the primal diet basically. I am not sure if it’s optimal but so far my yearly physicals ce back with perfect bloodwork.

            If you’re curious read the primal blueprint. It explains how sugar can be harmful based on science.

        • Kevin Timmons

          Of course your body can process fructose, just that it must be broken down differently. Don’t be silly.

    • dragonwolf

      You seem to have missed the point of choosing natural sugars over added ones.

      It’s not that the same molecules of sugar are different from different sources. When it comes down to it, glucose is glucose is glucose and fructose is fructose is fructose. The former will always get dumped into the bloodstream to be consumed or stored, and the latter will always be shunted off to the liver to be converted to triglycerides.

      The difference comes in the amount of *other nutrients* per gram of sugar, and what it takes to access that gram of sugar. Sugar in fruit is locked up with fiber and proteins, which need to be broken down, first, and take a while to do so. On the other hand, refined sugar needs only be cleaved into its glucose and fructose components to be used, making it available for use much more quickly. (When you’re sedentary or not very active, this isn’t really a good thing.)

      Likewise, fruit has various vitamins and minerals that benefit the body enough to offset their sugar content for most people, whereas refined sugars don’t have any other nutrients with them (or not enough to matter).

      Additionally, the difference often lies in the amount of sugar per gram of food weight. An apple will have less sugar per gram of its total weight than a candy bar, because of the apple’s fiber and water content (100g apple contains 14g total carbs with 10g sugar, according to google, while 100g of Hershey’s milk chocolate kisses has 61g of total carbs with 56g sugar according to calorieking). It also means you’ll be less likely to overeat and more likely to be satisfied for more than an hour even on less calories, because the fiber slows the rate of absorption of the sugar. This doesn’t happen in all cases (a high-sugar fruit, such as a banana may have more sugar per gram than a serving of 85% dark chocolate, for example), but it’s a sufficient rule of thumb, especially for beginners.

      Whether it matters on an individual, day-to-day level, how much sugar you consume from all sources depends on your risk factors for things like insulin resistance. If you’re a 22 year old male with 10% body fat or less, then it may not matter, and you may be able to get away with a diet of 50% carbs and 90% of that coming from refined sugars. However, if you’re a 40 year old female with a family history of PCOS, you’re much less likely to be successful on a sugar-filled diet and would do better getting your carbs from non-starchy vegetables and small moderate amounts of starches and simple and refined sugars (and the more likely the above tips will help you succeed), for various reasons (and “success” here is not just weight loss, but health markers, satiety, and other measures of success).

      • JofJLTNCB6

        Your defense of this general advice is people with health issues?

        And who is eating sugar by itself? If I eat sugar as a component of a full meal with fiber (and fats and protein) and such, then how does that differ from a snack of fruit? I could easily design a meal with added sugar that has less of a spike than eating natural fruit in a fruit *as if the rate of absorption is even a factor for those without a contrary medical condition.*

        100g of apple vs 100g of milk chocolate? LOL. In what way are these comparable except that they weigh the same? (A better example would have been X calories of apples vs X calories of chocolate…since we’re working from a presumption of a calorie-restricted diet since that is (or at least used to be) the underlying principle of MFP but this still doesn’t support “less sugar is always better for health” argument at the heart of this article.)

        And satiety is an interesting argument to make in a discussion of natural vs added sugars. Besides, I assumed that people were tracking calories (using MFP) such that satiety isn’t even a consideration for success…and it certainly isn’t a measure of it.

        TL;DR – I guess my core message in response to this blog is don’t mislead people and perpetuate myths even if it’s presumably for the reader’s benefit. Well, that and the “don’t hook your entire argument on advice to do a google search”.

    • Shonquinta Renee

      As a sugar addict, I can tell you that my body knows the difference. When I cut off the refined sugar I get withdrawal symptoms: headaches, mood swings etc. but when I eat pure organic sugar I can skip it and not have any symptoms. Also when I have had withdrawal symptoms from sugar I would eat the refined processed stuff and the symptoms would go away almost immediately, but if I ate the organic sugar it never alleviated the withdrawal symptoms. That’s when I knew that my body was addicted to processed sugar and that I had to bite the bullet and just cut it out altogether and eat the healthy organic sugar natural fruit etc. it takes a practice and dedication. I also started having dark chocolate in small doses daily to stave off sugar cravings.

      • JofJLTNCB6

        Have you ever considered that your sugar “addiction” is psychological? And that your different reactions to processed sugar and organic sugar are as well?

        Also, what do you believe are the fundamental differences between processed sugar and organic sugar? I suspect the real answer to this might surprise you.

        (And is the organic sugar not also processed? Or are you gnawing on sugar cane?)

        • Shonquinta Renee

          Are you a nutritionist? Do you know anything about the addictive qualities of processed sugars, high fructose corn syrup, etc? Do you also know that there are studies proven that sugar is addictive? Do you know me well enough to make an assumption that something would “surprise” me? Get a hobby.

        • Shonquinta Renee


  • Br00ke

    I hope I can start losing weight…but with six other people living in the house, its hard to clean out the pantry! I ask them to keep sugar out of the house, but they only do it for a couple of weeks then bring it back into the house, and then that’s when my sugary temptations come in! I hope these tips will help!!!! 🙂

    • Dani

      You don’t have to eat it just because they are. You are the only one who can control what you eat, and there will always be unhealthy foods around. Motivation and discipline is your responsibility, no one else’s.

    • shorelines

      Overcoming thousands of years of evolution that have programmed humans to crave and seek out sweet, salty, fatty stuff IS very hard to do. Hang in there – you aren’t alone in your struggles.

  • Kevin Timmons

    PTha weight because they run caloric surpluses of carbohydrates and sugar. Take it from me, its very hard to overeat your needs when carbohydrates are kept to a minimum. It really is the carbohydrates that have make up most of the calories consumed. One banana 27g carbohydrates. Sliced bread 36g for 2 slices, oatmeal 28g . Total of 328 calories. That’s breakfast for some. I could eat a cup of spinach and get more potassium and vitamins, costs me 6 cal lettuce instead of bread gives me tons of vitamin a, 14 cal. 2tbs of flax gives as much fiber as oatmeal and omega 3s and more protein. 60 cal. All replacing the above its 78 cal total. Its where we get our nutrition from that’s important. The carbohydrates spike insulin unnecessarily and the cost to our health is great. Its so many carbs in our diets that is making this country overweight, why is it so hard for us to accept that maybe its the american or western diet that is killing us. It should be quite obvious. It was never eggs and fatty meat that was killing us. Even lard is over 80% mono and poly unsaturated fat, the fat we tell people everyday to consume. I guess its hard to admit, that almost everything we have touted as a healthy diet for the last sixty or so years, is probably the diet that is killing us.

    • Jaycee

      But most of the rest of the world has carb-based, carb-heavy diets. Americans tend to eat way more protein than the rest of the world.

      • Kevin Timmons

        You are both right and wrong about that. For one, yes they have rice and noodles mostly in their diet. They do not however have much sugar in their diets. And they do little ethnic exploring. Also, they accompany many of their meals with fish and other meats. Let’s also not forget thet many of them live on far less food quantity than we do. You could assume that your right in that assumption, but in fact when you visit or hear about quisines that you enjoy in the native areas you speak of, you eat like an american in that country. Diets are much more simple in Africa and Asia and the middle east. Most would be extatic to meet a 2000 calorie goal after running a 350 calorie exercise expenditure. Point is, there really is no comparing most of the rest of the world to our diets. Uganda is a fantastic example of fine western diets making their way into African cultures. Hypertension is among the leading causes of death. They got rich and they eat like us. But because of the lack of medical infrastructure and education, they are dropping dead in the street. Literally. So let’s not compare foreign diets, Italians and carb rich cultures with high caloric intake from carbs suffer the same fate. Diets consisting of grains and flower at the base of the pyramid have a poor track record when it comes to waistlines and diseases that are only known to its standards.

        • Little_Monster

          You seem to have a very uninformed understanding of what these foreign cultures actually eat. Yes, the influx of “Western” food has resulted in expanding waist lines in various countries, but this is almost always credited to the same finding here: the two-fold issue of fast food and lowered activity. Even processed foot has existed in many countries (particularly in Asian countries like Japan and South Korea) prior to this trend.

          As for simple, as well–what do you mean by “simple”? Less variety? Less preparation? I can’t follow, particularly knowing the means and ingredients in many of Asia’s countless dishes. They do, indeed, have much less sugar in their diets, but they are definitely more carb-heavy, even with any “added” meat. They key is often the insanely huge differences in portions and culture around eating. People in Japan, for example, take food VERY seriously… but don’t eat until they’re full, like many in the U.S. do.

      • Kevin Timmons

        There is strong science to back my claims as well, that goes back over a hundred years. Carb rich diet formats go back what maybe 50, and we have had problems ever since. Heart disease, metobolic syndrome, diabetes is skyrocketing after its inception, what’s to blame? We cut out fat, and in doing so also cut out many of the carbs. What’s the first thing dieters give up? Soda, sugar and carbs. Candy bars and desserts. Sugar and carbs. Some fat, bust mostly the former. We less knowingly cut carbs, which produces less insulin response, which improves blood sugar levels, which lessens glycogen stores, which lessens tryglicerides, which improves heart health, which creates fluffy cholesterols instead of small and dense, which creates blockage. Which lowers heart disease risk.So again, what compelling evidence is there to say that carbohydrate rich diets aren’t killing us.

        • adowe

          Can you post link’s to the strong science backing your claims?

          • Kevin Timmons

            Loads of evidence exists, but if a book can explain to you what it all means I would reccomend good calories/ bad calories for information dense material. Why we get fat is a condensed format. Do remember I am not reccomending a diatary book rather a book that is based on mountains of research into the Hunan metabolism and studies on animals as well. I reccomend it as an audio book personally, the former is rather lengthy.

          • Sarah

            Im sorry. did you just recommend Taubes as a “scientific” person? oh boy. the world has really gone topsy turvy

          • adowe

            I asked for said strong science, not an opinion.

          • Kevin Timmons

            Okay I get it. I was simply giving you a way to access some of the research included in that book. Not done by him, but by many others. There are studies included so you know. Again, I will say this, I dont form my opinion off of one book or four or many many research papers that I have personally read, its many many hours spent many years even. Its not just about weight and fitness goals, its about long term health, understanding genetic deficiencies environmental impacts and more. There is a lot. I’m just saying simply that you should avoid processed grains mostly if possible. Not completely cause you’d go insane, even I will eat processed grains at times, but really a life of empty carbohydrates will cost you in some form in the future, not to all, but to many. Genetic susceptibility plays a key role in parts as well, only most don’t even know they are. Just like some can smoke for a life time, and others get lung cancer after a few years. One thing we know is that an uptick in many diseases has begun to ravage Americans even down to a young age, what’s the cause? My answer is a host of different things, but on a simple level, grain and flour heavy diets and starchy as well are a contributing factor.

          • Kevin Timmons

            Oh and also, my focus isn’t really about weight loss, rather most diets will consistently work for pretty much anybody willing to clean up their diet. Health of humans is more my thing. You can be skinny and still be come diabetic or have heart disease and a host of other problems. Its not as simple as reccomending one source of research. When it comes to formulating an idea like in taubes case it takes a person to bring it all together to form a hypothesis, which is exactly like the rules we are currently following, he tries to give you evidence that maybe we should question that science. All science is an ever changing hypothesis that we are always rigorously testing. Saying that taubes or Joe smith is wrong is really just nonsensical, because for weight loss both may work quite well. But the changes that are evident in study like the normalization of hormones in the body should be of great evidence that its working in the proper direction. Which is more than good for just the waistline. So again i will be done discussing it after this, weight loss goals are only part of the picture. I’m not reccomending anybody not track their calories or not exercise or not eat some of the things that they love. But rather, give your body a chance at having normal levels of the hormones that it should. The less insulin response and triglycerides present in your system the better. You don’t have to be a slave, nobody wants that. I guess that’s why they say ( everything in moderation) only, most don’t know what that means.

          • adowe

            So what your saying is you can’t provide any of said strong science backing your claims! Thanks your opinion is most helpful.

          • Kevin Timmons

            No what I am saying is thstbif you wanted it you have a little thing called Google to find it. You could find many informative pieces in college publication and many others. I don’t really care to convince you of anything. Your not really worth countless hours of digging either. Its a pretty broad scope request as well. Its not like your asking for one specific study. So don’t pretend like just because I don’t have the time or the want to convince one person that it some how amounts to a defeated position. However you can go about your merry way do as you wish. I don’t care either way, your problem not mine. Some people are so predictable. By the way most blogs you read in health are opinion, everybody has their own approach, its a pretty scientifically diverse subject. Having many sciences in one.

          • adowe

            I can google. I have googled. I can’t find any strong science to back your claims. I was asking you to provide the strong science that you have deemed the be all end all to sugar and diets. Since you can’t I will go my merry way, since you seem to be completely ignorant to the facts. Enjoy the bubble you live in.

  • Mike

    This is a tough one for me, I have been tracking food daily and eating a pretty well rounded diet and still over my sugar goal, plan to continue making small changes each day for a couple more weeks to see how it shakes out. Having MFP app is great to see where I stand any time during the day, thanks guys.

  • Rachael

    I find replacing sugar you put into your tea/coffee helps, by replacing it with sweeteners instead to still get the taste.

  • robataka_neo

    Quick question; do humans actually *need* sugar? As in sugar not created by the body in digesting/ingesting from whole foods.

  • Glen Gary

    Anybody notice that MyFitnessPal’s RDA for sugar quietly doubled last November from 40 to 80 gms for a 150 lb male? Anyway, I have found that even a mean sweet tooth like I had can be tamed. Been logging for 3 years and now get most of my sugar from fruits.

  • naomi

    I think the author aimed too low with this article. Reach for the stars; even if you miss, you’ll land on the moon….oh wait.

    All it takes is one Google search to confirm that man never landed on the moon.

    Never mind then.

  • Naomi

    Great, comments pointing out the questionable results of Google searches are being deleted.

    I’m not sure why the author thinks a google search is a valid reason to villify sugar; a simple Google search will also tell you the Lindbergh baby was taken by aliens.

    • JofJLTNCB6

      (Psst. I don’t think it was deleted. It just fell below the click wall at the bottom of the comments.)

  • wafflenator

    What about eating sugar cane? That’s natural right?

  • JofJLTNCB6

    Also, what is more natural than honey? Does the author truly believe it is “empty calories” with “zero nutritional value”?

  • JofJLTNCB6

    Okay, I’m taking a break from this whole discussion. I’ve said what I thought needed to be said, and perhaps have at least given some who might otherwise be led astray with some thoughts to consider.

    Best of luck to everyone with all their health and fitness goals.

  • Brian

    Agave vs. honey. I want to lower my sugar intake and not use artificial sweeteners. Which is better….agave or honey? I use a tap of agave in my coffee and none in my tea. Honey I eat on my sandwich.

  • Jennifer

    Eating excess sugar causes your pancreas to excrete increased amounts of insulin. These leads your cells to become insulin resistant. This is what causes adult onset, type 2 diabetes. The amount of sugar you eat definitely has an impact on overall health.

  • Atlanta Girl

    I went AIP/Paleo over a year ago, after MS dx. I used to constantly crave sweets and would frequently binge… since I cut out processed foods, artificial sweeteners, cravings disappeared. I had some really ripe pineapple several months later, could not tolerate the sweetness. Amazing how our palates can change. I am taking some honey daily – and I had to find “less sweet” darker honey. It still makes me cringe – I notice if I eat more high-glycemic fruit or honey, I definitely crave more – so I am not going to “feed” it.

  • Lydia

    Sugar is evil! And I have the WORST sweet tooth. I can tell when I do cut it out, it gets easier to avoid. But then I slip up and am back to eating and craving it again.

  • Vanity.lbs2loose

    I am a newcomer to MyFitness Pal. My husband and I have learned a lot. Question about sugar in fruit juice. My husband loves his OJ in the morning. He sometimes drinks 16 to 32 oz. He states, “There is no added sugar and its all natural”. He is pretty good in staying within his calorie allowance for the day.
    If he stays within my calorie allowance and exercise, will too much “natural sugar” make it difficult to loose weight?

  • determined

    I cut back my sugar intake by switching to unsweetened coconut milk in my coffee, not eating boxed cereal, etc, and I lost 15 pounds, with no other changes to diet or exercise habits. For some people, I think this really is an essential part of changing their lifestyle. Not only that, I have kept it off for 2.5 years, by maintaining that change. Even when I have slacked off with my exercise, as long as I keep my sugar intake (both natural & added combined) between 32-48 grams a day, the weight stays off! 🙂

  • Diane Kennedy

    Read “It Starts With Food.” Sugar has an inflammatory effect in the body. It also triggers hormonal responses that contribute to weight gain and other health issues.

  • ctpreviti

    Your body will know- the difference.

    Everything in the beginning it’s Trial & Error and when you go through- what you are already consuming and start to understanding what the Labels: food/ ingredients tables mean.
    Then you’ll have to make a lifelong decision to detox from your current daily intake and relearn how to eat healthy for you and your family and lastly see your doctor and lay everything on the table.

    Last year, I went through the sugar and soda detox it took awhile to fight through the addiction. What it took sadly for soda it started to make me sick and soda clashed in my system- because I had changed the sugar intake to natural sugars you’ll usually find this one on the top shelf {Norbu monk fruit in cylinder container}, truvia or stevia at times.
    Cold turkey isn’t the way to go, green packets- Dominion sugar with stevia is a good start and keep the sugar in the packets- it helps in long run. And find a sugar for you- stay on it you can beat it.

    Helpful tip: Make sure you understand what you’re eating especially frozen processed food and even in healthy food- understand what the label & ingredients means. Also what how you can finally ditch soda it’s hard if you enjoy it- detox from it and slowly wean your daily consumption to 4 daily to 3 daily, 2 daily to one a day, try mineral water and fruit together not bad and flavor enhancers with water and find ways to enjoy water again.

  • Sail Aweigh Youghal

    You mention Salmon but I can assure you that any shop-bought salmon is 99% certain to be farmed, which is pure rubbish. It contains chemical dyes and antibiotics that will only serve to later in life be detrimental to your health.
    It is illegal to use farmed salmon as lobster bait because some the chemicals in it can apparently weaken the lobster shells….if you can’t give it to lobsters then why are we expected to eat it?
    In principal I agree with the need to eat more fish but try to stick to fresh wild fish – herrings, mackerel, sardines, haddock, coley and flatfish are all wild. Some are more oily than others but they are all beneficial.
    We should be eating 4 – 6 portions of fish per week!

  • Name

    Here is a simple solution to too much sugar intake. Don’t eat any candy and cut out soda. It isn’t as hard as it seems. The first couple of days are hard but after that it’s super easy. You will even stop craving other unhealthy foods. By the end of the first week you barely think about it and you feel a lot better. By the way I’m 14 so if I can do it you can do it.

  • Jagan Kumaravelu

    If you meet your caloric goals and feel satisfied, then no need to worry about sugar at all. If you take HFCS/aspartame and feel hungry often, cut down on them. Learn what’s best for you. There is a reason why HFCS, sucralose, aspartame, etc. are still on shelves – one size does not fit all. Some people react negatively to it, some don’t.

    Eat what you like and within the limits and you should be fine. If something is tempting you to eat more of it, there’s the red flag – CUT IT DOWN slowly to the point where you stop eating it. Life was meant to be lived without breaking your head over all these sorts of things.

  • Paul

    Anecdotal, but when I started reducing sugar and carbs ( not dramatically, but enough to make me have to think about my diet carefully ), I found it was easier to lose weight from a relatively healthy starting point of around BMI 27. Previously I had found pure calorie in/out to be more effective from a higher ( obese ) BMI starting point but then plateauing out as I approached the normal BMI range.

  • BillyV3

    Good but missed the MAIN point => Remove Sugar from Tea and Coffee => #1 Source of Sugar for most people

  • marysu4

    I had/have a horrible sugar problem!! Once the sun goes down, I cannot get to the candy/ice cream fast enough! Yet I solved it! I got Lymes for the 3rd time in 4 years! I knew from sad experience that dairy and sugar are not my friends when I am on antibiotics. I switched my biggest craving, ice cream, to sugar free Popsicles and/or fruit, and I limited them drastically as well. I cut dairy down to one or two times a week, if even that. I just was not going to go through yeast infections prompted by a month of antibiotics and eating things that yeast loves to eat! I did it! No yeast overgrowth at all!! So why stop with just a month? I have become diligent about continuing to avoid sugar binges and switching to sugar free versions of things like bread and cereals. I eat more fruit. I take probiotics daily and eat yogurt with fruit several times a week to keep my gut populated with better microbes! I do not recommend Lymes disease as a way to get off sugar but it did do me a favor.

    Another hint/ suggestion I’d like to make? Remove the pictures of cakes, cookies, candy bars you use with articles about avoiding sugar. Nothing like showing us junkies a picture of our gateway drug to send us straight to the closest sugar hit in the house!