While there’s nothing wrong with indulging in a craving for a scoop of ice cream or margarita every so often, too much sugar has negative health effects and can be detrimental to weight loss. The FDA recommends getting no more than 10% of your daily calories from added sugars, and defines them as sugars added during processing or packaging. This includes syrups, honey and concentrated fruit or vegetable juices with more sugar than would be expected from the same volume of 100% fruit or vegetable juice of the same type.
Naturally occurring sugars in things like fruits, vegetables and dairy are much more nutritious than added sugars, because they come with important vitamins and nutrients, as well as fiber and protein that slow their digestion and make them a more steady source of energy.
Finding ways to swap added sugar for naturally occurring sugar (or to cut down on sugar altogether) is a good idea for both your energy levels, and your overall health.
Here are seven simple ways to get started:
USE FRUIT AND CINNAMON TO SWEETEN BREAKFAST
Packaged cereal, granola and yogurt often contains sneaky amounts of added sugar — and using honey, maple syrup or another sweetener yourself can add up if you’re not careful. Instead, opt for plain yogurt topped with fresh fruit and some nuts. Or make overnight oats with a hefty pinch of cinnamon (which can make things taste sweeter, even though it’s sugar-free) and later stir in chopped fruit and some unsweetened nut butter.
READ NUTRITION LABELS CAREFULLY
Search for a store-bought granola with no more than 5 grams of added sugar per serving. KIND Peanut Butter Granola Clusters fit the bill, as does Bear Naked Granola V’nilla Almond. Both are lightly sweet, packed with whole grains and contain healthy fats from nuts.
OPT FOR COLD OR NITRO BREWS
Drinking a daily coffee with a spoonful of sugar is a habit that could sabotage your weight loss goals. Instead, try a high-quality cold brew, or the increasingly popular nitro brews, which have a deeper but less-biting flavor than traditional drip or steeped coffees, making them easier to drink plain or with a splash of milk.
MAKE YOUR OWN COCKTAILS
Pre-mixed drinks like margaritas, daiquiris and fruity sangrias are loaded with added sugar since bartenders often rely on pre-made sour mixes or flavored syrups. If you want to indulge in an alcoholic beverage, try making these lower-sugar versions at home.
CUT BACK ON SUGAR WHEN BAKING
A little added sugar in pies is helpful for bringing out the sweetness of the fruit filling and creating an ideal texture. However, in most cases, you can cut the amount of sugar called for in your favorite recipes by 1/3, or even by 1/2 — smaller amounts still work well for turning already-sweet fruit into a more indulgent, but healthier, dessert.
CHOOSE IN-SEASON FRUIT
If you’ve ever eaten a blueberry in January, you know offseason produce isn’t nearly as flavorful as in-season picks — it’s less sweet, more tart and often less colorful. What fruits are in season and for how long depends on where you live, so your best bet is to ask vendors at your local farmers market.
SWAP SODA FOR FLAVORED SELTZER
Flavored bubbly water is a great option in lieu of sugar-laden soda, provided you look for ones that don’t have added syrups or sugar. Try a can of La Croix or make your own fancier version by combining plain seltzer with some mashed and sliced fruit.