7 Simple Ways to Cut Sugar From Your Diet

Enjoying sweet flavors doesn't have to be unhealthy.

dessert, treat, sugar
1 / 8

The American Heart Association recommends limiting daily added sugar intake to about 25 grams for women and no more than around 36 grams for men. The latest government-issued dietary guidelines are a bit more lenient, recommending consuming less than 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugar. For someone with a 2,000 calorie diet, that’s about 50 grams of sugar a day. But, the average American exceeds this still.

We know our favorite sweets are loaded with added sugars, but the sneaky sweetener also lurks in places we least expect, like pasta sauces and salad dressings. If you’re looking to kick start a healthy lifestyle, give these effortless tricks for cutting sugar a try!

Senior woman reading nutrition labels on food
2 / 8
Check the labels

The only way to find out just how much sugar a particular food contains is by taking a good, hard look at the nutrition label. By January 1, 2020, the FDA will require most manufacturers to clearly list the amount of added sugar in a product. Those less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an extra year to make the changes.

Added sugars have many aliases, so look for ingredients like sucrose, dextrose and maltose. If any of these appear in the list of ingredients, your product contains added sugars.   

Even some of the most unexpected items in the grocery store contain unhealthy added sugars. Tomato sauce for example, contains 10 grams of sugar in only one cup. Even foods we consider “healthy,” like granola, can be loaded with as many as 12 grams of sugar per half cup.

Before adding anything to your cart, check the nutrition facts and choose products with little or no added sugar.

Mason jars filled with clean water, cucumber and lemon slices
3 / 8
Drink up (the right way)

As amazing as the human body is, there are some weaknesses. For instance, we generally have a difficult time distinguishing between hunger and thirst, and may even allow ourselves to indulge in unhealthy (sweet) cravings when what we really need is a glass of water.

But many of us don’t reach of a glass of water. Instead, we quench our thirst with sugar-sweetened beverages, like juice and soda. A 12-ounce can of cola contains 39 grams of sugar—that’s more than the American Heart Association recommends for the whole day.

There are other ways to quench your thirst and sate your desire for something sweet. Try swapping soda for a zero calorie flavored seltzer or a fruit-infused water. Simply slice your favorite fruit and veggies like lemons, oranges and cucumbers, and toss them in a big pitcher of water.

fruit, cut fruit, fruit bowl
4 / 8
Choose whole fruits

Not all sugars are created equal. Foods like fruit—and even milk—contain natural sugars, as well as other good-for-you vitamins and minerals. Most products with added sugar, like candy bars and soda, do not have other healthy ingredients. They’re merely empty calories.

While whole fruits deliver a healthy dose of sweetness, fruit-based products, like juices, smoothies, fruit cocktail and jams, may contain more added sugars than you’d think. 

An orange contains about 12 grams of sugar, but one eight-ounce glass of orange juice contains a whopping 21 grams. Likewise, a cup of strawberries contains just 7 grams of sugar, compared to a single tablespoon of strawberry jam, which has 12 grams of sugar. If you’re looking to reduce your sugar consumption and satisfy your fruity cravings, choose a piece of whole fruit.  

coffee, tea
5 / 8
Spice up your life

Morning meals can be loaded with sugar, from coffee to yogurt to oatmeal and more. Your morning latte may jumpstart your day, but have you considered how much sugar it contains? A small vanilla latte—even with nonfat milk—contains 27 grams of sugar. You don’t have to skip out on your favorite drink of the day—just swap the sugar or sugary syrup for more wholesome ingredients, like spice and extracts.

Cinnamon, despite containing less than one gram of sugar, adds a bit of sweetness to things like coffee, yogurt and oatmeal. Nutmeg and turmeric make tasty additions, too.

If spice isn’t your style, reach for a flavorful extract. To recreate your favorite vanilla latte with less than one gram of sugar, just add a teaspoon of pure vanilla extract.

food labels, reading labels, grocery store, food choice
6 / 8
Buy unsweetened items

Unsweetened versions of some household staples, like applesauce, shredded coconut and almond milk are available.

Foods like shredded coconut and applesauce should be good for you, but during processing, sugar is often added to enhance their natural flavors. Enjoy these eats as they were meant to be consumed by checking the packaging for a few key phrases: unsweetened and no sugar added.

These swaps save you:

  • Almond milk: 7 grams per cup
  • Shredded coconut: 10 grams per ounce
  • Applesauce: 10 grams per 4 ounces
  • Oatmeal: 6 grams per single serve packet
Fruit blends
7 / 8
Make your own condiments

Salad dressings, sauces and juices are often packed with added sugars. Many times, unsweetened or reduced sugar options are available, but sometimes, the best way to ensure what you’re putting in your body is sans added sugar is to make it yourself. 

Not sure where to begin? Top your salad with homemade dressing by stirring together lime juice, olive oil and your favorite herbs. You’ll save 3 grams of sugar per fluid ounce. 

Swap store-bought pasta sauce with a simple, DIY version. Blend tomatoes with a bit of extra virgin olive oil and Italian herbs and spices, like basil and oregano, to create a homemade pasta sauce that saves you 18 grams of sugar per cup.  

Assorted nuts in a bowl
8 / 8
Stock up on healthy snacks

It’s OK to give into temptation once in a while. One study even suggests a planned indulgence may help you reach long term goals, but it’s important not to overdo it.

The key to keeping indulgences infrequent? Stock your kitchen, office and purse with healthy snack options! Fruits and veggies are always good to nosh on, but nuts, seeds, plain nonfat Greek yogurt and natural peanut butter are some other options to squash your craving for something sweet without overdoing it on added sugars.

More On

How are polyphenols good for my health?


How are polyphenols good for my health?
Polyphenols are a group of antioxidant compounds derived from plants - notably found in coffee - that can protect our cells and reduce inflammation in...
How Much Protein Do You Really Need to Eat?


How Much Protein Do You Really Need to Eat?
It varies based on things like your age and diet goals.
8 Fruits and Veggies to Spiralize This Season


8 Fruits and Veggies to Spiralize This Season
You can reduce your intake of refined carbohydrates and boost your fiber intake by making noodles out of fruits and vegetables.
Looking for ways to help you get those Zzzzzs...


Looking for ways to help you get those Zzzzzs...
Tart cherry juice has been linked to better sleep. To catch some more zzzs, try a viral tart cherry juice sleepy time mocktail before bed.
Why you should eat dinner as a family


Why you should eat dinner as a family
Sitting down to a family dinner has many health benefits, says pediatrician Dr. Tanya Remer Altmann. Learn how a family dinner helps lower blood press...