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7 Ways to Reduce Sugar

Research reveals that sugar is pro-inflammatory in our bodies and may contribute to chronic disease progression. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommends consuming no more than 50 grams of added sugar per day, within a 2000 calorie diet.  This turns out to be 10% of total calories [i]. References to make it easier for you are as follows: 

  1. 9 teaspoons a day for men (36 grams)
  2. 6 teaspoons a day for women (24 grams)
  3. 3 teaspoons a day for children (12 grams)


Just remember 3-6-9!

Seems easy, right? Just cut out the cookies, cake, candy, and soda. Wrong. Although those are OBVIOUS sources of sugar, ADDED sugar is lurking in many foods we don’t usually associate with sugar.


These foods are packed with added sugar

Sugar can be found in places you wouldn’t expect, like:

  • bread
  • English muffins
  • yogurt
  • tomato sauces
  • salad dressings
  • condiments
  • crackers
  • cereals
  • canned goods
  • vegetable dips


It may not say sugar on the label

And worst yet, you don’t always see “sugar” on the nutrition facts or ingredients list, it goes by many names: dextrose, (evaporated) cane juice, corn syrup (solids), high fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, acesulfame K, aspartame, sucralose, and sucrose to name a few.

Times are changing!  Be on the lookout for the new nutrition facts labels, which include grams of added sugar as a sub column [ii].


7 easy ways to keep added sugar at bay

  1. Learn to read labels – The easier it is for you to identify added sugar, whether by the ingredients list or the under “Total Carbohydrates > Sugar”, the better off you are to make better choices.
  2. Swap flavored yogurt for plain yogurt – Add fruit for a natural sweetener, cinnamon for flavor, or chia seeds for crunch.
  3. Drink less sugar – Cut down on the sugar you add to coffee, tea or anything you add sugar to. Start by using just half as much and you’ll be surprised how little a difference it makes in taste.
  4. Switch your cereal – Trade your sugary cereals for something more “grown-up.” Read labels to find a boxed cereal that has less than 5 grams/serving (use this list to help) or, try hot cereals such as oat bran, cream of wheat, oatmeal, and muesli. Overnight oats, chia pudding, and yogurt with bran are all great, easy breakfast options.
  5. Use things that are naturally sweet – Add shredded or flaked coconut to yogurt, cereal, salads, and pancakes for a sweet topping that’s also packed with healthy fats!
  6. Watch the flavors – Just say “no” to adding flavor to your daily latte. If you can’t stand it plain, rethink this daily indulgence and cut back to once a week. Hot chocolate, Ovaltine, and many instant chai lattes are packed with sugar. Make them the old fashioned way at home for a healthier alternative.
  7. Eat real fruit – Exchange your orange juice for an orange (or whatever fruit juice you like). Eating the real fruit adds fiber, water and contains only the fruit’s natural sugars.


[i] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. 8th Edition. December 2015. Available at https://health.gov/dietaryguidelines/2015/guidelines/.
[ii] Changes to the nutrition facts label. US Food and Drug Administration. Accessed at: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm
Susan Levy

Susan Levy has been on the journey of heart-healthy living for almost 25 years. She's worked with hospitals in over 35 states to hone their messages about prevention and early detection. Susan is also publisher of the website The Well-Fed Heart which offers dietitian-approved recipes that take 5 steps or less and work for home cooks.

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