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Reducing Your Sugar Intake

June 1, 2023

Reducing Your Sugar Intake

According to the U.S. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion (ODPHP), the average American adult eats up to 270 calories of added sugar per day. That is roughly 17 teaspoons of sugar! Eating too much sugar can contribute to the development of conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease. It is important to minimize your sugar intake whenever you can, especially when it comes to added sugars.

Added sugars are not found naturally in foods but rather are added in by the food’s manufacturer. This includes food items such as syrups and sugars found in flavored yogurt, baked goods, cereals, candies, fruit drinks, and soda. Some foods like fruit and milk naturally contain sugar, so that would not be considered added sugar. Added sugars can be a problem because they add calories to your diet without providing any essential nutrients, which can make it more difficult to stay at a healthy weight. Many dietary guidelines recommend limiting calories from added sugars to no more than 10% daily, which is roughly 200 calories or about 12 teaspoons (based on a 2,000 calorie diet).

Since it can be hard to identify and cut back on added sugars in your diet, below is a list of seven simple steps you can take to reduce your sugar intake.

  1. Swap out your soda. One of the largest contributors to added sugar in the American diet is through sweetened beverages. The best substitute for soda is drinking water, but even diet soda is a better alternative than regular soda. Aim for substituting one sugary drink per day with either water or a healthier alternative such as unsweetened tea, sparkling water, or diet soda.
  2. Incorporate fruit. Instead of eating a cookie, candy, or granola bar for a midday snack, try eating fruit such as an apple or grapes instead. While fruit does still contain sugar, it contains natural sugar and also provides essential nutrients and fiber.
  3. Reduce your portion size. Instead of ordering a large soda or adding two spoonfuls of sugar to your morning coffee, switch to ordering a small soda or cut back to only adding one spoonful of sugar to your coffee. Even small changes can make a big difference over time.
  4. Check the label. When looking to distinguish between natural and added sugars, reading the nutrition label can help. Look for keywords that indicate sugar has been added to the food such as sucrose, cane sugar, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, and fruit juice concentrates. When looking at nutrition labels, you may find that added sugars are hiding in more foods than you would expect such as pasta sauces, pizzas, and salad dressings.
  5. Switch up your breakfast. Instead of eating a sugary cereal for breakfast, try eating plain oatmeal or unsweetened cereal with fresh fruit on top instead. This change not only will help to cut back on added sugars, but may also keep you feeling fuller longer.
  6. Bake with applesauce. Instead of using sugar to make baked goods, try substituting some of the sugar with unsweetened applesauce instead. You can adjust the ratio of sugar to unsweetened applesauce until you find a taste and texture that you like.
  7. Cut back on condiments. Condiments like salad dressings, ketchup, and barbecue sauce can contain high amounts of added sugar. Aim for cutting the amount of dressings and condiments you use in half to reduce the total amount of added sugars consumed in a day.


Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion: Cut Down on Added Sugars.

VeryWell Health: How to Reduce Your Sugar Intake.

American Heart Association: Tips for Cutting Down on Sugar.

Healthline: 13 Simple Ways to Stop Eating Lots of Sugar.

Harvard Health Publishing: How to Spot - and Avoid - Added Sugar.

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