Cutting Down on Sugar: 21 Ways to Eat Less Sugar

We’ve all agreed that we tend to eat too much sugar, that we crave it, and that we want to learn to eat less of it (or even none at all- don’t miss tomorrow’s post!).

So here’s the really challenging part… how do we do that, practically speaking?

There is a lot of information out there about the dangers of sugar, it’s effect on our bodies, and much more. For these posts, I purposefully chose not to get all educational on you, and instead, focus on real, everyday ideas and solutions!

(But, do look at the bottom of the post for more educational resources and links)

21 Ways to Eat Less Sugar

Image by yogma

Use Better Sweeteners

  • Replace your white or brown sugar with an unrefined, dehydrated sugar, like Sucanat or Rapadura. Yes, it’s still sugar but that one change still makes a difference by somewhat reducing the dramatic blood sugar effect, giving your body at least a few nutrients in the process, and avoiding the high temperature and chemical process used to create regular sugar.
  • Use fruit as a sweetener. Substitute some of the sugar and liquids in a recipe with ripe bananas, apple sauce, pineapple, or other fruit puree. Dried fruits like dates, raisins and figs add wonderful sweetness to foods.
  • Try Stevia. This herb, originally from South America, is extremely sweet by nature but without any calories or sugar-like effects on the body, and you can use as little as a couple drops to sweeten a mug of tea or a few teaspoons in a dessert. It does have a somewhat bitter aftertaste, depending on the type you use. Unrefined foods are always best, and you can buy Stevia as a simple dried powder. Personally, we use this sometimes, but my husband only likes a particular brand of Stevia with absolutely no aftertaste (NuNaturals liquid). It is refined, but it works for us.
  • Use raw honey. Although it is still a sweetener and can be overused like anything, raw honey is full of nutrients, enzymes, and actually has many healing properties. It is lower glycemically than sugar, and many people who react to sugar strongly can eat honey without issue.

These are just a few of the alternative sweeteners out there. For a more thorough overview of natural sweetener options, see this post from The Nourishing Gourmet.

Image by Siona Watson

Replacing Sweets with Healthier Treats

  • Replace “like with like”. This is a common phrase you’ll hear from me, because I believe that we make the transition to healthier choices easier when we find better alternatives that are similar to things we already like. This is an old post with a bunch of sweet tooth ideas that are just a little bit different.
  • Learn to use fruit as a dessert. In North America we have a tendency to make our desserts very sugar, grain and dairy focused (and don’t forget the chocolate). But in many other parts of the world, fruits have a starring role in treats. Think fruit crumbles or cobblers, lightly poached peaches, homemade apple sauce, fresh berries with cream, fruit salad, or fruit smoothies. One of my very favorite desserts is simply peeled and sliced pears, fried lightly in a pan with just a bit of water, a sprinkle of cinnamon and some toasted nuts, especially pine nuts. It’s surprisingly fantastic!
  • Choose savory grains instead of sweetened ones. Sometimes a lovely slice of warm bread and butter can satisfy as much as a sweet treat. Yes, it is made with grains which are still carbohydrates, but the effect on our body is so much better.

Use Less Sugar in General

  • Cut back on the sugar in your recipes. Start to cut back just a bit, perhaps 1/5 or 1/6 the amount, then 1/4, 1/3, even 1/2. See at which point you really start to notice a difference. Over time, you will likely find that you enjoy the less-sweetened version!
  • Be purposeful about cutting meals out of your regular routine that include sugar. If you usually eat a lot of pancakes with syrup, or muffins, or even things like sweetened baked beans, try cutting out one or more of those meals each week. Substitute with something more protein or veggie based instead.
  • Try Stevia as a sugar replacement in your drinks. I think that sweetened beverages are one of the places where we consume the most sugar, in the most un-conscious way. Just replacing the sugar in your drinks with Stevia can cut down your sugar intake more than you might think. It’s great in hot drinks like coffee or tea, as well as for making lemonade or limeade, in iced teas, etc.
  • Try other more complex flavors instead of just going with something sweet. Add fresh or frozen fruit, nuts, coconut, etc. to your oatmeal instead of just honey or brown sugar. Play around with various fresh fruits to add more natural sweetness to smoothies. Use nut butters and a sprinkle of cinnamon instead of jam on toast.
  • Make sourdough bread instead of bread that uses honey or sugar. It tastes amazing, is so cheap to make, and is just as satisfying (check out the Sourdough eCourse that I am currently reviewing- it’s so helpful!)

Image by Matthew F

Dealing with Social Situations and Celebrations

  • Fill up on a really good dinner or wholesome snack, BEFORE you leave the house. If you’re less hungry, you’ll be less tempted.
  • If you are truly attempting to stop eating sugar altogether, mention to your hosts beforehand (if it’s an appropriate situation to do so) that they needn’t prepare any desserts or sweet treats, because you are trying to stay off of them.
  • Offer to bring something that you know you’ll feel good about eating, like a fruit or veggie platter, some hummus and bread, deviled eggs, chips and salsa, etc. Others will likely appreciate a non-sweet item in the mix. I am always pleased at church functions when I see that the savory treats or the bowl of mandarins are the most popular in the midst of the brownies, cookies and bars.
  • Have a special treat waiting for yourself at home when you know that you will be somewhere with no sugar-free alternatives. Instead of feeling tempted all night, you’ll feel better knowing that something yummy awaits you.
  • Allow yourself a small piece of something, or just choose one item that looks the very best. Savor that one thing slowly, and really enjoy it, even if others around you have a plateful.

Will Power and Mind Games :)

  • Have treat days, where you can “cheat” and have a splurge food. It’s easier to go sugar-free for several days knowing that on Friday, you can indulge without guilt. Try having several cheat days each week at first, then down to only one, and ultimately limit yourself to only sweet alternatives except in very special situations.
  • Simply go cold turkey and force yourself to find other options when you’re feeling hungry or snackish. Personally, I like going cold turkey, because there’s absolutely no room for compromise; I simply can’t have it. For others, this is sheer torture and will cause them to cave, so it’s not the right strategy for everyone.
  • In tough situations, remind yourself of the reasons you are doing this. It may help to write them on an index card and put it on your fridge, or perhaps keep it in your wallet.
  • Brush your teeth right after eating a meal, so that you won’t be tempted to eat something sugary and have to go and brush your teeth again.

Further Resources:

At Tiffany’s Table- This is a book I got this spring, trading my Real Food on a Real Budget for a copy of Tiffany Perez’ wonderful real food cookbook. She avoids regular sugar, share tips for going sugar-free (some of which inspired me for this post), and many, many recipes to help you along the way.

Beyond Sugar- From GNOWFGLINS, this was part of a series last year. Overcoming the Withdrawal Symptoms of Going Without Sugar and Snack Ideas are both helpful posts to read.

Use Less Refined Sugar and Get the Refined Sugar Out- Both from @ Kitchen Stewardship’s series Get the Junk Out!

Naturally Knocked Up- Donielle’s recent video, Sugar is the S Word, and she also did a Sugar Detox Challenge a while back. She also has a few of her own thoughts on dealing with sugar cravings.

What helps you to eat less sugar?

About Stephanie Langford

Stephanie Langford has a passion for sharing ideas and information for homemakers who want to make healthy changes in their homes, and carefully steward all that they've been given. She has written three books geared to helping families live more naturally and eat real, whole foods, without being overwhelmed, without going broke and with simple meal planning. She is the creator of Keeper of the Home.

Read Newer Post
Read Older Post

Comments

  1. Hi Stephanie,

    Thank you for sharing information on eating less sugar. I was so happy to read your article and to find a kindred spirit. (I found you by way of a simplicity parenting blog.) I was addicted to sugar and struggled with binge eating, sugar cravings, mood swings, and more. I finally came to a point of acceptance where I realized that I had a choice – sugar or my life. I chose my life.

    I’ve written extensively about how I gave up sugar for good in my book, Overcoming Sugar Addiction, and love to help others kick their sugar habit.

    You can learn more here:
    http://www.sugar-addiction-book.com/

    I never thought a joyful sugar free life was possible – until I surrendered, accepted my sugar sensitive body, and did the emotional, physical and spiritual healing to release sugar’s hold on my life.

    If you recognize yourself in me, and are also struggling with sugar, I’m writing to offer you my support and encouragement. You are not alone!

    In gratitude, Karly

  2. I make a LOT homemade. I don’t put any sugar in our bread except 1 tsp. to proof the yeast, plus I don’t buy any bread/bakery products from the store so that I can control the sugar content by making it homemade. My mom always had the rule “savory things savory, sweet things sweet.” Don’t put sugar in the spaghetti sauce so that you can enjoy that yummy dessert you’re serving because you have guests over.
    Because we enjoy pancakes with syrup (which I make from sugar, water and vanilla) and whipped cream, I don’t put sugar in the whipped cream, just vanilla. And I don’t put sugar in the pancakes. The syrup is enough.
    We don’t drink pop or juice, except for occasional homemade lemonade, and we enjoy coffee and tea without sugar in it. It took some getting used to in the beginning (no sugar in coffee) but it didn’t take long and we were enjoying it. (We also drink only decaf. =) )
    If we end up in the city unprepared for meals and end up grabbing some fast food (BLECH) or even “nice” restaurant food, we always notice how sugary and fatty everything is. It’s a great way to know that cutting back on sugar at home really does make a difference.

    • Just fyi, you really don’t need sugar to proof yeast….you don’t even need to “proof” it at all, in my opinion. I’ve been baking for over 10 yrs. and I’ve made ALL of our bread for the past couple of years and I’ve never once had yeast fail. I buy it in bulk and store it in the freezer and I’ve never had a problem. You don’t have to worry about the temp of the water either. We all know that yeast will rise even when refrigerated, so why stress so hard about the water temp when bringing together the dough? Silly. I feel sorry for people who don’t bake bread because it seems so complicated…leave out unnecessary steps and it’s much easier!

  3. It is the HIDDEN sugars lurking in crackers, yogart, and processed foods that gets me…

    I generally don’t drink vitaminwater, soda, fruit drinks, etc. They are pure evil… But it is harder to cut the sguar in seemingly healthy foods like whole wheat crackers…

  4. One thing I’ve started doing recently is when we have pancakes or waffles for breakfast I sweeten some homemade yogurt with a little bit of honey or sugar and put a drop or two of lemon essential oil in it and we use that as a topping instead of syrup. Less sugar and some probiotics! YUM! Tastes great too :).

  5. these are some great tips! having just recently watched “food, inc”, i am not only trying to move my family to a more organic diet, but i am trying to move away from refined sugars and towards more natural sugars. this post is an extremely helpful starting point!

  6. honey is a better and healthy option

  7. Since my husband and I have been married (almost 2 years now) we have tried to be conscious of our sugar intake, but since I got pregnant, I have been trying even harder! It’s definitely difficult for me. I grew up on a “pretty” healthy diet, but we had still sweet treats at least once a week. And when I got pregnant, I starting craving sugar and especially ice cream, like no there was no tomorrow… so I have given in to the ice cream craving occasionally, but I try to only do so maybe twice a month, and only have a small amount. Homemade ice cream is the best, and can be made with honey, too! I found that the best way of staving of pregnancy sugar cravings is to eat fresh fruit and to eat plenty of protein often, to avoid getting hungry in the first place. A balanced diet is very helpful with cravings.

    To me it’s about small steps. The biggest one for me is not having any junk in the house. No chips, no sweets, no ice cream even :-). That way I can’t snitch on the sly. Number two is to keep my stomach full of good snacks, because whenever I get hungry, I start craving sweet things. I have found that a little bit of yogurt with honey and vanilla stirred in, along with some fruit, is a really good treat when I am craving sugar! Or sometimes a peanut butter and honey sandwich. It still has carbs and sugar, but it’s better than junk food. In everything I make, I cut down the sugar by half and substitute honey when I can. I also buy organic sugar, rather than the regular white processed kind. My husband and I have both found that when we eat normally sweetened foods now, they taste so over-the-top sweet to us, it’s almost repulsive!

    I appreciate all the good tips and ideas here. Many of them we do already and some we are still trying to implement. I don’t think my sweet tooth is going to totally vanish anytime soon, but the more I work at it, the less I crave it, so that is a good thing!

  8. Great article! I am a diabetic and this is good to show people better alternatives. I have to have alternatives, I do sneak in my endangered species 88% chocolate now and then and get my fix, but it is made with beet sugar and only allow myself a square or two.

    Though I did want to point out that it isn’t a good idea to brush your teeth right after a meal. You should wait an hour after because the acid in the food you just ate will wears the enamel down if you brush them right after.

  9. Sherrie Duval says:

    My favorite craving buster is two frozen bananas. Cover in a blender with raw milk and add a tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and two frozen strawberries. Blend until milkshake consistency. Tastes just like a chocolate milkshake with nothing but God’s sugar.

  10. These are some great tips! One of the things that really helped me when I decided to cut out the sugar was deciding to make everything from scratch (there is so much sugar in processed and store-bought foods!) I love to bake so I also decided that I wouldn’t buy sugar anymore, thereby forcing myself to find alternatives if I was in a baking mood. After a couple of months I find I can’t handle eating regular desserts and sweetened foods anymore, I find them sickeningly sweet (and I used to have a HUGE sweet tooth!)

  11. These are great tips. We just did a detox that cut out all sugar (and honey!), and I found using agave to sweeten tea or my oatmeal was just perfect. I’ve even found now I use about half the sugar I normally did in my coffee. Fruit leathers are a way I get a sweet treat (for 45 calories) without any added sugar, too, and applesauce with cinnamon is as sweet as it needs to be by itself!

  12. Sadly, as I sat down to read this, I was eating a pile of rolos. Oops. :) I know I need to cut down my sugar, and I really want to, but for some reason am having trouble making the leap. I think I need to start with some of the smaller steps and work my way up. Thanks for the post!

    • Mothering4Him says:

      I started by finding something I really loved. For me it was dried cranberries (be careful, some have added sugar). Whenever I had a craving, I reached for those! Put them out in plain sight, too. Find something you CAN eat and LOVE eating! Also, protein fills you up and for longer. So make sure you have some at every meal. I love (homemade) yogurt (with mixed in cranberries, of course) and it’s protein rich. The first 3-4 days of no sugar is a killer, but after that you are feeling GREAT!

  13. Great post! I’ve learned these things too…but I wish I didn’t have to learn them the hard way and had instead had an awesome post like this from the beginning as a resource!

    I like to use apple juice concentrate (you can make your own easily) to sweeten recipes.

    We just had some company and served just watermelon slices for dessert. We don’t normally eat dessert around here, just once in a while/for celebrations or guests. That or fruit salad (sometimes with yogurt) is a good company dessert to serve if you are trying to stay around sugar but feel pressured to provide a sweet treat for guests (its also easy to do…especially the watermelon, and NO ONE feels bad about eating lots of fruit!) I think more people appreciate it then we realize, since a lot of people have weight concerns, if not also sugar concerns.

  14. This was a timely post for me. I have long used way less sugar than normal (most recipes I cut the sugar in half or use maple syrup or honey instead) but I have found out that I am still pretty adicted. Currently I am on a parisite/candida cleanse and so for 2 weeks (and then after a break another 2 weeks) I am going without any sugars (refined or natural) and basically no carbs. This has not bee easy for me but it is a challange I am glad I have undertook.

    I am able to use Stevia and have enjoyed that little bit of sweetener in my herbal tea. However my daughter and I didn’t care for the taste on oatmeal.

    Thanks for all your tips!

  15. Thanks for these suggestions. My husband and I went sugar-free a few months ago to reign in our weight gain. We’ve noticed tremendous health benefits. I was diagnosed almost a year ago with Interstitial Cystitis, or chronic bladder pain. The pain completely went away within days of our new diet! Sometimes I cheat and the pain returns to remind me that sugar-free is what my body wants. To add to that, I also have hypoglycemia which has greatly improved and my husband’s daily acid reflux, is now a rare event.
    I must confess, we use artificial sweeteners now. I am concerned about the future impact of this but right now, I am still amazed by our weight loss and improved health. I wish more people knew the toxic effects of sugar on our bodies. Even in moderation, I feel that nothing could be worse than sugar, now that I have experienced my life without it.

  16. We are in the midst of this at our house. I am a sugar addict but can go without. My husband is far worse than i am when it comes to sugar. I have been slowly adding less and less refined sugar, and now less and less “real” sugar.

  17. The fact that my youngest child has a yeast allergy and, therefore, reacts negatively to refined sugar (actually she reacts to too much sugar of any kind) has pushed us to greatly reduce sugar consumption in our home. I do bake and make ice cream and most of the time use local raw honey in lieu of sugar; when I do use sugar it is organic but always greatly reduced in amount. For myself, when having a bit of a sugar craving, I have a square or two of organic, dark chocolate… sometimes even dipped in honey if I’m really wanting sugar. This is very satisfying – and healthier than eating a bunch of baking or junk food, I think. We also learn to make homemade versions of things like iced tea, hot cocoa and ice cream so that we’re in control of the ingredients. Life without any treats is dreary!

    • @Kika, oops! forgot to ask for ideas of “savory” alternatives that you’ve brought to church functions?! We are always asked to bring desserts to everything and I’d love some new, healthier ideas.

  18. I have been working on cutting down my sugar consumption in the last few weeks. As I have been researching alternative sweetners, I have come across some information about the Stevia sweetner, found in Pure Via and Truvia. From what I have read, it is not necessarily good for you either and can cause some complications. But every website on the topic seems unable to come to a definite conclusion.

    Have you heard about this? I am wondering if I should wait until more research is done before I try this natural sweetner.

    • @Kalyn, My feeling on Stevia is that it is a natural, whole food, but not meant to be consumed in huge amounts. It is naturally a leafy herb, and is we just ate it as is, we wouldn’t be able to consume it by the bagful. :) So I think we need to practice moderation.

      I know that many also prefer to only use it as a dried, ground herb (still green, not made into a liquid or white powder). I totally get this and that would be my preference as well, but I also want to have something that my hubby will actually eat. :)

  19. Did you know you can ferment your own stevia to take the bad taste out of it? it’s also pretty easy to make your own from a plant as well! Here is a link to a video that shows you how, its called making sweet juice.
    http://www.youtube.com/user/NGJMinistries#p/u/19/-p5lxS_V-5Y

  20. Great post, Stephanie! I’ve been focusing on sugar consumption, and you make some beautiful suggestions.
    Katie

  21. We have cut out almost all refined sugar in our home. We use raw honey mostly as our “alternative” sweetener and appreciate it’s real and naturally occurring element. It works well as a sweetener in many things.

    How we did it? We just went cold turkey. We told the kids what we were doing and why & my husband was on board after reading the books “Real Food” and “In Defense of Food”.
    Great suggestions above!! We’ve done most of them. Also, when you start reading labels you realize how sugar, corn syrup, and other undesirable ingredients are in so many things that you don’t even realize.

  22. How about sugar in the raw? (Natural cane turbinado sugar). Is that a better choice than fine white sugar? It’s what we have in our 2 cups of coffee in the morning. If we run out, I found that using the white sugar gives me an instant headache, so I opt for Sweet n Low if necessary. We always felt like using the raw sugar was a healthier choice, but I don’t think we really know if that’s the truth.

  23. Thanks for this Stephanie, this is right where I’m at currently! I just finished reading a fantastic book called ‘Sweet Poison’ by David Gillespie. It goes into the ins and outs of different sugars, how the body processes sugar and why it’s so bad for you but in a very easy to read way.

    I don’t really have many tips, because I am still craving sugar like nothing else… but I have found that drinking more water has been really helpful. Or reaching for a glass of water or herbal tea first when I’m tempted to reach for a sugary snack. I currently buy sourdough from our local farmer’s markets (hope to attempt to make it soon!) and a slice of that as a snack with a bit of 100% fruit jam or honey helps too.

    Allowing myself a small piece of something is my biggest downfall I think :(

  24. I’m new to reading this blog and want to say I really enjoy it and learn a lot from it! As for me and sugar, it’s a love-hate relationship. I have PCOS and now gestational diabetes. It truly is amazing how good I feel now that I am off the vicious sugar cycle. It took getting the gestational diabetes at 13 weeks pregnancy for me to realize the true effects of sugar.
    What has helped me stay away from sugar without feeling deprived have been little occasional luxuries like making my own whipped cream with vanilla flavored stevia and using it to top berries or peaches or whatever fruit I have had on hand.
    Making my own flavored coffee creamer has helped too even though I don’t drink coffee every day.
    My favorite sweetner has been granulated palm sugar. I used it to replace refined sugar in a Philly cheesecake recipe I had (along with a tad bit of vanilla stevia), gave it a new almond and coconut oil crust and made a cheesecake with a low glycemic index that (at least to me) tasted sooo good.
    Understanding what sugar does to our blood sugar levels (even in a non-diabetic) is so helpful as is giving ourselves special treats.

  25. Fantastic post.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] The first thing I'd say is to cut back on sugar. [...]

  2. [...] all the gluten intolerances, food allergies and reduced sugar guidelines so many readers face today, I'm glad to be able to make quick substitutions like [...]

  3. [...] Cutting Down on Sugar: 21 Ways to Eat Less Sugar Read more in the series {here} and come back all month long for more information, great recipes, tips, and a few awesome giveaways! [...]

  4. [...] even more.When we make homemade pantry staples, I'm able to a) eliminate the sugar altogether, b) reduce the sugar, sometimes drastically or c) choose an alternative sweetner that's not as refined.High Fructose [...]

  5. [...] My four boys are constantly hungry and sometimes it is hard to find snack inspiration.  I printed out Stacy Karen’s suggestions from her post 45 Real Food Snacks for Kids @ Keeper of the Home, and added some of the suggestions from the comments, too.  I’m also resolved to implement some of the steps  from Stephanie Langford’s post on the same blog, Cutting Down on Sugar: 21 Ways to Eat Less Sugar. [...]

  6. [...] 4) Eat less sugar. Last year I was completely sugar-free for a time and felt great! I’ve slipped a bit since then, and haven’t felt as great. To hear about why sugar isn’t good for you read here. [...]

  7. [...] it in half, but I enjoyed the mask and it wasn’t as messy as I had expected. 8. Cut down on refined sugar. I think this one needed to be more specific. I’m not sure if I cut down much, but I do [...]

  8. [...] family consume on a daily basis!You. Can. Do. It!And be sure to check out Stephanie’s list of ways to cut down on sugar consumption and usage in your kitchen!(Note: I still have sugar in my kitchen, and use it to make cookies every [...]

  9. [...] 6. Make my own toothpaste. DONE! 7. Treat myself to a mocha-frappuccino face mask. 8. Cut down on refined sugar. 9. Make this calendula salve. 10. Make my own facial clay mask. 11. Try this Kudzu-Apple Juice as [...]

  10. [...] 6. Make my own toothpaste. DONE! 7. Treat myself to a mocha-frappuccino face mask. 8. Cut down on refined sugar. 9. Make this calendula salve. 10. Make my own facial clay mask. 11. Try this Kudzu-Apple Juice as [...]

  11. [...] …eat a lot of sugar. Sugar suppresses a person's immune system.  Sugar inhibits phagocytosis, the process by which viruses and bacteria are engulfed and then literally chewed up by white blood cells.  The immune suppressing effect of sugar starts less than thirty minutes after ingestion and may last for five hours.  That's a long time to experience a glitch in your immune system, especially if you're considering going into public places where there are sure to be germs all around. [...]

  12. [...] daily. 6. Make my own toothpaste. 7. Treat myself to a mocha-frappuccino face mask. 8. Cut down on refined sugar. 9. Make this calendula salve. 10. Make my own facial clay mask. 11. Try this Kudzu-Apple Juice as [...]

  13. [...] and I have a coffee to "help me cope", it only makes me worse. Read these previous posts for tips on ditching sugar and breaking the caffeine [...]

  14. [...] Cut way back on all sugars (yes, even the more wholesome, unrefined ones, and getting rid of sugar entirely if you can is even better) [...]

  15. [...] reading posts from some very wise women on their own journey to live better lives! One such blog is Keeper of the Home. Stephanie recently posted about consuming too much sugar and ways to cut back. Her links at the [...]

  16. [...] 21 Ways to Eat Less Sugar – Keeper of the Home [...]