Real-life tips from celebrity nutritionist, mother, and registered dietitian Keri Glassman.
You know the friend who eats the icing off all the cupcakes? The same one who has no shame in calling frosting dinner? Well, that was me.
Many of us know the love affair with sugar can be a gut-wrenching one.
But as a nutritionist, I also understand the
Sugar is nostalgic. Our favorite treats can remind us of special memories, such as going to Grandma’s and eating her lemon meringue pie. For many of us, sugary treats are part of our daily behavior, like a seemingly harmless Hershey’s Kiss after lunch that leads to 10 more.
What makes it more difficult is the sugar lurking in foods that we don’t consider to be sweet at all.
From your morning coffee and cup of yogurt to the salad you have for lunch, and the energy bar you grab before hitting the gym, that healthy diet of yours could actually be jam packed with sugar.
But never fear: I’ve got you covered. Here are 12 tips to help you break up with — and by break up with, I mean divorce forever — the sweet stuff.
There’s a good chance that the granola or “good for you” high fiber cereal you have in the morning has a whole lot of added sugar — as many as
That’s nearly as much as
When it comes to packaged breakfast items, be sure to check for ingredients like:
- high fructose corn syrup
- evaporated cane syrup
- brown rice syrup
- carob syrup
Many of these are just other names for sugar.
My tactic for avoiding sugar altogether at breakfast is opting for a no-sugar, starchy protein-packed morning meal. This can be:
- a slice of Ezekiel sprouted grain toast topped with smashed avocado and a sliced hard-boiled egg
- a bowl of plain oatmeal with a tablespoon of chopped nuts and a dash of cinnamon
The protein in these options
That morning vanilla latte? It could contain close to 30 grams of sugar.
The good news is you don’t have to quit caffeine. Simply skip the syrups, the gourmet frozen drinks, and, of course, the extra packets of sugar.
Instead, go for coffee or tea with milk or an unsweetened alternative, and sprinkle a dash of nutmeg or cinnamon on top to help regulate your blood sugar.
If it’s really hard to cut back on your sweet morning brews, it’s OK to take it slow. Cut your sugar intake in half for 1 week, then cut it again the next week, and keep at it until you’ve completely forgotten about your latte routine.
Green juices can be deceiving. Yes, they have fruits and veggies in them, but that green drink you’re grabbing from Jamba Juice may be loaded with more fruit and sugar than actual greens!
Read those nutrition labels carefully. If you’re consciously consuming the fruit for the benefits of the fruit itself, why not grab a whole apple or banana instead? Whole fruits provide nutrients as well as fiber, which helps slow the digestion of natural sugars.
When it comes to hydration, I suggest carrying around a 32-ounce water bottle. Fill it up twice per day and you’ve hit all, if not more or close to, your hydration needs.
If plain water doesn’t excite you, make your own spa water by adding fresh mint and lemon slices.
If you’re having a tough time fighting the soda habit, go for bubbles, just make them chemical and calorie-free. You can also try adding frozen or fresh fruit to plain club soda for a refreshing alternative.
Before you reach for the low fat dressing to pour on your lunch salad, think again. Your “healthy” salad topping might be a total sugar bomb.
When manufacturers make low fat products, they often substitute sugar for fat. And guess what? The fat is actually far better for you. It helps you absorb the awesome nutrients in the salad, and keeps you feeling full longer.
Instead of opting for store-bought dressings, make your own. Combine these ingredients in a sealed jar:
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 1/4 tsp. cracked pepper
This makes six servings, and you can store what you don’t use in the fridge.
Not only is it more nutritious, you’ll likely be saving some money by making your own too.
A lunch filled with lean protein and veggies will keep you satisfied longer. This Chicken Apple Salad by The Gracious Pantry is a simple weekday lunch option.
Protein keeps you satisfied by reducing ghrelin, that pesky hunger hormone that gives you the false sense that you might waste away if you don’t quickly reach for a handful of candy.
The cold truth about restrictive dieting? When you’re not properly fueling yourself with an adequate amount of calories, the very first thing you crave is sugar. Go figure.
My go-to protein snacks are:
- mixed nuts, such as pecans, cashews, walnuts, and almonds
- Greek yogurt topped with hemp seeds
- two slices of fresh turkey
Chowing down on pre-workout fuel is beneficial to your fitness goals. But choosing a sugary yogurt, a packaged energy bar, or a machine-made smoothie may not benefit your overall weight loss journey.
Again, read those nutrition labels carefully and choose accordingly.
An average slice of prepackaged, multigrain bread has about
High fructose corn syrup is commonly added to bread products for extra flavor. Do your research and choose a brand containing 0 grams of sugar — you won’t miss it, I promise.
Ezekiel bread is always a winner in my book because it contains no added sugar.
Think less about the pasta itself, and more about what you’re putting on it.
Just one serving of traditional store-bought tomato sauce can have as many as
Or, for a truly healthier option, make a super simple fresh pesto instead!
In a food processer, blend:
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 cups basil
- 1 clove garlic
- 2 tbsp. pine nuts
- salt and pepper
It will give you a perfectly flavorful, authentic sauce.
When dipping, slathering, or marinating, consider your options carefully. Barbecue sauce and ketchup are loaded with sugar. Just 2 tablespoons of barbecue sauce can have around
Herbs and spices add flavor and boast a number of health benefits, such as
Up your seasoning game with:
And check out this recipe for Gluten-Free Barbecue Sauce by Naturally Savvy Recipes.
Certain snacks like peanut butter and crackers or trail mix can be great on-the-go options. Or, they can be sugar bombs.
Similar to low fat salad dressing, reduced-fat peanut butter may contain added sugar to make up for the flavorful fat that’s taken out.
Keep reading those nutrition lists carefully, and do your best to enjoy the natural flavors and sweetness of foods without the added sugar.
Here are some of my favorite low sugar snacks:
- sliced apple with 2 teaspoons of almond butter and a dash of cinnamon
- six olives and red pepper sticks
- 10 cashews and 6 oz. of Greek yogurt with drop of vanilla
- 2 tablespoons guacamole and endive
- 1 cup mixed berries and 1 tablespoon shredded coconut
A diet filled with the same foods day after day is almost guaranteed to leave you unsatisfied and craving sugar. You can avoid this by upping the variety of foods and drinks in your diet.
Purchase some in-season produce and put it to good use. I love eggplant in the late summer and early fall months for its versatility and nutrients. I throw it on the grill, bake it, or use it to make baba ghanoush and put it on everything, from whole grain crackers to lettuce for a superfast and delicious salad.
If you’re feeling a little adventurous, try this Low Carb Eggplant Pizza by the Diet Doctor.
Hormones, emotions, and memories can create a Pavlovian-like response to sugary comfort foods — a sensory cue that causes us to crave. This is why even the aroma of baking cookies can cause a sugar craving to kick in.
Acknowledge these moments for what they are when they happen, and move on.
On the flip side, it’s OK to indulge from time to time.
I’ve been known to walk into the office holding a chocolate chip cookie or a Rice Krispies treat and say, “Exhibit A: This, my friends, is emotional eating. But, I’m aware and I’m going to enjoy and acknowledge it and still have my grilled salmon and asparagus for dinner.” True story. It happens, and it’s OK!
There you have it: 12 simple, though not necessarily simple to do, steps to help you break up with sugar.
A successful sugar breakup should be focused on moderation and being mindful about what you really want. I can’t promise the process will be easy. But I can promise that by following these steps, you can dramatically reduce the amount of sugar in your diet.
And, with that, you may also experience improved energy, improved skin complexion, less bloating, better sleep, and perhaps improve your immune system, too.