According to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee has cited sugar as one of the biggest health concerns and recommends that sugar make up 10% or less of our daily calorie intake. The American Heart Association recommends that no more than half of your daily discretionary calories comes from added sugars (about 6 teaspoons or 100 calories for women, and 9 teaspoons or 150 calories for men). The CDC reports that the average American eats between 13 and 20 teaspoons of added sugar a day (about 230 calories for women, and 335 for men).

While sugar is naturally found in foods like fruits and vegetables, this type has little effect on your blood sugar and is considered very healthy.

Fruits and vegetables also contain lots of healthy vitamins and minerals.

The danger is from added sugars in processed foods.

Here are just a few that sugar impacts:

  • Hormonal imbalances like PCOS and endometriosis
  • Low energy / fatigue
  • Excess belly fat
  • Problems sleeping
  • Depression, mood disorders
  • Skin issues, acne
  • And the list goes on….

Tips to limit your sugar intake

Make your own snacks
Ever read the label of your ‘snack’ bar or your ‘protein’ bar? Chances are there are several different sugars in there that you didn’t even know you were eating. For example, look at this Nature’s Valley “granola bar” which actually has 5 different types of sugar in it: YIKES!

Ingredients: Roasted Peanuts, Corn Syrup, Sugar, Whole Grain Oats, Palm Kernel Oil, Rice Flour, Whole Grain Wheat, Vegetable Glycerin, Whey, Peanut Butter (peanuts, salt), Fructose, Canola Oil, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Peanut Flour, Corn Starch, Barley Malt Extract, Honey Roasted Almond Butter (almonds, honey, maltodextrin, palm oil, mixed tocopherols), Baking Soda, Natural Flavor, Vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) Added to Retain Freshness.


Cut Back on Sugary Drinks
Some popular drinks contain heaping amounts of added sugar. Sodas, energy drinks, and fruit drinks contribute an astounding 44% of the added sugar in the American diet. So-called “healthy” drinks, such as smoothies and fruit juices, can still contain eye-watering amounts of it. Many of my clients (before we start working together) make smoothies with juice as the base of the smoothie. I know many were led to believe that juice is full of nutrients. However, the problem is, juice is stripped of the fiber and all that is left is the sugar. One cup of orange juice can add 20-25g of sugar, which is the equivalent of a Mars bar!! I’m not saying don’t ever drink juice, just watch those portion sizes!

Read your sauce labels (salad dressing, BBQ sauce and even ketchup)
I dare you to look at the back of your BBQ sauce or your salad dressing bottles. They likely have a TON of sugar for even just 1 TBSP of sauce.

Watch out for dried fruit
Cranberries are the devil when it comes to dried fruit, as they are often coated with added sugar or cane juice, making them even sweeter than they naturally are.

Dried fruit can be misleading even if it doesn’t have added sugar that is because when you dehydrate the fruit, it shrinks up. So, suddenly you can sit down and eat 10 apricots in 1 handful, which although it’s fruit, is still adds up…the amount of sugar that is.

If you are having dried fruit, portion it out and pair it with some raw nuts or seeds.

Slowly modify your recipes
This is a tip I used with a family I’m currently working with. They have two kids, who both love the taste of sugar, and don’t really like anything that doesn’t taste sweet. Rather than change their recipes all at once, we’re slowly reducing how much sugar is in their meals. For example, with their morning oatmeal, there used to be lots of sugar that they mixed in to make the oatmeal sweet. First, we changed it to maple syrup, a less processed form of sugar, and then each week, reducing the quantities by about 1/4 and adding some fruit for natural sweetness. This allows for their taste buds to adapt, and when you’re taste buds aren’t used to a lot of sugar, fruit tastes sweet.

Eat dark chocolate and raw cacao powder
I would never tell you to stop eating chocolate, but what I will say is to stop eating milk chocolate, and anything that is less than 75% dark chocolate. By nature of the 75% cacao, it means that there will be less sugar in the chocolate.

Use taste and texture properly
Make sure each meal has a variety of tastes and textures. The more tastes and textures, the recipe has the more satisfying it is to our brain and the less likely we are to want to mindlessly eat more or need dessert.

A general rule of thumb I’ve learned is that each recipe should have a combination of sweet, salty and bitter. If you’re thinking about a salad, this could be a pinch of tamari (or salt) in the dressing, some fresh berries on top and some lemon or vinegar in the dressing.

By also adding more texture, it also makes for a more satiating meal. Examples would be adding some nuts or seeds on top for crunch, along with some avocado for creaminess.

Replace your Sports Drinks
I grew up drinking Gatorade, Powerade and Vitamin Water after playing sports, to cure hangovers, and to boost energy. These drinks contain LOTS of artificial colors, ingredients and are pure sugar. If you do in fact do strenuous exercise, drink a coconut water after, which is rich in potassium, or have a Medjool date which is natural sugar, with the fiber it helps to balance your blood sugar.

Drink Kombucha
If you are craving something sweet, rather than chugging a soda (diet or not), reach for a Kombucha. The kombucha contains healthy bacteria as it is a fermented drink.

Drink a fruity herbal tea
Stock up on some fruity herbal teas. It has a naturally sweet flavor with no sugar. Just be careful the tea doesn’t have a ton of artificial ingredients.

What ways are you cutting back on sugar? Share below in the comments and continue the conversation on Instagram #nutrition_connections

Carol Aguirre MS, RD/LDN