When the World Health Organization recommended that people reduce their daily sugar intake to under 6 teaspoons, or 25 grams, they ramped up pressure to do something that a lot of you were probably trying to do already. We recommend that you eliminate any added sugars and syrups—and certainly keep your intake to at most 4 grams of added sugar per hour. If you’re capping your cookie quotient, or replacing sugary sodas with unsweetened teas and water with lemon, great work, we applaud you! Moves like these are important, but we know it can be hard to break a sweets habit, or resist the temptation to indulge in your favorite dessert.
Fortunately, there are other ways to cut down on sugar that won’t feel like a punishment. And if you already think you’re doing all you can, these tips will bolster your fight against these sweet beauty-busters.
1. Go easy on the sauce. Bottled sauces and condiments may seem like a negligible element of your meal, but they can pack a surprising amount of sugar. Ketchup and barbeque sauce each pack 3 grams of sugar into two little squeeze pouches. Salad dressings often contain 2 to 6 grams per 2-tablespoon serving. And jarred marinara sauce can have more than 10 grams of sugar in a 1/2-cup serving. No one wants their savory foods to be so bittersweet. Look for low- or no-sugar-added ketchup and BBQ sauce, and try making your own heart-healthy salad dressings and pasta sauces at home. They’ll all taste just as good and be so much better for you.
2. Be wary of “low fat” labels. Companies like to tout their products as being low-fat because they know that consumers are weight-conscious. They’re also banking on the likelihood that they won’t take the time to read the nutrition facts. To make up for the way that taking out the fat changes the taste of your favorite foods, companies often load them up with added sugar. Take peanut butter, for example. Skippy’s reduced fat options include corn syrup in the ingredients list—and it’s near the top, right after peanuts—so avoid this added-syrup product.
3. Fruit is a superb way to feed your sweet tooth while also reaping the benefits of natural antioxidant polyphenols. But not all fruit products are created equal (and none is as good as the real thing). Jellies and jams are often sugar sweetened, as are many yogurts with fruit in the cup. If you’re a fan of dried fruits, look for ones with no added sugar—they’re delicious enough the way nature made them!—and only buy jarred or canned fruits in water. Even a fruit cocktail packed in light syrup can have more than 30 grams of sugar per cup.
4. Soy milk, rice milk and almond milk are great, healthy alternatives to dairy. The flavored versions, however, can really undercut their healthfulness. Silk plain soy milk, for instance, has 6 grams of sugar per cup. Silk chocolate soy milk, on the other hand? Try 19 grams per cup. Just because soy sounds good for you, doesn’t mean chocolate soy milk is anything less than a treat. Remember: no more than 4 grams of added sugar or syrups per hour.
5. Wheat bread: Here’s another place where sugar can sneak in and mess up something you thought was good for you. Many Americans are used to the sweet taste of white bread, which is made with refined (that is, not whole grain) wheat flour. Whole grain flour contains the fibrous parts of wheat, which have a somewhat bitter taste. To make wheat bread more palatable to people who prefer white bread, manufacturers often add extra sugar. Well, if that doesn’t defeat the purpose! Pepperidge Farm white bread has 1.5 grams of sugar per slice. Pepperidge Farm 100 percent whole wheat bread has twice that, adding up to 6 grams of sugar per sandwich (now imagine adding ketchup). A similar wheat bread from Trader Joe’s only has 1 gram per slice.
A gram here, a gram there, does it really make a difference? Yes, it makes a huge difference to your arteries, and that makes a difference to your wrinkles, as well. If you were to have chocolate soy milk at breakfast, a sandwich on wheat bread with a condiment for lunch, spaghetti marinara and a salad for dinner, with fruit cocktail for dessert, you’re looking at nearly three times your daily recommendation of sugar right there. And you’d have to spread each meal out over three hours, which might be a great way to relax, but isn’t exactly convenient. Just a few easy swaps can cut out a ton of sugar—and you won’t even miss it, we swear.