If you’ve been to a doctor, you probably filled out multiple page questionaires riddled with tests and questions about your eating habits; mainly, your intake of fat, sugar and salt. It’s also probable that your physician advised you to monitor your daily sugar consumption — which, according to experts at the Institute of Medicine, should be a very small fraction of the total daily calories you consume.
You probably already know that lowering your sugar intake is one of the most important factors that may help reduce high blood sugar levels and decrease your risk of type 2 diabetes. And according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, these two factors, over time, have a very significat impact on heart health as well.
Just like many others you probably tried to cut sugar completely or at least, attempted to reduce the amount of sugar you eat on a daily basis, but it’s also likely you still found this everyday struggle almost impossible to win. Fortunately, there are many strategies you can use and implement in your quest to reduce daily sugar intake. Here, registered dietitian Jenny Champion offers five small ways to reduce sugar in your meals and still get a big, flavorful payoff:
1. Go frozen.
Love the sweet taste of canned fruit with your breakfast? “Swap it with no-sugar-added frozen fruit,” says Champion. You’ll cut the sugar and still enjoy a dose of fruity sweetness.
2. Make a better trail mix.
Calling all trail mix lovers: Reduce the sugar in this tasty treat by replacing chocolate candy bits with crunchy cereal (say, 1 cup), suggests Champion. Swapping this amount can actually reduce the amount of sugar by upward of 60 percent, providing a unique texture that satisfies the need for sweetness and crunch. However, read labels carefully, many cereals are packed with sugars and that’s exactly what you’re trying to avoid.
3. Rethink barbecue sauce.
We’re often heavy-handed with sauces during barbecue season, and unfortunately, “barbecue sauce is high in sugar,” says Champion. Instead of packaged solutions, zero out added sugar by coating food in small amount of healthy oil (such as olive oil) and rubbing on a mixture of cumin, chili powder and other spices. “I recommend using these healthy fats (in moderation) and spices over barbecue sauces that are packed with sugar,” she says.
4. Make this DIY topping.
Speaking of condiments, you may be hard-pressed to guess which one is one of the top sugar-containing culprits. The answer: Ketchup. “It’s loaded with both sodium and sugar,” says Champion. Consider buying a reduced-sugar or sugar-free option, or opting for a DIY version with chopped, fresh tomatoes instead.
5. Eat healthier dessert.
It may seem obvious, but choosing fruit instead of cake or brownies can help cut down on sugar, says Champion. Yes, some “fruit still has sugar, but it also has the potential to provide filling fiber and healthy vitamins and nutrients,” she adds.
Vanessa Voltolina is the managing editor of Healthy Starts Made Simple. A former digital editor at AOL Health and NBCUniversal, she has contributed to such national outlets as Weight Watchers, HuffPost Healthy Living and Spa Finder Wellness. She specializes in health, nutrition, fitness and lifestyle content and is currently pursuing her master’s degree in clinical nutrition at New York University.