Food is often central to our gatherings and conversations with friends and family. And it usually doesn’t take long before the conversation turns to what people are trying to eat less of. Enter sugar. Whether it’s naturally occurring from fruit or the kind that’s added to your favorite beverage or yogurt, everyone seems to have an opinion about sugar. In our 2019 Food & Health Survey, 14% of people said they were trying to limit the amount of sugar in their diet, and 67% said they were trying to avoid sugar entirely.
While avoiding sugar entirely isn’t entirely realistic — nor will it instantly make you healthier — there’s no doubt that many people could benefit from eating less added sugar. Most of us consume more added sugar than is recommended. If you’re trying to eat less added sugar and eat healthier, here are four ways you can get started.
Beverages: Primarily drink water, non- or low-fat milk and 100 percent juice.
Everyone loves a cold beverage, especially when the weather heats up. But it’s no secret that many beverages contain calories, including calories from added sugars. Try to keep the amount of added sugars you drink to a minimum by choosing lower-calorie options more often. In addition to water, milk and 100 percent juice, reach for unsweetened coffee or tea, flavored sparkling waters and drinks sweetened with low- or no-calorie sweeteners.
Fruit: Focus on the whole picture.
If you’re avoiding sugar entirely, then that means you’re probably avoiding fruit. That’s bananas, because fruit is one of the healthiest food groups you can eat. Fruit contributes vital nutrients to our diet that most of us don’t eat enough of — like fiber, potassium, folate and vitamin C. While some beverages like smoothies and juices can contribute to fruit intake, focus on whole fruits first. When selecting whole fruit, choose a wide variety of colors. When choosing canned, dried or frozen fruit, select those that are unsweetened or packed in their own juice or water.
Dairy: Try plain or unsweetened versions.
Dairy offers a variety of essential nutrients like protein, calcium, potassium and vitamin D. And while it’s true that dairy products contain naturally occurring sugars, not all dairy products contain added sugars. To reduce calorie intake from added sugars in dairy products, look for varieties with fewer added sugars on the nutrition facts label, incorporate plain or unsweetened yogurt into your breakfast or baked goods, or choose dairy products sweetened with low- and no-calorie sweeteners.
Nutrition Facts: Read and compare between labels.
New Nutrition Facts labels have information on added sugars. You may start seeing the new labels soon or you may have already noticed that some items are already using it. If you’re looking to reduce the amount of added sugars you eat, read and compare between new Nutrition Facts labels to identify which product has fewer grams of added sugars. As you encounter the new labels, here are two tips to help you correctly interpret sugars information.
- Use the “Total Sugars” line to determine the full amount of sugars in a labeled serving. This amount represents both naturally occurring and added sugars, added together.
- Directly below the “Total Sugars” line you’ll see the “Includes Xg Added Sugars” line. Use this number to determine the amount of sugars that have been added to the product. This amount does not include naturally occurring sugars.