6 Swaps to Slash Added Sugars from Your Diet
More than half of all Americans say they're trying to eat less sugar.
But it's hard to quit something that tastes so good—especially when your brain is hard-wired to love it. In a study from Oregon Research Institute, sipping a sweet milkshake caused the "reward center" of the brain (the part that floods the body with feel-good chemicals) to light up.
The more sugar the milkshakes contained, the more this brain region—the same one activated by drugs like cocaine—glowed.
So it's no wonder that on average we consume double the recommended amount of sugar. The American Heart Association says women should have no more than 100 calories of sugar daily (about 6 tsp.), men no more than 150 calories (about 9 tsp). One teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams of sugar.
But all sugars aren't created equal when it comes to your health. Those guidelines single out only added sugar, the kind put in during processing and baking. For foods that contain natural sugars, like fruit and dairy, the beneficial nutrients outweigh the amount of sugar.
It's also really hard to overeat natural sugars; it's the ones added to processed foods that sneak up on you. But since the FDA has updated nutrition labels to call out added sugar in products, it's easier to make better choices.
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So check that nutrition label, and let these smart swaps help you cut down on your added sugar intake.
1. Salad Dressing
Swap Out: Honey mustard dressing (5 g added sugar in 2 Tbsp.) for ranch dressing (2 g added sugar in 2 Tbsp.)
Added Sugar Savings: 3 grams
Some salad dressing varieties, like honey mustard, are sweeter than others. Fat-free or reduced-fat dressings also tend to replace the fat with sugar. Full-fat salad dressings may be higher in calories but the fat helps you absorb vitamins in your salad. Making your own salad dressing can also help you cut down on added sugars. You control the ingredients when you make your own. Try these recipes for healthy homemade salad dressing.
2. Chicken Marinades
Swap Out: BBQ chicken (5 g added sugar in 1 piece) for Buffalo chicken (0 g added sugar in 1 piece)
Added Sugar Savings: 5 grams
You wouldn't necessarily think that the protein on your plate (in this case chicken) is delivering sugar, but BBQ sauce is one sweet marinade (teriyaki sauces and anything with honey or maple in the name also tend to be sugary). If Buffalo isn't your thing, try oil and vinegar, mustard, yogurt or pesto for a flavor boost without any added sugar.
Swap Out: Ketchup (3 g added sugar in 1 Tbsp.) for yellow mustard (0 g added sugar in 1 Tbsp.)
It seems innocent to pour out a squeeze of ketchup onto your plate, but you are adding almost a whole teaspoon of added sugar in every tablespoon of ketchup. Stick to mustard—Dijon, spicy brown or yellow—to add flavor without sugar.
Added Sugar Savings: 3 grams
4. Coffee Order
Swap Out: Mocha latte (18 g added sugar in 1 medium latte) for a plain latte (0 g added sugar in 1 medium latte)
Added Sugar Savings: 18 grams
You've probably heard it before, but those fancy coffee shop drinks are sugar bombs! Dress up plain coffee or a latte with a shake of cinnamon. Keep mochas, shakes and flavored lattes to a once-in-a-while treat.
5. Morning Pastry
Swap Out: Chocolate chip muffin (43 g added sugar) for chocolate glazed doughnut (16 g added sugar)
Added Sugar Savings: 27 grams
Most people think of doughnuts as being really high in sugar, and muffins may seem like a healthier option. But in this case, a muffin has almost three times the added sugar of a doughnut. Bakery muffins are quite large these days, and many of them are essentially cupcakes without frosting. Make your own healthier muffin at home to satisfy a craving with less added sugar.
Swap Out: Tomato soup (8 g added sugar in 1 cup) for chicken noodle soup (0 g added sugar in 1 cup)
Added Sugar Savings: 8 grams
Soup doesn't seem sweet, but tomato soups (and tomato sauces) are actually a culprit for sneaky added sugar. Check labels when you buy soup and scan the ingredient list for sugar. Or, you may have guessed by now, you can make your own tomato soup without any added sugar.