4 Tips for Cutting Sugar from your Diet

Overcoming sugar withdrawals can be the worst part of eating healthier, but these two dietitians share their secrets for success.

Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

As the weather heats up, it’s easy to reach for ice-cold fraps and sugary drinks to quench the thirst, but artificial sweetners are a sure way to slow down your summer fun. Registered dietician Danielle Omar and nutrition counselor Katherine Tallmadge share their top tips for satisfying the sweet tooth while cutting out added sugar.

1. Eat More

Both Tallmadge and Omar named not eating enough as the number one pitfall people make when it comes to their diet. Fasting between meals causes blood sugar to drop, leading to sugar cravings.

“I don’t think you should eat when you’re not hungry, but it’s totally normal to be hungry every 3-4 hours,” said Omar. Stay in front of your hunger by pairing nuts and fruit for a snack.

For meals, add avocado or hemp seed to your salads, and nut butter to a smoothie. “Having fiber and fat in your meal will help slow digestion of sugar into your bloodstream,” said Omar.

For a low-sugar dessert, try Omar’s banana chia pudding recipe.

2. Read the Labels

“The important thing is to look at the ingredient list instead of the facts panel. If sugar is the first or second ingredient, avoid it, as ingredients are listed by predominance,” said Tallmadge.

Learn the tricks of the trade as well: companies often list sugar under several different names, which will lower its ranking in the ingredients listing.

“Cane juice and other juices are there just to sweeten. I don’t like when they list them out separately so ‘sugar’ is not at the top of the list,” said Omar.

“It’s healthful if the ingredient list is 100% fruit juice, but fruit drinks have mostly sugar. A major Harvard study found people who drink sodas or sugar-sweetened beverages consumed more calories daily, were more overweight, and more likely to have diabetes,” said Tallmadge, warning against bottled teas and coffees flavored with syrups.

“Any time a label says ‘sugar free,’ that means there’s artificial sweetners,” said Omar.

3. Plan Out Your Day

“I think people are hyper-afraid of sugar,” said Tallmadge. “People go overboard and avoid fruit and yogurt, and that’s really dangerous to their diet and health,” she said.

Five servings of fruits and vegetables is the official recommendation, but Tallmadge suggests eating more naturally sweet foods like fruits three times per day to curb the sugar cravings and cause us to be more satisfied with small amounts of sweetness.

“But of course there’s the other extreme as well, with too many cakes and muffins,” said Tallmadge. “I don’t believe in extremes.”

Tallmadge suggests saving 10 percent of your daily caloric needs for extra sweets. For example, if you normally intake 1,500 calories to maintain your weight, 150 of those calories can go to a bit of dark chocolate.

“And splurge once a week,” she added. It’s unrealistic to avoid sugar, she said, explaining we are designed from an evolutionary standpoint to want sugar.

4. Go Outside and Play

Being outdoors and getting plenty of physical activity causes us to crave less and feel less anxiety, said Tallmadge.

To refuel from a sunny day outdoors, try Tallmadge’s kale peach salad recipe.

Want more fitness news? Sign up for Washingtonian’s Well+Being newsletter, and get fitness tips from local pros, learn how to make delicious, healthy meals, and more.