How To Reduce Sugar Intake (+ foods to fight sugar cravings)

reduce sugar intake

Looking for the best ways to reduce sugar intake? Then you’ve come to the right place.*

Here’s the truth.

Sugar is the ultimate diet saboteur.

It provides little to no nutritional value with lots of calories.


The sweet, toxic stuff is the leading cause of many diseases.

The list is terrifying and includes type II diabetes, obesity, infertility, impotence, depression, tooth decay, and high blood pressure.

You name the disease, and there’s a good chance that eating too much sugar makes it worse.

Would you believe roughly 16% of the typical American diet comes from sugar, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)?

As a nation, we are simply eating too much of it.

Here Are More Shocking Stats:

Research shows that our diets have historically shifted, from consuming roughly 10 pounds of sugar per person per year in the 1800s to about 150 pounds per person, per year today.

That’s a lot of sugar!

To put it into perspective: the average American consumes about three pounds of sugar every week, which weighs the same as half a gallon of milk, a box of wine, or a big can of Crisco shortening.

Not Horrified?

Here is more: Surveys show that the average American diet includes roughly  30 teaspoons of added sugar daily.

This translates to more than 500 calories, or the same as downing two 20-ounce sodas.

So, are you now serious about kicking this nasty habit?


Here are the six strategies you need.

My Sugar Addiction

For the longest time, sugar was my drug.

As far back as I can remember, I was a comfort eater, and sweet stuff was my biggest weakness.

Biscuits, donuts, chocolate bars, sugary breads, muffins, and even heavy cream.

I could never get enough of it!

I knew sugar was bad for me.

I was also well aware that I was consuming more than the daily recommended 25 grams.

Still, knowing something is bad for you and doing something about it are two completely different things, right?

If you’re reading this, you probably know that cutting sugar is easier said than done—and for many reasons.

For starters, sugar is everywhere.

The average diet is filled with so much of the stuff.

Not only that, some refined sugar is added to virtually every processed food.

And don’t get me started on how delicious foods with added sugar are.

I thought I could get away with my sugar addiction since I was leading a very active lifestyle—running, weight lifting, yoga, you name it.

I know now that’s no excuse.

Being a runner does not give us carte blanche to eat whatever we want.

The fact is, you cannot outrun a crappy diet, no matter how fast you are.

Roughly 18 months ago, I reached a turning point in my life.

After assessing my family’s medical history (metabolic syndrome, diabetes, heart disease) and learning more about the harmful effects of sugar, I finally pulled myself up by my bootstraps and decided to clean up my diet.

It took 11 months of trying different things (and failing most of the time miserably,) but I finally became what most people would consider sugar-free.

I’m proud of my achievement.

I still have a cheat day now and then, but as long as I’m doing it by choice, I have things under control—and with that feeling comes great power.

The takeaway?

If you take anything from my story, realize that this process does not happen overnight.

It takes a lot of patience and strength to make it happen, but long term, it’s worth the trouble.

How To Reduce Sugar Intake

What follows are some of the steps (not necessarily in chronological order) that I took to get rid of sugar without going bonkers or feeling deprived.

Eating the way I’m describing today will help you kick sugar to the curb but also help you feel lighter, more energized, and much healthier.

That’s a bunch of good things if you ask me.

  1. Admit You’re an Addict

The first step toward complete detox is to acknowledge your addiction.

Wait, what?

What are you talking about, David?

I hate to break it to you, but here’s the scary truth about the sweet stuff.

Suppose you’re eating a lot of it. In that case, sugar not only takes a toll on your waistline and overall health, but recent research has shown that it can also trigger addiction-like symptoms and that sugar intake stimulates the same pleasure centers of the brain as heroin or cocaine.

More specifically, sugar activates the nucleus accumbens, the region of the brain that produces dopamine.

Dopamine is the neurotransmitter directly associated with pleasure.

One study from Connecticut College assessed how the much-loved Oreo cookie affected rats’ brains and behavior.

The scientists found that Oreos could be as addictive as cocaine.

Now I’m not telling you that you should never eat an Oreo.

That would just be cruel.

But you need to understand that just like quitting hard drugs, kicking the sugar habit can result in intense cravings and withdrawal, calling for an actual detox process to wean off.

To determine the seriousness of your addiction, take the Yale Food Addiction Scale test.

The test consists of 25 questions designed to help you determine whether you have a sugar dependency.

It also measures high-fat food dependency.

  1. Cut Back On Bread

Although it’s the bread and butter of the Western world diet (pun intended), there are many reasons why bread has to go.

Bread—even whole wheat varieties—is loaded with carbohydrates and refined sugar.

It’s also mostly low in nutrients and fiber.

This is especially true for white bread, which can have dire consequences for your weight and overall health.

Don’t take my word for it.

Science also agrees.

According to a study from the University of Navarra in Spain, eating more than three or four slices of white bread daily was linked to a 40 percent higher risk of becoming obese.

For more on why you should ditch white bread, check the following studies:

I know it’s hard to give up on bread completely.

Bread is universal.

It smells and tastes delicious. Who can resist it?

That being said, with just a little bit of motivation and discipline, kicking bread out of your daily menu is not an impossible feat.

I’d recommend you start by saying no to sandwiches, avoiding the bread basket at restaurants, or limiting your bread intake to just one slice per meal.

If you can’t live without bread, try one of these awesome low-carb bread recipes that are convenient and easy to make.

You can also swap out white bread with healthier whole grains options, such as barley, quinoa, brown rice, or whole-wheat bread.

  1. Go For Low-Carb Snacks

When cutting down on sugar, it’s good to have a few healthy snacks in case you get hungry between meals.

This is especially true during the first few weeks of your new regime.

Here’s the kicker.

Most snacks are full of sugar and unhealthy additives.

Chips, crackers, and pretzels are nothing but sugar bombs with little to no nutritional value.

This is why snacking how we’re used to can do more harm than good.

Here’s what I recommend: swap junk snacks for healthy ones.

The right snacks are high in healthy fats, lean protein, and fiber but low in sugar, grains, and carbs.

They leave you feeling full, which helps you consume less of your upcoming meal and throughout the day.

Here are a few of my favorites

  • Cheese
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts
  • Peanuts
  • Hazelnuts
  • Avocados
  • Berries
  • Non-starchy veggies
  • Kiwi
  1. No Sugary Drinks

If you want to eat less sugar, boycotting sugar-sweetened drinks is one of the first things you should do.

It was my first step, and it greatly impacted the rest of my diet.

Sugary drinks are bad for you for a slew of reasons.

They pack lots of added sugar, which (I hate to sound like a broken record, but here I go again) increases your risk for type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and weight gain when consumed in excess.

Not convinced?

Check out this research.

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health found a strong link between soda consumption and an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and other health ailments.

Here are more studies:

Just like sugar in general, we’re guzzling too much of it.

According to the National Institute of Health, soda is the third largest source of calorie intake in the typical American diet.

And the Center For Science in the Public Interest has revealed that sweet beverages make up almost half of the added sugar in the average American’s diet.

You can’t get away with limiting yourself to a can a day.

A 12-ounce can (355ml) can pack 30 and 50 grams of sugar, more than a day’s worth.

Want even more perspective?

One can of soda is the equivalent of:

  • One cup of ice cream
  • Four Tim Tams
  • Three English muffins
  • Four large peaches

This is why you need to remove carbonated drinks from your life.

Instead, keep your taste buds happy with water with fresh fruit, black coffee, or unsweetened tea.

cut sugar from your diet
  1. Stop Drinking Fruit Juice

One of the biggest diet myths is that fruit juices are healthy.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Although they contain some nutrients and minerals, fruit juices are glorified junk food.

I’d go as far as to say they have no redeeming qualities.

You’re simply extracting the sugar and the water from the fruit and tossing away the healthy fiber.

The truth is that fruit juices aren’t much different from regular Coke.

One cup of apple juice contains roughly 29 grams of sugar, and a cup of grape juice has 35 grams.

That’s not far from what you’ll find in a 12-ounce Coke, which racks up 39 grams of sugar.

You might as well be guzzling Coca-Cola!

Go for water instead.

It’s calorie-free and good for you!

You can also add flavor to your water by tossing in a slice of lemon or orange.

Or better yet, enjoy a piece of the whole fruit that still has its nutrient and fiber intact.

  1. Use Sweeteners Instead of Sugar

Get this: One tablespoon of white sugar packs in 12 grams of carbs in the form of sucrose, which is 50 percent glucose and 50 percent fructose.

That’s a lot of sugar.

Here’s the good news.

A few sugar-free sweeteners on the market may even boast a few health benefits.

Some of these options are calories-free, while others that are not likely to boost your sugar intake contain only a few calories.

Some of the highly recommended brands include:

  • Stevia. This is a very popular low-calorie sweetener. Extracted from the Stevia Rebaudiana plant leaves, Stevia has almost no calories. It has also been found to help regulate blood sugar and blood pressure in people with diabetes.
  • Xylitol. This one is a sugar alcohol derived from birch bark that also occurs naturally in many fruits and vegetables. Xylitol has 2.4 calories per gram, roughly two-thirds of the caloric value of table sugar, but packs in 100 percent of the sweetness.
  • Erythritol. Another sugar alcohol found in some fruits, erythritol, has 0.24 calories per gram, or roughly 6 percent of the caloric value of table sugar, with 70 percent of the sweetness.

Note – These sugar alternatives are not for everyone, but if you’re willing to give them a chance—as I did—they will help your sugar-free journey.

  1. Focus on Non-Starchy Vegetables

I love vegetables—and for all the right reasons.

Vegetables are an ideal source of nutrients and fiber.

They’re also rich in phytochemicals (plant compounds), many of which stimulate the immune system, slow the growth rate of cancer cells, reduce inflammation, etc.

That said, when I got serious about getting rid of sugar—especially after I started the keto diet—I realized that some veggies contain more sugar than others.

Avoid starchy ones like carrots, peas, beets, sweet potatoes, corn, and lima beans when choosing veggies.

These have drastically higher sugar content, which means that eating them can quickly take you to your maximum daily sugar intake—and you don’t want that.

Instead, opt for low-carb, non-starchy vegetables.  The following are among the best:

  • Broccoli
  • Cucumber
  • Leeks
  • Artichoke
  • Asparagus
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Kohlrabi
  • Mushroom
  • Okra
  • Baby corn
  • Cauliflower
  • Onions
  • Chayote
  • Celery
  • Jicama
  • Bamboo shoots
  • Cabbage
  • Daikon
  • Radishes
  • Salad greens
  • Swiss chard
  • Turnips
  • Peppers
  • Sprouts
  • Squash
  • Eggplant

You have plenty of options.

Who says eating low carb is a hassle?

  1. Eat Low Carb Dairy

As someone who’s been on the keto diet for quite a while, I’m very familiar with the benefits of low-carb dairy on fitness and health.

Dairy products are filling and can be very healthy.

Good sources help reduce appetite, promote satiety, reduce heart disease risks, and more.

Most dairy products are also rich in magnesium, calcium, and other vital minerals.

Dairy is also a good source of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), a naturally occurring fatty acid that several studies have shown to promote health.

But not all dairy is created equal.

Some products, such as frozen yogurt, fruit-flavored yogurt, and puddings, are bad options on a low-carb diet.

They’re typically laden with carbs, sugar, and several other additives.

But that’s no reason to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

You have to choose dairy foods that have less sugar added in.

Make sure you’re eating full-fat foods.

Low-fat products such as yogurt, shakes, and smoothies contain more sugar than their full-fat counterparts.

  1. Plan your Meals

The best way to build healthier eating habits is to plan meals, especially when trying to lose 10 pounds.

Knowing what to eat, when, and how much to eat in advance frees up a lot of mental energy and makes it more likely that you stay on the right path.

Failing to plan is, after all, planning to fail.

Having a plan is especially helpful during hectic days—when you’re more likely to grab convenient or take-out foods, which tend to be high in calories, sugars, and fat.

Each week, preferably on a Sunday, sit down and plan what you’ll have for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the rest of the week, then use that list to guide your shopping trips and food decisions.

  1.  Get Enough Sleep

For many, hunger pangs strike the hardest after a terrible night’s sleep.

Have a few bad nights in a row, and things worsen.

A good night’s sleep can help eliminate cravings for sugary foods; this isn’t just my subjective observation.

Science has found an undeniable link between sleep deprivation and unhealthy food cravings.

British researchers found when subjects increased their nightly sleep, they experienced fewer cravings.

Remarkably, they reduced their intake by up to 10 grams the day after a good night’s sleep.

So, why does sleep deprivation lead to sugar cravings?

The prevailing theory says: lack of sleep affects your hormones.

It decreases the hormones that suppress your appetite while increasing the hormones that make you hungry.

In short, the fewer hours you spend under the sheets asleep, the hungrier you’ll feel.

Try to get at least seven to nine hours of uninterrupted sleep every night by incorporating the following changes into your lifestyle:

  • Sleep in a completely dark room to increase the production of the melatonin hormone— it’s key for a more restful night.
  • Avoid screens in the hours before going to bed and late at night. I know — it’s such a hard thing to do, but it’s worth it.
  • Go to bed at roughly the same time every day, even on weekends.
  • Cultivate a meditation practice before sleep to help wind you down before you doze off.
  1. Practice Out of Sight Out of Mind

Here’s something you can’t argue with: if your pantry and fridge are full of sweet indulgences, you will probably indulge.

It’s as simple as that.

I don’t know about you, but I’m more likely to go looking for a treat if I know I have a chocolate bar or a bag of cookies nearby.

Go through your cupboards, fridge, and freezer and eliminate as much temptation as possible.

Lose all the chocolate cookies, the soda, the organic chocolate, the Pop-Tarts, Halloween candy, and other sugar-rich items.

Leave nothing to chance.

Be ruthless.

In brief, declare your living premises a junk-food-free area.

This is how you set your environment up for success.

Even if you can’t control every environment, at least you can control certain ones—starting with your kitchen.

  1. Eat Your Protein

The major dietary change that helped me the most while cracking down on sugar (as well as with the cravings) was simply adding more protein to my diet.

Doing so could make me feel satisfied longer and keep temptation at bay.

Protein is good for you for many reasons.

It triggers the release of the fullness hormone PYY, which helps you reduce hunger and keep you sated longer.

Protein also hinders the release of the hunger hormone ghrelin and boosts your metabolic rate.

I could go on and on about the importance of protein, but you can check my full post here.

I encourage you to add more protein to your meals and snacks, especially breakfast.

With a protein-rich breakfast—think omelet or bacon—you’ll be less likely to reach for your favorite junk food between your main meals.

Here are some of the best high-quality protein sources:

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Nuts
  1. Read The Labels

Once I got serious about cutting down on sugar, I did a lot of research.

I taught myself how to properly read and interpret ingredient labels and learned about the technical jargon that just means sugar.

It was an eye-opening experience.

I did my best to crack down on products with too much sugar (think juice, soda, candy, sauce, crackers, desserts, and condiments).

The whole process didn’t happen overnight, but it was surely worth the headache, and it will be for you too.

Here’s my promise.

Once you learn this simple skill, you’ll quickly realize how much sugar is in everything.

Here’s what you need to know: sugar goes by many names.

Here are just a few:

  • Molasses
  • Fructose corn syrup
  • Dried cane syrup
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Agave
  • Organic cane sugar
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Sucrose
  • Glucose
  • Maltose
  • Fructose
  • Lactose
  • And other words ending in “ose”

If more than a few forms of sugar appear on an ingredient list, ditch that food on the spot—it’s far less healthy than you want it to be.

  1. Drink water

Water has a lot to offer.

It flushes toxins out of your system, hydrates your skin, gives you more energy, and ensures proper functioning at the cellular level.

On top of all that, here’s the kicker for kicking the sweetness habit: staying hydrated also curbs sugar cravings.

Thirst is frequently confused with hunger.

Sometimes all it takes is drinking a glass of water to squash cravings.

For some people (including yours truly), drinking water eliminates 80 percent of cravings.

That’s a good thing if you ask me.

Before you hit the vending machine or reach for that box of doughnuts, drink a glass or two of water, then wait a few moments.

You may find that your body was calling for water—not food  — and the pesky pangs go away.

To ensure your body is well hydrated throughout the day, drink first thing in the morning, carry a water bottle with you, and drink plenty before and after exercise.

Further, keep tabs on your pee color.

If it’s dark, it means that you need more fluids.

Remember, once you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

Then it’s too late, isn’t it?

  1. Go Keto

I’ve always shied away from extreme diets or eating regimens.

Nonetheless, the simplicity and the effectiveness of the ketogenic diet appealed to me, so roughly nine months ago, I decided to try it.

I avoided carbs and started consuming all sorts of healthy fats—cheese, avocados, nuts, salmon, you name it.

After surviving the hellish keto flu within two months, I lost 10 pounds of pure fat, increased my energy level, and changed my whole approach to eating.

What’s not to like?

What’s keto eating all about?

The ketogenic diet is a carb-limiting, moderate-protein, high-fat eating style.

This type of eating forces your body into ketosis by shunning carbs and getting 70 to 80 percent of your daily calories from healthy fats.

This is a metabolic state in which the body switches to burning fat cells as its main energy source instead of glycogen.

For the full guide on the keto diet, check my post here.

If making small changes to your diet doesn’t help you crack down on sugar, I recommend trying the keto diet for a couple of weeks.

Yes, it will be entirely new, but give it a try and see for yourself.

Eat These 6 Foods To Reduce Your Sugar Cravings

Some types of food can help you ward off those unwanted cravings while providing your body with essential nutrients to perform at its best.

Would you like to learn more about these foods? Then keep on reading.

In this article, I’ll share some of the best foods to help you fight sugar cravings.

Sounds great?

Let’s get started, then.

  1. Vegetables

The first step for removing sugar is to get your body to start craving healthier foods.

As far as research says and my experience dictates, the best way to do so is to eat plenty of vegetables. Like a lot of vegetables. And I know it requires a lot of commitment.

Vegetables are high in fiber, low in calories, and rich in various health-promoting nutrients. They’re also a good source of chromium, a nutrient that helps regulate blood sugar levels.

To satisfy your cravings, better yet, indulge in root vegetables. These typically grow underground, which allows them to soak in a high level of nutrients from the soil.

Root veggies are also high in fiber, beta-carotene, Vitamin C, and key minerals, such as potassium.

What’s more?

Root veggies are a healthy source of complex carbohydrates, which do not affect blood sugar levels as much as simple carbs—one of the main ingredients in junk food.

The best root vegetables for taming sugar cravings include:

  • Sweet potatoes,
  • Carrots,
  • Turnips,
  • Onions,
  • Acorn squash,
  • Butternut squash,

At a minimum, add four to six cups of veggies to your daily eating menu, preferably from different sources. You should also have them on every breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack.

  1. Lean Protein

Whether you’re looking to shed pounds or gain muscle, protein is good for you.

It also works very well for reducing sugar cravings, as research shows that substituting sugary foods with lean sources of protein help regulate blood sugar levels.

Protein behaves, as research shows, as an appetite suppressor, making it ideal for controlling hunger pangs.

What’s more?

Pairing a lean source of protein with carb-rich foods slows down the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, which, again, is another way that helps prevent future cravings.

Additionally, research out of the University of Wollongong in Australia found that consuming two to three ounces of protein increases energy by 25 percent and fat metabolism by up to 32 percent.

I can go on and on about how protein is a must. But I think by now you get the big picture.

Here are the ten best sources of lean protein for your eating pleasure:

  • Fish
  • Seafood
  • Lean beef—grass-fed, preferably.
  • White-meat poultry
  • Lean pork
  • Eggs
  • Low-fat cheese
  • Low-fat milk
  • Beans

Nuts and seeds

  1. Nuts

Nuts are a nutrition powerhouse.

Most nuts are mildly sweet, filling, and loaded with health-boosting nutrients and minerals.

They score high on fiber, healthy fats, and proteins—these all take longer to digest than refined sugars or carbohydrates.

But here is a little caveat.

Nuts are not your typical low-calorie foods, so when consumed excessively, they can cause serious calorie—and diet— damage. For example, a one-ounce serving of nuts can pack 140 calories.

Keep an eye on serving sizes—and do not go overboard.

Here is the must-list:

  • Brazil nuts
  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Pistachios
  1. Herbs and Spices

Upping your intake of herbs and spices reduces cravings (as has been shown by plenty of research) and improves your overall health.

For example, ginger, though not sweet,  is a potent anti-inflammatory that improves insulin sensitivity. It’s also the ideal spice for baking.

Or go for cinnamon. This is a fantastic source of polyphenol, a compound that some studies have shown to help reduce sugar cravings by controlling blood sugar levels.

Plus, adding cinnamon to your breakfast smoothie, coffee, or salad is a good way to detox swiftly from sugar.

You can also try sprinkling cinnamon over sugar-free applesauce whenever you’re craving ice cream.

Remember that some herbs have side effects, and some should be consumed moderately, so do your research and choose wisely.

  1. Berries

Unlike other fruits high in sugar, berries are some of the best low-glycemic produce.

Berries contain a lot of fiber, which increases satiety. These are also a good source of antioxidants, potassium, Vitamin C, and other nutrients that nourish you even further.

Berries also contain polyphenols, a compound that may limit some negative effects of the sugar within the fruit without compromising the taste.

The best and lowest sugars berries to eat include blackberries, raspberries, cranberries, and strawberries.

Craving ice cream? Then blend frozen berries into a smoothie with a half-frozen banana in the food processor to produce a thicker frozen texture similar to typical ice cream.

  1. Avocado

The pear-shaped “alligator fruit” is another great addition to this list—and it’s so good for you for so many reasons.

While most fruits consist mainly of carbs, avocado consists primarily of fat.

More specifically, heart-healthy monosaturated fats—reduce bad cholesterol (LDL) levels while increasing the good kind (HDL).

Further, an avocado packs in more potassium than a banana.

They also contain about 25 percent of your recommended fiber intake, numerous vitamins, and antioxidants.

As you can tell, I’m a big fan of avocados—and looking for any excuse to incorporate them into my daily menu. Think guacamole.

  1. Water

The human body is roughly 60 to 70 percent water, essential to every vital bodily function.

Water reduces fluid retention, improves digestion, and helps remove excess sodium from the body—all of which can be conducive to weight control

And sometimes, all you need when those hunger pangs strike is water.

For most dieters, it’s easy to mistake hunger for thirst, especially when distracted by life. But, unfortunately, it happens to the best of us.

For that reason, keeping your body well hydrated is important in your fight against cravings as it’ll help prevent misleading stomach rumbles that are a sign of thirst.

So, before you reach for a biscuit, a cookie, or a chocolate bar, stop and ask yourself if you’re hungry or just thirsty.

Or, better yet, drink a big glass of water, then wait for a few minutes to see if the cravings dissipate. If you feel sated, then rest assured it’s not hunger.

So, drink plenty of water throughout the day.

As a rule of thumb, aim to drink half of your body weight in ounces every day.

Also, drink water before every meal and snack, as research has shown that doing so helps control appetite and reduce calorie intake.

Keep in mind once you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

How To Reduce Sugar Intake – The Conclusion

There you have it! If you’re looking for ways to cut out sugar from your diet then today’s post should get started on the right foot. The rest is just details.

Please feel free to leave your comments and questions in the section below.

In the meantime thank you for dropping by.

David D.