3 Simple Ways To Cut Back on Sugar

First it's sweet, then it's sour. When we consume too much of it, sugar is stored as fat in our bodies. It's truly one of the things we don't need much of at all — at least not in many of the ways we consume it in the American diet. It lurks in most of these foods: ice cream, bread, pasta, cereal, baked goods, and most condiments & dressings served at restaurants and in our own fridge. Not only is sugar a fast track to weight gain, it's also an underlying cause of many skin issues such as acne. The worst thing about sugar is how highly addictive it is. The more you eat of it, the more you crave it. Ever eat ice cream and still feel "hungry" after? Here's the good news: the more you cut it out of your life, the less you will crave it, I promise! 

So the more I've gotten to know how my body processes sugar (and how it affects my skin), I've found some simple ways to keep my intake at bay. I hope you find these tips helpful too as you navigate the hidden allure of sugar in your life — whether it's in your own kitchen or dining out with friends. 

1. Reach for fruit

Opt for natural sources to get your sugar fix! Fruits are your best best for healthy sugars because they don't spike your blood sugar levels (which contributes to weight gain) in the same way as sugars found in foods like pasta or cereal. But even when it comes to fruits, not all are created equal. So opt for low-fructose ones like apples, pears, and berries. Bananas, dates, oranges, and mangoes contain more sugar but still have contain beneficial nutrients and minerals. I eat all kinds of fruit but try to consumer ones like berries on a more regular basis. Dried fruits do not offer up the same nutritional benefits as fresh fruit and often contain added sugar so I avoid them entirely. Dates are the exception. I keep them at my desk for a quick afternoon pick-me-up when candy is around. They are especially satisfying with a dollop of almond butter. Just 1 does the trick!

2. Make some simple swaps

Our bodies literally never need any fake forms of sugar, which are hidden everywhere! Ketchup, yogurt, jams, granola bars, cereals — even milk. The easiest way to steer clear is read labels: high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, fructose...The list goes on. Your best bet is opting for unsweetened versions of these things. Here are some swaps I've come to love:

Ketchup: Try regular or dijon mustard instead. Hummus makes a great dip too. And I always reach for a flavorful hot sauce at brunch instead of ketchup! Bonus, the heat fires up your metabolism. 

Dressing: One option is making your own and storing in the fridge. Simply mix equal parts of balsamic vinegar or red wine vinegar and some good olive oil, add fresh lemon juice, 1-2T dijon mustard and freshly chopped herbs. A little raw honey would be tasty too and is a decent source of natural sugar in small amounts. When dining out, I always ask for dressing on the side or opt for a side of vinegar and olive oil altogether. Hummus and avocado are my favorite dressing alternatives! They not only taste great, I leave feeling more satisfied by these healthy, sustaining fats versus the feeling of craving "more" at the end of dinner because I ate a salad loaded with a sugary dressing that may have more sugar too from things like dried fried. Topping any salad with a fresh squeeze of lemon is always super tasty too! 

Cereal/Oatmeal: Many pre-packaged versions contain added sugar, even some of the healthier brands. Be sure to read labels and make sure's there's no added sugar in your breakfast base. You can always add fun toppings for added flavor. Here are some of my favorite oatmeal toppings: sliced bananas, pears or fresh berries, pomegranate seeds, pistachios or walnuts, cocoa powder, unsweetened coconut flakes, goji berries, chopped dates, mulberries, almond or peanut butter, pumpkin or sweet potato puree, cinnamon. And my all time favorite way to eat my oats: a bowl of regular oatmeal with a fried egg and peanut butter! Don't knock it until you try it ;-) 

Nut Butters: Similar to oatmeal and cereals, many contain added sugar. Opt for brands that start at zero and add your own sweetness. 

Milk: See comment above. But really, even healthy dairy alternatives like almond or coconut often have added sugar. Always reach for "unsweetened". 

3. Mix up your baking game

I do a lot of baking and my palette has come to notice zero difference in my sugar-free creations that use brown rice syrup as my sweetener — both a great alternative to regular sugar & my secret weapon for a killer loaf of banana bread. Brown rice syrup is processed as glucose vs fructose in our bodies so the sugars (energy) are released more slowly, avoiding a spike in blood sugar. Try it out for yourself in this recipe for my Peanut Butter & Banana Bread with Chocolate Drizzle.

I would love to hear your ideas too! Feel free to leave a comment below :)