Top Tips to Skip Sugar
1. Don't drink sugar. If you do only one thing to limit your sugar intake, avoid sugared drinks: soda, sweetened teas, vitamin waters, sports drinks, and yes, juice. New studies are proving that consuming sugar in liquid form makes you feel less full than the equivalent amount of sugar in solid form. What's left? Unsweetened coffee, tea, milk, and water, water, water.
2. Rethink your snack regime. So-called healthy snacks (flavored yogurts, granola, dried fruits, bars) often have as much or more added sugar as a candy bar. Instead, seek out no-added-sugar alternatives: raisins, nuts, plain yogurt with fresh fruit, popcorn, hummus with veggies, or no-sugar crackers. Several varieties of Larabar are composed entirely of no-added-sugar dried fruit and nuts; I keep these in my purse for Snack Emergencies.
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3. Read ingredients—always. I used to think I read ingredients all the time, but I was wrong—I read them sometimes; other times I just assumed that I already knew what was in a product. However, if I learned anything at all from our Year of No Sugar, it's never to assume. Go ahead: Check your tortellini. Your smoked salmon. Your mayonnaise. Your sausages. Your chicken broth. I'll wait. [Tweet this tip!]
4. Remember that sugar is sugar. During our Year of No Sugar the question we found ourselves asking the most was, "but what about…?" So we developed a litmus test: Is the sugar extracted from some other source? Then it's B-A-D. An apple, with all its corresponding fiber and micronutrients still attached is fine—the natural sugar is not extracted. But maple syrup? Honey? Evaporated cane syrup? Organic fruit juice? Extracted. Added sugar by any other name is still added sugar.
5. Order simply at restaurants, and don't be afraid to ask. Once you start asking, you'll be amazed at how much restaurant food has sugar added. If it has a lot of sauce, it's probably hiding a heap of sugar, so avoid the usual suspects of sneaky sugar: dips, dressings, gravies, glazes, soup broths, and marinades.
6. Try cooking and baking with alternative sweeteners. My two favorite sugar alternatives are dextrose powder and barley malt syrup. Dextrose powder is made from corn and I use it in place of granulated sugar; barley malt syrup is a good replacement for viscous sweeteners such as honey or maple syrup. Because they are about one-third the sweetness of regular sugar you'll need to experiment to find the right balance of ingredients, but once you do you'll see you can cook and bake practically anything without added sugar. If experimenting isn't your thing, the subscription website How Much Sugar is a treasure-trove of no-added-sugar recipes.
7. Don't make it a big deal. The last thing people want to hear is how "good for them" something is. Sugar in our culture is synonymous with fun, so saying something is sugar-free is tantamount to saying it is fun-free, not to mention probably taste-free. Instead, the proof is in the pudding—or the cake. I find the best strategy is not to mention that the Coconut Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting you brought to the potluck has no added sugar...and then watch as the entire thing disappears, down to the crumbs.
8. Make dessert special. Most of us aren't planning to give sugar up forever—even me. Making sugar a special treat helps me not feel like I'm constantly denying myself or trying to live under a rock. Instead, I have only the things I really care about, once in a while: on a weekend or on someone's birthday. You'll find the less sugar you have, the less you crave it, so it's suddenly a lot easier to walk right by that box of store-bought cookies at the office. Instead, save your allotment of added sugar for something truly special, and because it's special, you'll enjoy it all the more. [Tweet this tip!]