Sources of Sugar. There are many food sources of both natural and added sugar. The foods you should focus on eating that naturally contain sugar are those that provide other nutritional benefits such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and/or protein. The natural sources that are fine for daily intake are:
- whole fruits (such as apples, pears, berries, melon, oranges and others)
- up to 8 ounces of 100% fruit juice with no sugar added
- canned and frozen fruits with no sugar added/packed in water or juice
- up to 1/4 cup dried unsweetened fruits (like raisins, apricots, plums, cherries)
- unflavored (plain) milk
- unflavored (plain) yogurt
Other natural sources are purely sugar and really don't provide a significant amount of nutrition. Some examples are cane or beet sugar, brown sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup, agave syrup, honey, and molasses. These are preferred over high-fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners, but they are still essentially empty calories. When looking at food labels, these are the ingredients to look for along with anything that ends in "-ose" such as sucrose or dextrose (as these are other words for sugar).
Ways to Reduce Sugar Consumption. It's often not that difficult to reduce sugar intake (or re-sensitize your palate). I typically recommend to people who chronically eat a lot of sugary foods to gradually reduce their sugar intake and try to avoid replacing it with artificial sweeteners. Sometimes switching to artificial sweeteners makes your desire to eat sweet foods more intense. Some ideas:
- If you put 3 teaspoons of sugar in each cup of coffee, try to reduce it to 2 1/2, then 2, and so on.
- Try mixing high-sugar flavored yogurt with plain yogurt starting at 3/4 flavored to 1/4 plain, and continue over time to increase the amount of plain and and start adding some unsweetened frozen fruit to it. As a side note, I like to put frozen fruit in the microwave for about 30 seconds to a minute and crush it up before adding it to yogurt.
- Do the same with high-sugar cereals - purchase some that have minimal sugar (~5 grams or less) and mix it into the sweetened kind.
- Reduce the sugar by 1/4 to 1/2 in baked goods. You may notice that in the recipes I post here, I do not use any artificial sweeteners and only the amount of sugar that is necessary for the finished product to be tasty and have the right texture. Your friends and family will hardly notice (mine doesn't).
- If you drink soda like it's going out of style, purchase smaller containers (such as 8 oz instead of 12 oz cans).
- Choose flavored herbal teas over black teas - they have a sweeter flavor naturally and are naturally decaffeinated.
- If you like eating desserts and other sweets, try to measure out a portion size, split with a friend, or choose a small serving of a higher quality food. You'll still enjoy it as much.
- Share the wealth - if someone brings you treats or you like baking them, eat a serving or two but give the rest to neighbors or other family members.
Written by Michelle Baglio of Optimal Nutrition and Health. The information contained in this post is provided for educational purposes only with the understanding that Optimal Nutrition and Health makes no warranties, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness, reliability, or suitability of the information. Readers are advised not to use information in this post or others found on this website for the treatment or prevention of disease, and it should not be used in place of medical treatment or advice. Please do not reprint this post for distribution without my permission. To feature on your website or social media, please link to this post as the original source.