9 Tricks for Eating Less Sugar (Without Feeling Deprived)

Here’s how to treat yourself, even without the sweets.

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Americans have a bit of a sugar problem. (And yes, that’s an understatement.) Experts want you to limit your sugar intake to 12 teaspoons a day—at the very max—but the average American consumes 17 teaspoons a day, according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

If cutting back on sugar were easy, people would already be doing it. It’s hidden in many of the processed foods we gravitate toward, so you have to look at food labels to see how much sugar your favorite foods actually contain. Warning: This may be shocking.

You should also consider these tips to cut out sugar from your diet without too much effort.

  1. Add milk and spices to coffee. A creamy element can cut the bitterness so you don’t need sugar; just stick to low-fat or soy milk to keep calories low. Another flavoring option is shaking in some spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or cocoa powder. (Here are more tips for keeping your coffee healthy.)

  2. Skip the flavored yogurts. These can be surprising sugar bombs. Instead, buy plain yogurt and make it tastier with fresh fruits.

  3. Go easy on the maple syrup. Top your whole-grain pancakes and waffles with plain yogurt and fresh berries. It’s almost like whipped cream, but with way more protein.

  4. Buy applesauce unsweetened. If you’re struggling to adjust to the sugarless flavor, amp it up with cinnamon (or get fancy with nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice, or chai spices).

  5. Add citrus to tea. Tea might be the ultimate wellness drink, but not if you load up on sugar to make it palatable. Instead, brighten up the flavor with a lemon wedge. Bonus: the vitamin C helps with iron absorption. (Learn more about keeping tea healthy here.)

  6. Kick the soda and juice habit. Because these are empty calories, they’re some of the very worst foods for your diet. Instead, play with different flavors of fruit-infused water. Sure, you’ve probably had lemon water before, but you can branch out with different flavors. Mint and watermelon, strawberry and lime, or raspberry and lemon are all excellent combinations.

  7. Use fruit instead of jelly. Love PB&J at lunch? Swap in sliced berries or bananas for the jelly. Not only will you get fresh, sweet flavor, but you’ll get the added fiber boost from the fruit.

  8. Sweeten oatmeal naturally. Skip the maple syrup, brown sugar, or honey and mix in a mashed banana or applesauce instead. This will bulk up your oatmeal, too, keeping you full longer.

  9. Happy hour? Choose plain wine and spirits instead of sugary mixed drinks. This is obvious, but regardless of the sugar content, drink responsibly. Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as one drink a day for women and two for men, according to the CDC.