How To Eat Less Sugar


Are you concerned about the sugar in your diet? Here’s how to eat less sugar without feeling deprived of the sweet stuff.

Added sugar vs. natural sugar 

I like sweets as much as the next person, but I’m happy that experts suggest a daily limit on added sugar in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). That’s because excess intake is linked to several health problems.

But there’s no need for most people to go completely sugar-free, however.  

The DGA recommendation is for added sugar, not the natural type found in foods such as fruit, vegetables, and plain dairy foods (which is called lactose). However, people with diabetes should monitor all types as part of a balanced eating plan. 


Sugar can be part of a healthy eating plan. But there’s more room for nutrient-rich choices when you limit added sugar. 

For example, sipping low-fat milk instead of regular soda helps to satisfy protein, calcium, and vitamin D needs. And, choosing fruit instead of cookies supplies more fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients, which are protective plant compounds.

Recommended daily sugar intake in grams

Suggested sugar limits are related to calorie intake. That’s why young children with lower calorie needs should have less added sugar than active teen boys, for example. (See Figuring Your Daily Sugar Allowance, below.)

Speaking of children, registered dietitian Jill Castle’s blog about sugar recommendations includes a useful chart for a range of calorie intakes for kids, and other great information.

Read: Getting more sleep may curb your sweet tooth

Know your limits to eat less sugar 

First, find out how many calories you need to lose, maintain, or gain weight here. Then, do the math to figure your daily added sugar limit in grams. Many adults need about 2,000 calories a day.Here’s an example using a 2,000 calorie/day eating plan:

• Figure the number of sugar calories allowed: 2,000 calories daily multiplied by .10 (10%) of calories as sugar daily = 200 calories of sugar daily

• Find your sugar allowance in grams: 200 divided by 4 (there are 4 calories in each gram of sugar) equals 50 grams of sugar daily

50 grams of sugar is the equivalent of 12.5 level teaspoons of table sugar. That’s about the amount in 16-ounces of regular soda.

Read food labels to eat less sugar 

Knowing your sugar allowance in teaspoons and in grams is helpful for curbing intake. The revised Nutrition Facts panel on food labels lists the amount of added sugar in grams and as a %Daily Value (%DV).

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The %DV is a guide to the nutrients in a serving of food. For example, if the label lists 10 percent of the DV for a nutrient, it means that a single serving provides 10 percent of the daily allowance.

The %DV for nutrients is based on a 2,000-calorie eating plan for healthy adults, so your sugar “allowance” may differ. For example, a person who requires 2,600 calories to maintain a healthy weight can eat up to 65 grams of added sugar daily as part of a balanced diet.

Once you know your sugar limit in grams, it’s possible to tally the amount you get from packaged foods as well what you add to foods, such as coffee, tea, and cereal. For reference, one level teaspoon of sugar contains four grams.

In conclusion: Simple ways to eat less sugar 

I can’t say that I’ve completely tamed my sweet tooth, and that’s OK. Here are some simple tips I use for keeping sugar intake in check. 

• Avoid sugary drinks. Drink water, milk, or calorie-free beverages instead of regular soda, sports drinks, energy drinks, and other sugary beverages. 

• Minimize sweet treats. Enjoy smaller portions of cookies, candy, and other sweet treats, such as a mini cupcake or a fun-size candy bar. The first few bites of any food are the most pleasurable. 

• Don’t fool yourself. Honey, maple syrup, and molasses are all sources of added sugar. 

• Cut down on sugar in favorite foods. Mix your favorite sugary cereal with an unsweetened kind, like nutrition expert, mom, and blogger Sally Kuzemchak does. (See her post about 5 Easy Ways to Cut Sugar from Your Child’s Diet.)  Fill a tall glass with cold seltzer water and add just a splash of 100% fruit juice.  Sweeten plain yogurt with a teaspoon of sugar, honey, jam, or molasses. 

Bake with less. When baking muffins and other quick breads, cut the granulated or brown sugar by at least one-third.

• Rely on fruit. Swap syrup on pancakes and waffles for applesauce or other pureed fruit. Whip up a smoothie with ripe fruit and milk or Greek yogurt.  

• Compare packaged foods. Sugar is added to foods such as bread, granola, instant oatmeal, and pasta sauce. Compare brands and opt for the least amount of sugar per serving as seen on the Nutrient Facts panel.



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