How to Cut Down on Sugar

When you eat foods with lots of sugar you may get a lot of calories, but only a few nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber. You can reduce the sugar you eat and drink without giving up sweetness. Here are ways you can cut down on sugar when you shop for foods and make foods at home.

At the store, read ingredient labels to find the number and types of sugars that have been added to the food. There are many kinds of sugar that are used to make a food sweet and crisp. Look for words that end in "ose" or "ol" like dextrose, fructose, maltose, sucrose, glucose, lactose, mannitol and sorbitol. These are all forms of sugar. Syrups such as corn sweetener, sorghum syrup and high fructose syrups are sweeteners that are often added to drinks. Brown sugar, molasses and honey may be "natural" but they all give you the same calories as regular table sugar. Ingredients are listed in order by weight, from most to least. When a type of sugar or syrup is the first ingredient, you know there is more sugar in that food than any other ingredient. Some foods may contain many kinds of sugar. When they are added up, the total may be more than any other ingredient in that food.

Some breakfast cereals have 4 or more teaspoons of sugar added to each serving! When you buy unsweetened cereals you may save money and you can add your own sweetener at home. Sprinkle fresh, canned or dried fruit on your cereal to sweeten. Even sprinkling half a teaspoon of sugar or honey is better than eating a cereal that may be half sugar. Canned fruits that are packed in heavy or light syrup may give you 1 to 2 teaspoons of added sugar if you eat the syrup. You can save the sugar calories by buying fruits packed in juice. You can also drain off the syrup before you serve the fruit.

When you cook you can cut down on the amount of sugar you use, too. Sugar is needed in some baked foods like cakes to make them light and tender. If you cut out all of the sugar, the product will be tough and flat. Most recipes will come out fine if you cut down on the amount by one-quarter or one-half. Experiment with your favorite recipes to see how much sugar you can cut out and still have it look and taste good. Try new recipes that are low in sugar.

Try fruits and unsweetened fruit juices more often in meals and snacks to cut down on sugar. Fruits have natural sugars, but they also give you important vitamins and minerals. Plan to have fresh fruit in season for desserts. Use dried fruits to sweeten cereals and baked goods. Slice a banana or fresh peach instead of using jelly on a peanut butter sandwich. Make your own sodas with unsweetened fruit juice and seltzer water.

Adapted from: Gacoin, L.T., Nutrition for Young Children, Connecticut Cooperative Extension.

If you have questions about ways to cut down on sugar, go to "Ask the Nutritionist."

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