How to Kick Your Sugar Habit + Still Have Dessert

because everyone deserves cake.

You can kick your sugar habit and still have dessert. After all, if you love something, it would be a shame to say goodbye forever. The motto here is excess in moderation. Unfortunately, that excess makes its way into our lives whether we're aware of it or not.

did you know?

Fruits, vegetables, grains, and dairy products all contain sugar, but with those foods come fiber, healthy fats, protein, and micronutrients. Fiber is really important here, because it allows the sugar to be absorbed more slowly, thus preventing blood sugar spikes. The fiber also helps prevent overconsumption of sugar. Take oranges, for example.

1 large orange contains about 17 grams of sugar.
16 oz of Minute Maid orange juice contains about
48 grams of sugar.
16 oz Fanta orange soda contains about
59 grams of sugar.

You would need to eat about 3-4 oranges to consume the same amount of sugar you’d consume in the orange juice or orange soda, which you likely won't do because of the fiber that comes with the oranges. But if you do, at least you're getting the fiber and nutrients from the orange.

We can also convert grams of sugar into teaspoons by dividing the total number of grams of sugar by 4. For reference, a teaspoon of sugar is about what you'll find in one packet of sugar.

1 large orange contains about 4.25 teaspoons of sugar.
16 oz of Minute Maid orange juice contains about 12 teaspoons of sugar.
16 oz Fanta orange soda contains about 14.75 teaspoons of sugar.

Honey and maple syrup are both natural sweeteners, and while they do contain some added vitamins and minerals, sugar is still sugar. Plus, you'd have to consume about a cup of either of these products to get any appreciable amount of nutrients, according to registered dietitian Sarah Waybright.

Simply put, added sugar contributes excess calories with no nutritional value. Further than this, including too much added sugar in your diet has health implications like weight gain and type 2 diabetes. As you can see with the oranges, sugar troubles stem from sugar added to foods during the production process, often in the form of refined sugar and syrups. This doesn't mean we have to give up desserts. It simply means we need to be more mindful of how sugar sneaks into our diet.

I Spy

We see you…or do we? Sugar finds its way into more than the usual candy and cookies.

Common culprits:
Tomato sauce
Salad dressing
Granola, bars, and cereals

You can see that the issue isn’t with an occasional treat – it’s with indulging in sugar when we don’t even know we’re indulging (i.e. all the above foods). Americans consume an average of 19.5 teaspoons of added sugar per day, which is about 66 pounds of added sugar per year, per person. But the CDC says Americans should keep their intake of added sugars at less than 10% of their total daily calories, and the American Heart Association says to consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams and 150 calories) of added sugar per day for men and 6 teaspoons (25 grams and 100 calories) per day for women.

You’ve got me wanting you

Why do we crave it? One reason could be you just picked up a bad habit. If you eat a chocolate bar every night after dinner, you’re going to get used to eating a chocolate bar every night after dinner. Sugar is also a quick fix for low energy, so it only makes sense that you may reach for something sweet during your afternoon slump. On a physiological level, our bodies respond to sugar with feel-good hormones that leave us wanting more.

Pour some sugar on me

We said a little, okay? Reeling in your sugar habit:

1. Clean out your cupboards.
…or commit to not buying more treats + products with added sugar (because #foodwaste).

2. Eat regularly.
…to reduce cravings for anything in sight that will cut your hunger, like a sugary granola bar or piece of candy.

3. Commit to a sweets allowance.
One per week, one per month, whatever works for you (but every day might be cheating!)
Tip: Buy this treat in a single serving. P.S. Snacks is great for this! As is your local bakery – we’re fond of Fare Well on H St in DC. They’re 100% vegan (though you can’t even tell) with wheat free options. Don’t let yourself feel denied of life’s pleasures, which can lead to overeating when presented the opportunity.

4. Combine foods.
Combine desserts with something healthy to add some bulk and fiber. I love combining a piece of dark chocolate with almonds and goji berries or having dark chocolate sorbet with raspberries.

5. Do a sugar reset.
Ask a friend to join you (because misery loves company) and commit to a certain amount of days during which you’ll forego sugar. By the end of it, your pleasure threshold for sweets should be much lower.


Emily Smith

PR and Marketing Specialist of Vegetable and Butcher and a self-proclaimed nutrition nerd and sustainability junkie. Emily called DC home for three years before making her way to California. Emily has her master's in Nutrition Education and is a Certified Nutrition Specialist® (CNS®) candidate. She's passionate about helping people learn to use food to fuel their outdoor activities, and in her free time you can find her rock climbing. . You can connect with her on her website and on Instagram.

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