Food & Nutrition

How to reduce sugar intake

Cut down on the sweet stuff without losing out on taste.
Published 23 January 2018 | Updated 7 October 2022

Reducing sugar intake

When it comes to sugar, it’s not about cutting it out completely, it’s about making the healthier choice. “Eating a lot of foods high in added sugars, such as soft drinks, lollies, biscuits and cakes, can mean you’re missing out on essential nutrients from whole foods, says WW dietitian Nicole Stride. In fact, Aussies now consume one-third of their kilojoule intake from ‘extra’ foods opposed to ones that are essential to health, such as fruit, vegies, dairy, wholegrains and protein. So, how do we get the balance back?

Check for added sugar

“Focus on reducing the amount of discretionary foods you eat and keep an eye out for added sugar in packaged products,” says Stride. “Check the ingredients list to see if a food contains sugar or a sugar alternative – such as honey, maltose, sucrose or glucose syrup – added to it. Ingredients are listed from largest to smallest by weight, so you can get an idea of how much added sugar is in a product by seeing where it’s listed on the pack.”

“It’s important to remember that the total amount of sugar shown in the nutrition information panel combines both naturally occurring sugar, like lactose in milk, and added sugar,” says Stride. “Naturally occurring sugars are okay to consume and with recommendations focusing on limiting your ‘added’ sugar intake to 25 grams or 6 teaspoons a day. Be sure to check your nutrition labels carefully be sensible at looking at the total sugar content if you think the product may contain naturally occurring sugars and added sugars.”

Try these smart swaps to help you reduce unnecessary added sugar in your diet.

Tips for cutting down on sugar

  • Check the ingredients list. Don’t just look at the ‘total sugars’ count on the nutrition information panel. Check the ingredients list and you’ll get a sense of natural (fruit or honey) versus more refined sugars (sucrose or glucose).
  • Reduce added sugars gradually. When you’re training your taste buds to appreciate less sugar, expect it to take eight to 12 weeks.
  • Watch your drinks. Ice teas, fruit-based drinks, and sports drinks are major sources of sugar. Drink water instead.
  • Swap sweet with spice. Add sweetness using spices like cinnamon, cardamom, and nutmeg. Make recipes using 25 per cent less sugar than the recipe suggests. Find out more about sugar substitutes for baking.
  • Satisfy your sweet tooth with healthy snacks. Factor in fruit, low-sugar cereals or plain yoghurt. Limit processed foods with their inevitable hidden sugar.
  • Be guided by a food’s Point value. The calculation used to determine a food’s Points value is designed to take sugar content into consideration so that foods higher in sugar generally have a greater Point values. Let that nudge you towards healthier food choices.

Our verdict on juicing

"It’s best to eat your fruit and vegetables rather than drink them,” says Stride. “With WW, fruit and vegetables that are juiced or used in a smoothie are no longer considered to be ZeroPoint™ foods and contribute to your daily Points Budget.” There are a number of reasons for this, she explains. “Juicing breaks down the food for you, meaning it can be rapidly absorbed by your stomach before you’ve even registered how much you’ve drunk. Juicing often removes the fibre from fruit and vegetables as well, and concentrates the natural sugars and kilojoule content. Therefore, relative to fresh fruit and vegetables, juices have a higher energy density.” Plus, when you eat one green apple as a snack, you often feel satisfied, but you may need five or six apples to make a juice – and it can be consumed quickly without you even realising! Even “healthy” green smoothies or juices can contain a higher number of kilojoules or Points so it’s best to check the ingredients and Points of your favourite drinks before drinking them.

Find out why do fruits and vegetables 'count' in smoothies and juices.