5 Nutritionist Tips to Help Cut Added Sugar

By Amy Gorin,  MS, RDN

I stock a lot of cinnamon, vanilla bean, and vanilla extract in my apartment. I love how they taste, and I also love that they’re great sugar stand-ins in dishes. I’ll dust plain oatmeal or plain Greek yogurt with cinnamon, and I’ll add vanilla to “nice cream” made with pureed fruit or baked goods. That’s a photo of a vanilla bean that you see here—you just slice it down the middle and scoop out the seeds with a small spoon.

You may have heard that there’s a new nutrition label coming to town in July 2018. You might see changes pop up even sooner, as some companies are already gearing up to change their labels. One of the biggest changes you’ll see: Added sugars will be listed on the label. Added sugars are sugars added to food during processing—unlike the sugars found naturally in fruit and milk. This means honey, brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses, fruit juice, brown rice syrup, sugar, sugar cane, and other sugar stand-ins will be tallied up in that line.

This is important knowledge, since the 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend limiting added sugar to 10 percent of daily calories (so 150 calories, or about nine teaspoons or 38 grams of added sugar, per a 1,500-calorie daily diet). To put that in perspective, 1.5 ounces of Quaker Instant Oatmeal Maple and Brown Sugar contains 12 grams of added sugar, whereas the same amount of Quaker Original Oatmeal has no added sugar. And a 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola has 39 grams of added sugar.

Now that you know my favorite tip for cutting added sugar, I figure I’ll share my favorite tips from my dietitian colleagues, too. Bonus: All of these swap-ins have 0 SmartPoints value.

  1.  Don't drink your sugar. “Instead, infuse your water with fruit by combining fresh sliced fruit and water in a pitcher and letting it sit overnight,” advises Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD, a sports dietitian in New York City. “Or for a frozen treat, make fruit ice cubes.

  2. And swap tea for soda. “I love to drink fruity herbal teas like peach, apple, lemon, or raspberry — hot or iced — when I want something sweet and I need to make water more exciting,” says Christy Brissette, MS, RD, owner of 80 Twenty Nutrition.

  3. Sweeten oatmeal with fruit. “Add frozen berries to your plain, warm, cooked oats instead of purchasing instant oatmeal that’s packaged with added sugar,” says Tori Holthaus, MS, RDN, founder of YES! Nutrition. “The frozen berries melt and nearly liquefy into the oatmeal — and a sweet, delicious flavor results.”

  4. DYI tomato sauce. “Many jarred tomato sauces have added sugar, and who needs that?” says Sarah Pflugradt, MS, RDN, blogger at SalubriousRD.com. “You will feel like an Italian chef with a savory sauce simmering away in your house!”

  5. Add some citrus. “It livens up most anything you add it to, and this is especially true for lower-sugar baked goods,” says Regan Jones, RD, cofounder of the dietitian-moderated recipe site HealthyAperture.com. “Add lemon zest to your blueberry muffins, and try cutting back the sugar in the recipe by about a quarter.”

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Amy Gorin is a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Amy Gorin Nutrition in Jersey City, NJ. She also works as a nutrition consultant and media coach. Amy is the former Senior Editor of Weight Watchers Magazine and WeightWatchers.com and has written hundreds of articles on nutrition and health. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.