Avoid Added Sugar

Contributions by CSPI, Alison Marras, and Jackie Newgent CSPI

“Approximately 80 percent of the 600,000 consumer packaged foods in the United States have added caloric sweeteners.”

~Dr. Robert Lustig

“I’ve still kept off sugar and not given in to my cravings. Hopefully the beginning of a new healthy habit!” -@garv

“I feel great! I didn’t miss it after few days. Initially, I had remind my self not to add sugar in my coffee, but after few days it just became a habit to have coffee without sugar.” -@ManjariGovani

What’s Inside

What’s In & What’s Out

  • No white, brown, turbinado, raw or powdered sugar.
  • No simple syrup, agave nectar, maple syrup, honey, high fructose corn syrup, date sugar, coconut sugar, molasses etc. Sugar has many names! Check out this list of 56 names for sugar!
  • No artificial sweeteners (saccharin aka Sweet’n Low, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, or sucralose aka Splenda) or alternative sweeteners (sugar alcohols- sorbitol, xylitol, mannitol, maltitol, etc.)
  • No sweetened yogurt. Buy plain and add naturally sweet, fresh fruit on top.
  • No sweetened cereal or granolas. Read the label!
  • No sweetened beverages. Even bottled iced tea and packaged nut milks are likely to contain added sugar.
  • Pure stevia extract is okay, but only consume in small amounts as stevia can cause gastrointestinal distress. And avoid stevia products (such as Truvia) that contain additional ingredients.
  • Pure monk fruit extract is okay, but make sure it doesn’t contain any additional sweetener such as dextrose.
  • Jam, jelly, preserves and marmalade made from only fruit are fine, but be sure to check the ingredients as most contain added sugar.
  • Naturally occurring sugars in unsweetened dairy products and fruit are a-okay.
  • Naturally occurring sugars in dried fruit are okay in small quantities, but make sure to check the ingredients for sugar, and choose the organic kind without sulfites. Try for fresh whenever possible and used dried fruit as a back up.
  • If you slip, no biggie. Slipping means you’re trying, which is what counts! You can get back on track for the rest of the day.

Why This Is A Good Idea

Cutting added sugars can significantly decrease your risk for obesity, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, tooth decay, and much more. Why? Excess sugar can cause an above-average spike in blood sugar, triggering you to feel even more hungry, store excess fat, and lead to prediabetes more quickly. It has been proven that metabolic health can be improved in as little as 10 days by removing added sugar from one’s diet. To be clear, not all sugars are created equal. The natural sugar from your apple doesn’t have the same effect as the added sugar from a can of soda, because the apple has fiber that causes your body to digest the sugar more slowly and helps keep you full, while the soda does not. The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (about 24 grams) of added sugar per day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons (about 36 grams). For reference, a regular can of soda has 8 teaspoons of sugar. Plus, ditch the extra sweetness and you’ll even have sharper taste buds—you’ll soon be able to experience more nuanced flavors in your food, and the natural sweetness of whole fruit.

Over 70% of strokes and colon cancer can be avoided, as can at least 80% of heart disease and 90% of type 2 diabetes, and diet is a significant factor. Along with exercise and not smoking, developing good eating habits (less animal products, less processed food and more veggies and fruit) can help cut your risk of diabetes by 95%, your risk of heart attack by 80% and risk of a stroke by half.

Basic Tips & Useful Hints

  • Check in whenever you a) consciously avoid added sugar by making a checkmark on the check-in screen, or b) consume added sugar by using a slip (aka free pass) on the check-in screen. If you realize you’ve made it the entire day without any added sugar, check-in by making a checkmark at the end of the day.
  • Hang tight—you’re probably going to crave sugar for the first few days. But once you get through that first stretch, it WILL get easier.
  • Eat protein and healthy fats which help keep you full and regulate blood sugar levels; beans, nuts, soy products, eggs, hummus, lentils, yogurt, cheese, fish and avocado are all great sources.
  • If you think you might cry without a quick sugar fix, grab a piece of fruit or a date to satisfy your craving.
  • Clean out your pantry. If you’re craving sugar and a bag of cookies is staring you in the face, you’re much more likely to slip.
  • Replace sugary snacks in your pantry with nuts, popcorn, nut butter (with no added sugar) and brown rice cakes.
  • Stock your fridge with fresh fruit and veggies. Simply putting something in your mouth will likely take your mind off of your sugar craving.
  • Eat regularly. When you let yourself get too hungry, you’re going to grab whatever is closest—often something sugary and processed.
  • Stay hydrated! You might think you need a sugary afternoon snack, when really you’re just thirsty. But stick to water—sugar-sweetened beverages are now the #1 source of added sugars in our diets.
  • Eat a nutritious snack before you grocery shop. You’re much more likely to fill your cart with sugary snacks when your stomach is rumbling.
  • Stay away from processed foods. They are very likely to contain added sugars.
  • Opt for spices and seasonings to add flavor, e.g. one of our favorites, Zesty Z, a za’atar spread with no sugar, dairy, or soy.
  • Because of many dessert-like items including cereals, muffins, granola bars, and yogurt, breakfast is likely the most sugar-centric meal of the day. Be sure to plan your breakfasts to start the day off right (e.g. eggs, plain yogurt, or dare we say it—even a salad!)
  • Read all labels. Sugar is hidden in everything—from tomato sauce to canned beans and everywhere in between. Even in “all natural” peanut butter! Names for added sugar include: anhydrous dextrose, brown sugar, cane crystals, cane sugar, corn sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, liquid fructose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, syrup and white sugar. Other types of sugar you might commonly see on ingredient lists are fructose, lactose and maltose.

Shopping List

  • The perimeter of the grocery store is your best bet. Processed items with added sugar tend to be in the middle.
  • Your favorite proteins—sustainably-sourced fish, organic tofu, etc.
  • Hit the bulk bins, the mothership of protein-rich, nutritious whole grains like amaranth, bulgur, brown rice, buckwheat and quinoa.
  • Buy veggies that can be eaten raw as a snack—zucchini, cauliflower, carrots, celery, bell peppers, green beans.
  • Get sweet vegetables like squash, sweet potatoes, and carrots to help with cravings.
  • Stock cinnamon, vanilla extract, and cardamom for adding on top of yogurt, oatmeal and fresh fruit.
  • Hummus, for the veggies.
  • Fresh and frozen fruits for snacking, breakfast and dessert
  • Nuts and nut butters
  • Rice cakes
  • Popcorn


Savory Kale and Cremini Oatmeal with a Fried Egg by Newgent Savory Kale and Cremini Oatmeal with a Fried Egg

Watermelon Salad with Mint and Lime Dressing

Fruit-Infused Sparkling Water Fruit-Infused Sparkling Water

Fennel Roasted Garbanzo Beans by annefood Fennel Roasted Garbanzo Beans

Asparagus Buckwheat Risotto by JenniferEmilson Asparagus Buckwheat Risotto

Roasted Herbed Salmon by annefood Roasted Herbed Salmon

Kale Chips by annefood
Kale Chips

Sweet Potato Fries by annefood Sweet Potato Fries

Parmesan Popcorn by BigTasteTinySpace Parmesan Popcorn

Banana Ice Cream by rahbjee Banana Ice Cream

Mint Chocolate Freezer Fudge

Grain-free Cocoa Granola

Pineapple Fried Cauliflower Rice

Grain-free Strawberry Tigernut Muffins

Smart Things To Read And Watch

Note: Foodstand is not focused on the number on the scale. Weight loss can be a byproduct of developing healthier eating habits, but if you have questions about your weight, please contact your physician.