As humans, we’re supposed to like the taste of sweet things—it's widely thought this was a survival instinct that let our early ancestors know which foods were energy-rich or safe to eat. (1) After all, sugar’s not inherently bad. Every food, including candy, can be used by our body as a quick source of energy.
That’s just to say that it’s normal to like sweet things, especially when sucrose is added to practically everything, further fueling our cravings for sugar. But if you’re like us, you want to stay within the recommended levels, especially when it comes to choosing snacks for kids or healthy snacks to complement a wellness lifestyle.
The max amount of added sugar we should be consuming in a day, according to the American Heart Association, is 36 grams (or about 9 teaspoons) for men and 25 grams (6 teaspoons) for women. (2) But what we actually consume on average is about twice that—70 grams of sugar per day. It’s way easier than it feels, even for health-conscious people like us FitJoy stans. For instance, one commercial kombucha is likely to contain a whole day’s worth of added sugar. Yikes!
We’ve been snacking a ton lately (hi quarantine), so we thought it was time to pull together our tips on how to eat less sugar in allllll those home office snacks and snacks for kids throughout the day!
1. Have you had your vitamins?
First things first. Take your daily vitamins (here’s one of our favorite brands) and drink plenty of water. Sometimes our sugar cravings are actually a symptom of our body craving certain vitamins and minerals, like magnesium, zinc, calcium, or vitamin C. (3) Our brain can also confuse thirst with a craving for food. (4) If you regularly take your vitamins, don’t have any deficiencies, and stay hydrated with plenty of water throughout the day, you could experience fewer cravings for sugary snacks.
2. Know the common offenders
The snacks that typically have a crazy amount of hidden sucrose are things like cereals, salad dressings, nut milks, sauces, dips, dried fruits, beef jerky, the flavorings of certain chips, trail mix and granola bars. Ketchup, for instance, can sometimes have more than a teaspoon of sugar per tablespoon serving! Luckily, there are a lot of brands out there these days that make these popular items without the added sugars—you might just have to do a little extra searching.
Even worse than a seemingly healthy sweet treat (like a diet yogurt or nature bar) that actually contains more added sugar than candy? When foods that are supposed to be salty—like chips or pretzels—have as much hidden sugar as the sweet ones.
Even if a snack doesn’t taste sweet, sugar or sugar’s equivalents (like syrups, nectars, etc.) could be high on the list of flavorings. Check for zero grams of added sugar on your salty snacks, like our grain-free pretzels, or try a handful of nuts in lieu of a sugary trail mix.
3. (Oh yeah, and you may want to count drinks as snacks)
Because we all know that some drinks are high in calories. If you usually put a little brown sugar in that mid-morning cinnamon smoothie but want to be more sugar-free, try replacing it with a sugarless natural sweetener like stevia, monk fruit, or erythritol (find them in the baking aisle at your grocery store). Check your packaged “healthy” diet iced coffees, kombuchas, yerba mates, fruit juices, etc. to make sure they aren’t loaded with added sugars.
4. Keep fresh produce close at hand
Fruits may contain plenty of natural fructose, but they’re certainly part of a healthy diet, rich in antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to round out your day’s nutrition. Plus, many fruits are a good source of fiber, which is essential to helping stabilize blood sugar levels and keep your body working like it should. Grab an apple or some berries for a fiber-rich snack that also satisfies your sweet cravings.
Fruit is great for a sweet tooth, but it’s best to eat fresh fruit if you can, as dried, canned, and even frozen fruits can contain tons of added sugar. Nixing sugary snacks in favor of fresh produce can help retrain your palate to eventually find even veggies like carrots and bell peppers tasting sweeter than you’d previously thought!
If you tend to keep your produce in the crispers at the bottom of the fridge, only to notice that you never finish them, try storing them in separate containers closer to the top! If you see your fresh foods regularly, you’ll be more likely to eat them—preventing food waste AND hanger cravings at the same time!
Looking for other low-sugar snacks to cut down on your sucrose? Try our Himalayan Pink Salt Pretzels with your favorite hummus or guacamole for a satisfying, healthy snack. Or if you want a taste of something sweet and tangy, try our Honey Mustard Pretzels. Not only are they free of added sugars, they are also made with cassava and chickpea flours, so they make great gluten-free snacks for our GF friends out there too!