4 Simple Steps To Reduce Added Sugars

by Stephanie Skinner-Lucas, MS, RDN, LDN

Last Updated: March 16, 2021

With Valentine’s Day behind us and possibly finishing that box of sweet treats, now is the perfect time to increase your knowledge of added sugars before the next special event. Sugars, syrups and other sweeteners are added to foods and drinks for their sweet flavor. Added sugars improve the palatability of foods by adding texture, body, color, and browning in baked goods, as well as helping food to last longer. Health experts agree that most Americans should cut back on added sugars, which add calories to food and drink but do not necessarily add any other nutrients.

Diets high in added sugar have been associated with an increased risk of many diseases, including heart disease, type 2 diabetes and certain cancers. Type 2 diabetes has increased worldwide over the past 30 years. Although there are many reasons for this increase, there seems to be a clear link between type 2 diabetes and consuming a diet with excessive amounts of added sugar. Since too much added sugar could lead to obesity, insulin resistance, and inflammation, this places individuals at risk for certain cancers as well. Therefore, keeping a healthy balance could extend your quality of life.

The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to 36 grams (9 teaspoons) or less per day for men and 25 grams (6 teaspoons) or less per day for women and children. The average adult gets about 17 teaspoons of sugar each day. The major sources of added sugars in the average U.S. diet are sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, sweet snacks, sweetened coffee, tea, and candy. Added sugar can also be found in hot and cold cereals, frozen foods, barbeque, and pasta sauces, dried and canned fruits, granola, protein and cereal bars, and many condiments such as ketchup, salad dressing, tartar sauce.

To identify added sugars in food, start by reading the nutrition label. Look for foods that contain 5% Daily Value or less for added sugars. Foods with 20% or more would be considered high in added sugars. Be aware that the amount of Total Sugars on a label includes both naturally occurring (from fruit and milk) and added sugars.

You can also check the ingredient list on a product label. Some examples of added sugars in an ingredient list might include corn syrup, dextrose, agave nectar, honey, maltose, etc., just to name a few items. Here are some simple steps that anyone can take to reduce added sugars in your daily meal plan.
  1. Decrease the drinks!
    Sugar-sweetened beverages provide 24% of the average daily calories from added sugar and can be an easy place to make obtainable changes. Consider reducing the portion size or drinking less often in a day or each week. If you are looking to eliminate from your daily routine completely, focus on drinking more water, low-fat milk, 100% fruit juice, and other unsweetened drinks such as sparkling water.
  2. Choose naturally sweet foods.
    Fruits and vegetables naturally add sweetness to foods, especially when they are cooked. try incorporating more apples, citrus fruits, bananas, and sweet potatoes into your mealtime routine, outside of the typical “eat an apple on the go.” As a reminder, sweet spices such as cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg add flavor and a hint of sweetness.
  3. Make the change at home.
    You can control the amount of sugar you use when preparing foods at home. When making your own sauces, salad dressings, and many baked treats, reduce the sugar by about 25%, and you likely won’t notice the difference. Consider choosing plain yogurt and sweeten it with fruit!
  4. Choose your treat!
    Reducing added sugar doesn’t mean eliminating added sugar. Allow yourself to enjoy your favorite treats, as all foods fit.

Moderation is key to anything. Making a conscious decision to begin looking at your added sugar can help to maintain a healthy weight and balance blood sugar. If this topic or any other health and nutrition issues sounds like an area where you could use some guidance, make an appointment with one of our Kroger Health Registered Dietitians to help you work on your personal nutrition goals from the convenience of your home.

Disclaimer: This information is educational only and not providing healthcare recommendations. Please see a healthcare provider.


Stephanie Skinner-Lucas, MS, RDN, LDN

Stephanie Skinner-Lucas, MS, RDN, LDN

Stephanie is a proactive dietitian who believes healthy lifestyle changes are made one habit at a time. Small intentional steps early in life can lead to long-term victories for the rest of your life. With a background from geriatric nutrition to meal planning, renal disease to weight management, Stephanie has had the opportunity to serve many populations. She believes success is achieved by listening, mentoring and partnering with each individual to find what they need to live their healthiest life. Stephanie loves preparing meals with spice, crunch & texture that awakens the palate! In her free time, she enjoys helping others, walking for charity and improving her golf swing.