8 ways to cut down on sugar

What is sugar?

The sugar we’re most familiar with are the white crystals, typically derived from plants including sugar cane and sugar beet, this simple carbohydrate is broken down quickly by the body. We know that eating too much sugar isn't good for our health. Research has shown that consuming high amounts of sugar contributes to conditions such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, tooth decay and may cause mood changes.


Not all sugars pose a problem though. While natural sugars are found in fruits and vegetables, these are considered to be healthy as they come with a host of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients including fibre.

It’s the added or ‘free’ sugars, such as those found in highly-processed foods, like white sugar and corn syrup, that are particularly problematic.

Whether you're looking for sugar-free baking guides or simply want to find out your recommended daily amounts, find all the answers in our sugar hub.

8 ways to cut down on sugar

By making a few adjustments to your diet you may be able to reduce the unnecessary sugar in your diet.

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1. Reduce the sugar you add to hot drinks

Do so gradually to give your tastebuds time to adjust. For hot drinks, why not try adding a sprinkle of cinnamon to a cappuccino or hot chocolate? Cinnamon has several health benefits, it adds flavour without the sweetness and may support how your body responds to insulin, the hormone that manages blood sugar.

2. Avoid low-fat 'diet' foods

So-called low fat or ‘diet’ foods tend to be high in refined carbs and potentially sugar. Instead understand what makes a healthy portion and stick to moderate amounts of the regular versions instead.

3. Be wary of 'sugar-free' foods

These often contain artificial sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin and aspartame. Although these synthetic sweeteners taste sweet, research suggests that they don't help to curb a sweet tooth, sending confusing messages to the brain that can lead to over-eating and potentially disrupt the beneficial bacteria in the gut that play an important role in managing our blood sugar.

4. Go low GI

By combining sugary foods with protein-rich ones like fish, chicken, turkey and tofu you’ll reduce the impact of the sugar on your blood glucose levels. This is because protein slows stomach emptying, which helps manage cravings and it reduces the glycaemic effect of the carb-rich foods you eat.

Read more about low glycaemic index foods.

Try our honey mustard chicken pots with parsnips.

5. Switch to less refined options

It’s not just the white crystals in your sugar bowl you need to consider, starchy foods like pasta, rice, bread and potatoes convert to sugar in the body and have exactly the same impact on our blood sugar levels. Swap white bread, rice and pasta for wholegrain versions and enjoy potatoes in their skins, for the added fibre.

Try our mixed seed bread.

6. Spice it up

Reduce the sugar in recipes and replace it with spices, these boost flavour so your taste buds won’t miss the sweetness. We’ve used naturally sweet eating apples in our delicious spiced apple pie and kept sugar levels low by adding cardamom to provide a spicy twist.

7. Beware liquid sugar

Stick to one glass (150ml) of fruit juice a day (ideally dilute it with water and enjoy with a meal to protect your teeth) and keep soft drinks and alcohol for treats and special occasions. Enjoy herbal teas or water with slices of citrus fruits for flavouring. Learn more about the health benefits of lemon water and sparkling water.

Try our natural fruit-infused water.

8. A healthier pick-me-up

Sometimes we all crave a sweet pick-me-up but a piece of whole fruit with a handful of nuts or a small tub of plain yogurt makes a better option than a cookie or muffin. Nuts and yogurt contain protein which helps balance blood sugar and energy levels.

Try our cinnamon cashew spread with apple slices, or our berry yogurt pots.

In conclusion…

It can be hard to spot added sugar because the sugar figure on the nutrition label (‘carbs as sugar’) includes both naturally occurring sugar and added sugar. The most effective way to minimise your intake is to avoid highly processed foods, buy whole foods and cook from scratch and choose water over sugary drinks like fizzy soda, cordial or fruit juice.

Useful resources for cutting down on sugar

Davina McCall: How to be sugar-free
Our favourite lower sugar recipes
BBC Good Food's guide to sugar-free baking

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10 things you should know before giving up sugar
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All you need to know about sugar
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Kerry Torrens BSc. (Hons) PgCert MBANT is a BANT Registered Nutritionist® with a post graduate diploma in Personalised Nutrition & Nutritional Therapy. She is a member of the British Association for Nutrition and Lifestyle Medicine (BANT) and a member of the Guild of Food Writers. Over the last 15 years she has been a contributing author to a number of nutritional and cookery publications including BBC Good Food.


All health content on bbcgoodfood.com is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

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