Got a sweet tooth? Chances are, despite your love of gourmet chocolate bars and decadent baked goods, you know overconsumption of sugar has its downsides. Although they’re among the most beloved in the world, sugary foods in excess are detrimental to our health. Too much added sugar in your diet can contribute to a slew of negative health consequences, including weight gain, diabetes, raised blood pressure and fatty liver disease.

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Keep Sugar in Moderation

If you love sweet stuff, we’ve got some good news for you! Quitting sugar cold turkey isn’t totally realistic, necessary or even beneficial. In fact, research shows that deprivation can cause your cravings to spike and lead to overeating. Luckily, the experts say that a little bit of sugar is OK. It’s all about keeping it in moderation and not overdoing it. What we’re saying is: Don’t deprive yourself, because it’ll only make your sweets cravings worse!

But how much sugar is too much? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends keeping your sugar consumption to no more than 10 percent of your total daily calorie intake. That means if you eat 2,000 calories in a day, no more than 200 of those should come from added sugars. That’s about 12 teaspoons of sugar. For comparison, one 20-ounce bottle of soda has about 17 teaspoons of sugar.

The best way to know if you are overdoing it on the sugar is to track everything you eat using a food tracker app. Many of these apps allow you to set daily nutrient targets, so they’ll alert you if you’ve gone over your sugar goal for the day.

How to Cut Down on Sugar Consumption

One thing about sugar cravings is that they get less intense with less exposure. Over time, the more you cut back on sugar, the less you’ll crave or desire it. In other words, once you get used to swapping out those sugary coffee drinks for healthy alternatives, you won’t even think about the super sweet ones after a while. Here’s how to curb your sweet tooth by cutting back on sugary foods:

  1. Switch to Dark Chocolate — Who can resist those mouthwatering chocolate gift boxes on Valentine’s Day or the classics after a big trick-or-treat haul? Chocolate is a huge part of our culture, and it doesn’t have to get banished to the dietary blacklist. The key is to replace the sugary milk chocolate treats with lower sugar dark chocolate options. Dark chocolate has a higher percentage of cacao and less sugar, but it still provides that tasty chocolate flavor you love, so you won’t crave it as much. You may also want to consider switching to vegan chocolate to give your sweets stash a plant-based upgrade.
  2. Cut Out Sugary Sodas and Juices — As previously mentioned, a single serving of full-sugar soda has more than the recommended daily amount of added sugar, meaning it’s not great for keeping your sugar consumption under control. Luckily, sparkling water, diet options and sugar-free sodas can give you the same sweet, bubbly kick without the added sugar intake. Make sure to pay attention to seemingly “healthy” juices and smoothies as well, since they’re often packed with extra sugar. 

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  1. Rethink Your Coffeeshop Order — Your sodas and juices aren’t the only beverages that are packed with tons of added sugar. Unfortunately, your Starbucks or Dunkin’ order may be as well. In fact, a tall vanilla Frappuccino from your favorite chain coffee shop has 43 grams of sugar, which far exceeds the daily recommendation. But that doesn’t mean you need to cut out coffee treats all together. Luckily, you can curb the sugar content in your morning coffee by requesting sugar-free flavored syrups or sweeteners and skipping the whipped cream, sauces and drizzles. 
  2. Stock the Fridge with Fresh Fruit If you crave a pop of sweetness throughout the day but want to cut back on processed foods and added sugars, be sure to always have fresh fruit on hand. Of course, fruit contains natural sugar, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad for you. Unlike the high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose in your sodas and candy, fruit contains a type of sugar called fructose. This form of sugar doesn’t raise your blood sugar levels as much as added sugars, and you’d have to eat a very large amount of it to see harmful effects. Fruit also contains plenty of vitamins and fiber, which are good for you.
  3. Keep Low-Sugar Granola Bars on Hand Low-sugar granola bars or snack bars can give you that same satisfying kick of sweetness without the high sugar content. However, it’s critical to pay attention to the nutrition label on your favorite bars, as some contain as much or even more added sugar as a candy bar. The great part about these bars, though, is that they can provide you with tons of great nutrients and can keep you full between meals, which will help you curb overeating and prevent you from seeking out sweets.
  4. Replace Dessert with Yogurt — Anyone who loves to follow up a good meal with a sugary dessert will want to consider keeping the fridge stocked with low-sugar yogurt options. A single-serve container of flavored Greek yogurt comes packed with protein but only has a few grams of added sugar, giving you that decadent, dessert-worthy taste without the guilt. Plus, you can add fruit to get a healthy dose of sweetness. Note that some yogurts contain artificial sweeteners, which may affect your metabolism or have other negative health implications.
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In short, the key to curbing even the most out-of-control sweet tooth is twofold. First, you want to reduce your sugar intake by cutting out sugary drinks and candy. Next, you want to make sure you have naturally sweet replacements on hand so you’re not tempted to revert back to the super sweet stuff. Dark chocolate, fresh fruit and the occasional artificial sweetener go a long way in helping you kick your sugar addiction!