13 Ways to Reduce Sugar Intake and Save Room for Dessert!

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As a dietitian and an avid baker, I often get asked: “How do you balance your nutrition background with your passion for baking?”. I tell them that it is all about balance. 

No one is perfect and there should be no expectation that just because my professional background is in nutrition, that I do not eat sweets (yes people do think this!). Thus, this is my first post in a new section of my blog that will go over ways to eat in moderation so you can include dessert in a balanced diet!

13 Ways to Reduce Sugar Intake and Save Room for Dessert – As a dietitian I am always asked how I balance my nutrition background and passion for baking. I tell them it is all about balance! The goal of this post is to show you some easy ways to reduce your daily intake of added sugar so you can enjoy dessert as part of a healthy lifestyle. Click through to the article to get my tips on reducing sugar intake from food and drinks and some of my favorite sweets recipes!

First up is how to cut added sugar throughout the day to save it for dessert! Many of the foods we eat on a daily basis are loaded with added sugar. The goal of this post is to show you some easy ways to reduce your daily intake of added sugar so you can enjoy dessert (obviously my favorite meal of the day!).

13 Ways to Reduce Sugar Intake and Save Room for Dessert – As a dietitian I am always asked how I balance my nutrition background and passion for baking. I tell them it is all about balance! The goal of this post is to show you some easy ways to reduce your daily intake of added sugar so you can enjoy dessert as part of a healthy lifestyle. Click through to the article to get my tips on reducing sugar intake from food and drinks and some of my favorite sweets recipes!

So we are all on the same page, added sugar is defined as sugar that is not naturally found in foods. For example, the sugars in fruit are naturally found in the food while the sugar in Frosted Flakes is mostly added sugars.

One thing to note, the grams of sugar on a nutritional label are not only added sugar. They include natural sugar. But, in foods with low levels of natural sugars, like grains, we can assume that the majority of the sugar is added sugar. Another way to tell is by looking at the ingredients list. The higher up sugar is on the ingredient list, the more added sugar there is in the food product.

On an ingredient label, common other names for sugar include: high fructose corn syrup brown rice syrup, honey, maple syrup, malt syrup, evaporated cane juice, molasses, cane sugar, and brown sugar.

1 teaspoon of sugar is equal to 4 grams of sugar. As you will see, some of these foods we eat on a regular basis are loaded with teaspoons upon teaspoons of sugar!

I have broken up my tips based on each meal, so let’s start with breakfast!


Skip the breakfast pastries, even the low-fat muffins. These are essentially cakes disguised as a breakfast food.  Filled with sugar and simple carbohydrates, stick to a more filling breakfast foods and save the cake for dessert instead! Although a low-fat muffin may seem healthier, in reality, it often has a similar number of calories and sugar than its full-fat counterpart.

For example, at Dunkin’ Donuts their regular blueberry muffin has 460 calories and 43 grams of sugar while their reduced fat blueberry muffin has 410 calories and 39 grams of sugar. I would argue that the difference in calories and grams of sugar are minimal and that the daily morning muffin or breakfast pastry should be skipped altogether!

Be wary of processed peanut butter and opt for natural nut butter instead. Nut butter, especially peanut butter, is a sneaky place where there are added sugars. Opt for natural peanut butter, which is widely found in most grocery stores. Not only is natural peanut butter less processed, but in my opinion, it tastes better!

Add your own flavorings to oatmeal. Instead of buying packages of flavored oatmeal, which have anywhere from 9-22 grams sugar, buy packages of plain oatmeal. This allows you to add your own sweetener and flavorings. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Honey
  • Maple Syrup
  • Cinnamon
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Fresh fruit
  • Frozen fruit, thawed

Be careful with low sugar oatmeal products, the sugar is usually replaced by artificial sweeteners. I do not recommend artificial sweeteners unless an individual has a certain medical condition.

Trade in sugary cereals for their plain counterparts. As a child, my parents called cereals such as Honey Nut Cheerios and Frosted Flakes, dessert cereals and for good reason! Loaded with sugar, swap out these cereals for ones with less than 5 g of sugar per serving. Typically these cereals have anywhere from 9 to 18 grams of sugar. I would much rather have a cookie than sugary cereal!

Ditch the granola. Granola is definitely a ‘faux healthy’ food. This means that although it has been marketed as a healthy cereal, it is actually loaded with sugar, fat, and calories. Instead of granola try one of these suggestions:

  • Top yogurt with plain oats, a drizzle of honey, and fruit
  • Toast whole oats with maple syrup and cinnamon for a crunchy topping

Swap out flavored yogurt for plain yogurt. Traditional flavored yogurt has anywhere from 10 to 22 grams of sugar. That is almost anywhere from 2.5 to 5.5 teaspoons of sugar! I would much rather have that sugar in the form of a cookie. Control the sugar added to your yogurt by adding it yourself! Try one of the following suggestions to plain yogurt!

  • Add fresh or frozen fruit. If you add frozen fruit in the yogurt and let it thaw in the refrigerator the fruit juice with mix with the yogurt and add sweetness!
  • Combine 1 cup of yogurt and a mashed banana. Let sit in the refrigerator overnight and you will have a delicious, naturally sweetened breakfast!
  • Add a few teaspoons of naturally sweetened jam. You are looking for a jam that is sweetened with fruit juice, not artificial sweeteners or any type of added sugar (sugar, corn syrup).
  • Stir in a drizzle of honey and vanilla for a DIY vanilla yogurt!

If non-fat plain yogurt (regular or Greek) is too tart (it is for me) try 2% or full-fat yogurt instead.

Lunch and Dinner

Beware of commercial salad dressings, as most of them have added sugar. Use these suggestions to brighten up your salad instead!

  • Balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Add a bit of mustard for extra tang.
  • Splash of lemon or lime juice.

Skip the candied nuts or dried fruit on a salad. Whenever you see that something is ‘candied’, think sugar. Instead, opt for plain roasted nuts and fresh fruit.

Opt for steamed or roasted vegetables instead of glazed vegetables. Similar to candied nuts, glazed vegetables mean that they have added sugar.

Look out for added sugar in many processed foods including tomato sauce. Yes, manufacturers add sugar to tomato sauce to sweeten the tomatoes. Look for brands with no added sugar or make your own.


Although I believe there is always room for dessert, if you are looking for a few lighter options look no further!

  • Fresh fruit with a dollop of whipped cream
  • Angel food cake with fresh fruit
  • Cook any pie filling on the stove for the taste of pie without the crust!
  • In the summer months, take out the grill and use it for dessert! Some ideas are grilled peaches or any other stone fruit. Otherwise, turn on the broiler and get just as delicious results!
  • Make a grilled banana split! Take a banana and wrap in aluminum foil. Place on the grill for a few minutes until soft. Cut open and you will have a sweet and delicious dessert. Add some chocolate chips or chopped nuts for additional texture.


Sugar in coffee and tea still counts as added sugar! Watch the sugar you add to your morning coffee or tea, it definitely can add up.

Ditch the daily soda habit. For a bubbly alternative add seltzer to fruit juice for a light and delicious fruit spritzer.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this post! If you have any questions, just leave them in the comments below and I would be happy to answer them 🙂

Now that I have given you some tips to cut your sugar intake, here are some of my favorite desserts to splurge on!

*If you have any questions about how sugar intake may impact your medical condition, please consult your doctor*


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68 thoughts on “13 Ways to Reduce Sugar Intake and Save Room for Dessert!

  1. These are some really great tips to reduce sugar intake. I always make sure that I’m never opting for artificial sweeteners myself, thanks for sharing these! 🙂

    1. I am glad you found these useful! The artificial sweeteners can be sneaky, I have found them in places I would never expect!

  2. You seem to think on my lines. I also love using a combo of Cinnamon and honey for most Yoghurt or Ice cream toppings or even in tea. It gives a natural flavour and slightly less taxing on the calorie count too!

    1. I would never have thought of adding to to ice cream, but that is a great idea! Spices and herbs are also great as they add a lot of flavor without extra added fat and calories!

  3. Adding your own flavours to the oatmeal is a big one. I think the pre packaged oatmeal doesn’t taste as good either in my opinion. So great tip!

  4. Love your attitude towards dessert! I agree, balance is key. This post pretty accurately describes what I try to do with my own diet, limiting processed foods and extra sugars during the day so I can enjoy dessert after dinner a few nights a week.

    1. Like dessert, it can definitely be an occasional food but maybe not for everyday. Most importantly is that you are now aware of it!

  5. This is a great list! I have a major sweet tooth so it’s been hard for me to limit my sugar intake. I am going to follow your advice, though, because I know it will help. Especially because granola gets me every time 😁 I have been trying to reduce my son’s sugar intake as well, so this will help for that, too.

    1. I am glad that you found this post helpful! As you can probably tell, I have a huge sweet tooth as well. For me it is about choosing where my added sugar comes from. Granola is definitely a tricky one, but I hope the few alternatives I are helpful. It is hard with kids since you don’t know what they are eating at school or daycare. Thank you for sharing!

  6. This was so helpful! I really struggle with sugar and have had a hard time losing weight after my 3rd baby. I’m going to apply some of your tips right away.

    1. Thank you, I really hope they help! If you have any questions do not hesitate to reach out and I would be happy to help 🙂

  7. LOVE this post! I recently completed a diet and learned a lot about nutrition, so everything you mention definitely resonates with me. And so true about the granola – it’s marketed as uber healthy but people don’t realize all the sugars and calories it contains!

  8. Guess I’ll be tossing my granola out, I got it thinking it’s all healthy and all but it actually is filled with so much sugar that it tasted too sweet for me and made me even feel sick. Will be getting alternatives, thank you for this.

    1. Granola is definitely a food that is widely mistaken as healthy, so you are not alone in thinking that. If you can find muesli that is definitely a better option since it is just a mixture of oats and dried fruit so there is not typically any added sugar!

  9. I find that now that I’ve switched to plain yogurt and oatmeal with add ins, I don’t even like the processed versions anymore. Thanks for the great tips!!

    1. Soda is definitely one of the biggest culprits so congratulations for cutting back on that! Desserts and the candy aisle is definitely always tempting. Just remember that you never want to deprive yourself. What has worked for me is having a chunk of chocolate at night or one piece of candy (if you can just stick to one). It is definitely a slippery slope but you can definitely do it 🙂

  10. These are wonderful tips! I have tried to change my eating habits to allow for healthy options to but it is so hard to cut those sugars! It’s an addiction!

    1. It definitely is difficult and addictive. But if you take it slow and focus on one food swap at a time it should be more manageable! Remeber that you can still have dessert, depriving yourself can just make things worse!

  11. I’ve wanted to give up sugar and processed foods for a while and it’s been really hard to just suck it up and do it. I don’t have a real sweet tooth, but when I do want it my go-to is ice cream and chocolate! These tips are great! Thank you!

    1. Reducing sugar is very difficult since it is in everything and it has an addictive quality. Just take it slow and try your best, I hope these tips are helpful 🙂

  12. Love all the simple tips in there. I do most of them but there’s a couple of different ideas that I hadn’t thought of. I love the idea of using the grill for dinner desserts – definitely going to try this thanks!

    1. It is definitely a hard thing to do, just remember there is always a place for desserts in a balanced diet, just in moderation!

    1. Thank you, I am glad you liked the article. For SEO purposes I request that you do not post the full article on your site although you are welcome to link to it, thank you!

    1. Thank you! It is definitely a really hard item to decrease, but every little bit makes a difference. I hope that these tips help!

  13. Thank you for this post. I am not doing bad, so thanks for reminding me about this. However, what’s unfair is the high cost associated with the healthier stuffs, here in my country of residence. 🙁

    1. I definitely understand that the price and availability of these products vary depending on the country you live in. All you can do is your best, every little bit makes a difference and I firmly believe that 🙂

  14. These are all great suggestions! We sort of accidentaly became refined sugar free in my home… when we transitioned to a healthy diet and lifestyle it happened on it’s own. And we feel so much better than before! It’s amazing what a healthy diet can do. Thanks for sharing simple steps and suggestions to help someone get there 😊

  15. Couldn’t agree more with the swap from sweetened yogurt to plain yogurt! I transitioned my choices recently. It was tough at first but my taste buds eventually got used to it. 🙂

  16. This is so helpful! I’ve been trying to reduce my sugar intake for so long, but well… It’s really hard. I really need to try this maple syrup, I see it everywhere! But I can say it’s pretty difficult to “control” what you’re eating. Especially when the cravings kick in. I think I’m gonna “redo” my monthly meal planning, with some information from your post!

    1. I am glad you found this helpful! I do agree that it is very difficult. One thing that I like to do is take my dinner and then put the food away or if I am having hummus and pita chips I put them on a plate. Additionally, if you are eating in front of the tv or with some other distraction, that can increase your food consumption as well. I do LOVE maple syrup, definitely buy real maple syrup. It is expensive, but you can always use honey if you prefer. I hope this makes sense and feel free to let me know if you have any other questions 🙂

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