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Many processed foods contain high levels of added sugar. We’re not talking about natural sugar found in fruits and dairy products. Added sugar is over-and-above the natural stuff.

You may be taking in more of these “empty calories” than you realize, which over time can contribute to weight gain.

Take a look at our tips for reducing added sugar…

1. Bake with fruit instead of sugar: Medjool dates and over-ripe bananas are both great options for sweetening baked goods like breads, muffins, cookies and energy bites. By using fruit instead of sugar, you’ll get more vitamins, minerals and dietary fiber. Try these Sweet Potato Banana Bites from The Lean Green Bean or a recipe from our No Added Sugar Treats recipe roundup.

bites

1. Switch your cocktail order: Instead of having a sugary margarita or Long Island iced tea at your next social event, sip a vodka tonic. Containing just club soda and vodka, it’s one of the lowest calorie cocktails around, and has zero grams of sugar. We recommend adding lemon and/or lime wedges for a fun twist.

vodkasoda

4. Try DIY oatmeal instead of the flavored packets: Store bought oatmeal packets typically contain 2-3 teaspoons of added sugar. We suggest preparing plain oats instead. Use unsweetened milk or water and add fresh or frozen fruit such as berries and bananas. Nuts are also a great option for adding extra nutrition to your porridge.

4. Self-sweeten your latte: As we mentioned in this previous post, a flavored medium latte has up to 8 teaspoons of added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends women limit their daily consumption of added sugar to 6 teaspoons. Next time you’re at the coffee shop, order your espresso beverage plain and add 1-2 packets of sugar OR order it with just 1 pump of syrup.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by these tips, try implementing just 1 or 2 of them at a time. Practiced regularly, even just a single change can add up to a significant decrease in the amount of “empty calories” you take in.