Low Sugar Has Never Been So Sweet

Swapping sugary beverages like cranberry juice for sugar-free drinks like seltzer water is a healthy trick to avoid sugars!

Photo by Giovanni Verdi

Swapping sugary beverages like cranberry juice for sugar-free drinks like seltzer water is a healthy trick to avoid sugars!

Whether you have medical issues in your bloodline, or you just want to make this healthy eating choice for your own benefit, reducing your intake of sugar is a wise choice for anyone to make.  According to health.com, the following results can be expected: weight loss, abdominal fat loss, increased energy, clearer skin, reduction in risk of diabetes, and strengthening of cardiovascular system.  These important health advantages come from cutting processed and artificial sugars, so the choice definitely comes with its pros. 

However, a crucial part of altering your diet in this way is knowing which sugars are important to cut out.  Each banana has 14 grams of sugar and each mango has 46 grams.  Even so, these fruits can remain a part of your low-sugar diet.  These are natural sugars that have not been artificially or chemically processed, so they do not cause significant health problems.  The dangerous sugars are everywhere, though. 

Cereals, soda drinks, ice cream, and many other popular foods all possess the processed sugar that can “contribute to weight gain and, ultimately, cardiovascular disease,” according to Live Strong.  So, the challenge presents itself: what sugars do you cut and how do you makeup a meal plan without sugars.  

1) Breakfast: Quest Protein Bars, Premier Protein Shakes, Eggs, and Oatmeal

These are a few amazing breakfast options that contain around 1 gram, 1 gram, 0.6 grams, 1.1 grams of sugar, respectively.  Both of the first items are pre-packaged meal replacements that are surprisingly low in sugar.  The protein bars come in sweet flavors such as cookies and cream and chocolate chip cookie dough.  It is difficult to tell that there is no processed sugar present in the bars.  The shakes have peach, café latte, cookies and cream, banana, caramel, chocolate, and vanilla flavors to choose from.  So, these breakfast options resemble candy/baked goods and milkshakes.  The third and fourth meal options are more obvious choices that can be doctored up to be appealing, as long as the additions do not possess sugar.  For the eggs, cheese, spinach, mushrooms, and tomato are all low-sugar toppings.  The oatmeal can become an exciting low-sugar dish with the aid of berries, flaxseed, unsweetened coconut, nuts, and peanut butter powder.  Breakfast cannot consist of sugar-filled cereals and pancakes, so these equally as filling and delicious options can keep you on track in your low-sugar diet.

2) Lunch: Eggs (if not for breakfast), Salad, Chicken, Hummus

These are all filling and delicious lunch foods that contain about 0.6 grams, 0 grams, 0 grams, and 0 grams of sugar, respectively.  The preparation of your eggs can model the toppings from the breakfast section.  Salad is another light lunch that can be constructed without sugar.  Website healthline.com reports, “chopped raw vegetables, nuts and seeds, beans, and fresh fruit” are all nutritious salad topping options that will not raise your processed sugar intake.  For dressing, a light vinaigrette is a clear way to avoid processed sugar, or you can read individual labels to be sure.  Chicken is a versatile protein that can make for a filling lunch if you know what to do with it. Light chicken tacos, grilled chicken, buffalo chicken, or light chicken salad are all tasty options for lunch, as long as the ingredients for the recipes do not contain processed/artificial sugar, or have been modified to not contain them.  Hummus is an increasingly more popular dish that makes for a great lunch or snack.  With herbs and spices and some extra virgin olive oil, the hummus can become an interesting and delicious meal.  Served up with sesame crackers, carrots/celery, or any other low-sugar dipping alternative, this rounds out a great list of lunch options.

3) Dinner: Chicken (if not for lunch), Tofu, Hamburger, Steak

For dinner, it is crucial to choose some of these proteins that have no sugar.  They all have no sugar, except for tofu which has 0.4 grams in a block.  Chicken can be prepared in the same ways as described in the lunch section, or in a style you particularly enjoy.  Tofu is a distinct choice as a meal, as many people are repulsed by tofu.  If you are using tofu as a meat replacement, firm tofu is a better choice, as it crumbles like meat.  Whether you buy silken or firm tofu, though, it adopts the flavor you add to it, so the versatility makes it a great dinner choice.  A hamburger is another dinner alternative for a low-sugar lifestyle.  The key with this protein is to avoid the buns that contain bleach and artificial sugars.  However, lettuce buns or simply a fork and knife make this burger an accessible meal.  With the toppings of bacon, cheese, avocado, tomato, lettuce, pickles, or onions, this meal provides exciting and abundant flavors.  Steak is a great option for protein lovers, as this food (when prepared without excessive amounts of butter) does not need any toppings which can potentially contain sugars.  

4) Snacks: Popcorn*, Fruit, Nuts, Greek Yogurt

This is the most difficult section of a meal plan for someone adopting the low-sugar diet.  When people snack, it is typical to gravitate towards the sugar items in the pantry.  Candy, cookies, and pastries tend to be the more attractive foods for people.  So, in order to dodge processed sugars in your day, snacks are key.  The reason for popcorn having an asterisk in the list has to do with choosing the right brand.  Skinny Pop is one of the only popcorn brands that are relatively nutritious.  For instance, 3.75 cups of this brand’s popcorn are only 150 calories.  This is a great snack option so that you can be filled while avoiding sugar.  Fruit is another great snack, as they only contain natural sugars.  Of course, too many natural sugars can lead to a dangerous territory.  However, fruit is a staple snack food that has health benefits as well.  Nuts are great replacements for chips, which are known to be generally unhealthy.  With the usage of nuts as a filling snack, you can last longer between meals and increase heart health.  Greek Yogurt is another tricky snack to choose, but when done properly, can be a low-sugar staple.  Brands like Chobani are the best choices for greek yogurt, as long as you are getting the variations without fruit or toppings included.  Plain greek yogurt or vanilla-flavored are the best types to buy for low sugar.  Once you have the yogurt base, you can add fruit toppings and ultimately it serves as a wonderful ice cream replacement.