Skip to content
Back Back to Insurance menu Go to Insurance
Back Back to Holidays menu Go to Holidays
Back Back to Saga Magazine menu Go to Magazine
Search Magazine

Ten ways to eat less sugar – without even noticing

Jane Murphy / 17 June 2015 ( 11 January 2019 )

How much sugar do you consume each day? If it's more than six teaspoons, you should cut down. So let's get started.

Sweetening tea with sugar
If tea or coffee doesn't quite taste right without sugar, try using a natural sweetener instead

1. Get a good night's sleep

Wake up feeling refreshed and you'll be far less likely to reach for sugary snacks throughout the day, according to research from the University of Nebraska. After a bad night, levels of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrellin are raised. Meanwhile, levels of leptin – the hormone that tells your brain you're full-up – take a dip. The result? You make poor food choices.

How to get a better night's sleep

2. Never skip breakfast

Bypass breakfast and chances are you'll consume more sugar later in the day. 'If we don't have breakfast, we tend to become hungry and start craving sugar before midday simply because our blood sugar levels dip,' says nutritional therapist Cassandra Barns from Nutricentre. So eat well before 9am and you'll be less likely to raid the biscuit tin at 11am.

The best healthy breakfasts

3. But choose your breakfast wisely

Eating breakfast is only half the battle. Start the day with a sugar-laden bowl of cereal and you'll do very little to quash those cravings. And remember, even cereals that look healthy at first glance could be harbouring heaps of hidden sugars. A recent study by Action on Sugar found that 14 of the 50 top-selling cereals contain a third or more sugar per 100g: that's eight teaspoons. One alternative is to opt for a high-protein breakfast: it reduces cravings by sustaining healthy levels of the brain chemical dopamine, according to a study from the University of Missouri.

Foods that help regulate blood sugar

4. Try sweeteners

So your tea or coffee doesn't quite taste right without sugar? Try using a natural sweetener – such as stevia, xylitol or agave nectar – instead. Alternatively, you could simply try gradually reducing the amount of sugar you take in your hot drink: a few grains less each day and you'll barely notice. While we're on the topic, though, it may pay to cut down on tea and coffee anyway. Cassandra Barns explains: 'Caffeine is a stimulant that causes the body to release stress hormones, which in turn leads to a cycle of energy dips and peaks – meaning you're more likely to crave sugar later on.'

Are sweeteners making you fat?

5. Go easy on the soft drinks

While we're on the subject of drinks, it may surprise you to learn that nearly a quarter of the added sugar in our diets comes from sweetened soft drinks. Replace just one sugary drink with a glass of water daily, though, and you could significantly reduce your risk of type two diabetes, says a recent study from the University of Cambridge. If it's the fizz that appeals, opt for sparkling mineral water.

The hidden sugar in your diet

6. Watch your alcohol intake

Yes, there's sugar in your sundowner, too. A pre-mixed gin and tonic contains more than half the recommended daily intake of sugar, according to research commissioned by The Telegraph. A pint of cider was found to contain five teaspoons. Obviously, it pays to watch your booze intake anyway. But whenever you do indulge, opt for drier varieties of wine, sherry or cider, and choose low-sugar mixers.

7. Go for a walk

Craving a biscuit? Don't head for the kitchen. Head outdoors. A brisk 15-minute walk is enough to temporarily reduce cravings for high-calorie, sugary snacks, according to a recent study at the University of Innsbruck.

Take control of your snacking

8. Be aware of the 'little' things

Actually, the so-called 'little' things can turn out to have a big impact. Add a spoonful of sugar to your chilli or curry, for instance, and it could be enough to exceed those daily health guidelines. So choose herbs and spices to add flavour instead. And go easy on chutneys and sauces. Ketchup contains as much as 23g sugar per 100g – which equates to roughly half a teaspoon per dollop.

9. Learn to read food labels

Yes, it does make your already-tedious trip to the supermarket marginally longer – but it'll pay dividends for your health. As we've already established, many surprising foods contain hidden sugars - and amounts can vary greatly from brand to brand. The sugar content in a slice of processed bread can be as high as 3g, for example. Look for the 'Carbohydrates (of which sugars)' figure on the nutrition label. If the amount of sugars per 100g is more than 22.5g, it's high - so aim to search out alternatives.

10. Bypass the biscuit aisle

We're stating the obvious here – but if you remove temptation from your home, you won't be able to reach for a sugary snack so readily when the cravings kick in. And how can you stick to your resolve when you're faced by a supermarket aisle full of sweet treats? Simple! Don't go shopping when you're hungry. People who have gone all afternoon without eating are more likely to buy unhealthy foods than those who've recently had a snack, according to a study from Cornell University in the US.

Want to talk to a GP today? With Saga Health Insurance, you have unlimited access to a qualified GP 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Find out more about our GP phone service.


Saga Magazine is supported by its audience. When you purchase through links on our site or newsletter, we may earn affiliate commission. Everything we recommend is independently chosen irrespective of affiliate agreements.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.