Eating Low Sugar

by HEAB on March 1, 2011

Yesterday I received the following email from reader Dena.

…I’ve been thinking for some time of cutting sugar out of my diet and reading your blog yesterday re-inspired me. I was wondering, however, if you might do a post about how to watch out for hidden sugars? You mention going easy on fruit, and I know to cut out obvious things like candy and honey, but can you offer advice on foods to avoid that the average person may not realize contain sugar?

For example, I snack on Larabars. Sugar isn’t listed as an ingredient so are those safe? Or my treat at night is a diet hot chocolate instant mix. 25 calories and sugar isn’t listed as an ingredient but surely there’s sugar in the cocoa? Whole grain cereals – are those okay? Just any general advice you may have.

Also, I’m vegetarian and use honey in a fair number of recipes. Is there any substitute you’d recommend or just suffer through and leave it out?

I often get asked about eating a no-sugar diet. I no longer eat this way, but I did when I losing weight. I never counted carbs, fats, proteins, etc. The only thing that really mattered to me was making sure whatever I was eating was low in sugar. Sugar is everywhere, and sugar is sugar. Agave nectar = sugar. Honey = sugar. Dates = sugar. Fructose = sugar. I’m not telling you to never eat any of these, but our bodies don’t really need sugar in any form. I’m not saying no carbs, I’m saying no sugar. I eat it now but still try to keep my intake low. However, if you’re trying to lose weight, cutting out all forms of sugar will really help you drop the pounds.

Sugar is hidden in so many foods, and you really have to learn the read the labels. It’s added to condiments – 2 TBSP of barbecue sauce can contain 8 grams of sugar or a about 2 tsp of sugar. That may not sound like a lot, but it can add up fast. Ketchup is another sweetened condiment. Sugar is often used in deli meats, cereals, and many other packaged foods. READ YOUR LABELS and try to focus on whole real food rather than food that comes in a package.

Personally, I feel better with carbs in my life. Some people can live without them. I can’t, but again, I try to choose low sugar carbs like vegetables and unsweetened whole grains. If you’re going to buy packaged cereal and you’re trying to lose weight, I would recommend keeping the sugars under 5 grams or so per serving. Better yet, buy unsweetened brown rice cereal or make your own low sugar granola.

Dena, Larabars are high in sugar, even if it does come from dried fruit. I really like Larabars, and I definitely think they’re a better choice than some funky protein bar filled with protein isolate, Sucralose, etc. Again though, if you’re trying to lose weight, I recommend making your own snack bars – or perhaps some avocado carob blobs. So yummy and 100% sugar free. The diet hot chocolate does contain minimal sugar from the milk powder, but I’m guessing it’s sweetened with either aspartame or sucralose (Splenda). How about some HEABified hot chocolate instead? I think a little honey or maple syrup every so often is fine, but again, all those drizzles here and there can really add up, and so make sure you’re not going overboard.

Another question I often get is how did I give up sugar. My response usually goes something like this…

As far as sugar goes, When I first started losing weight I began to eat fewer and fewer sweets and when the weight started falling off, I realized my body just can’t handle the stuff. So, I didn’t touch any sugar for about 3 years, but I still had “my desserts”. My sweet loving taste buds learned to be perfectly satisfied with a big plain oven baked sweet potato or a bowl of late evening oatmeal with nut butter and a few chocolate chips. I also found ways to make many of my old favorite dishes much lower in sugar.

Basically, I’m a very stubborn person, and as soon as the weight starting coming off, that’s all the motivation I needed to give up sugar. Again, our bodies don’t need it, and I promise your cravings will lessen once you stop eating sugar. I would recommend watching your artificial sweetener intake as well. I try and avoid Splenda (it does slip into my diet on occasion), but I do use stevia. However, I try not to use it a lot because then I get into the habit of wanting to sweeten everything.

For some more low/no sugar recipes & ideas, please check some of my favorite bloggers:

Chocolate Covered Katie

Diet, Dessert and Dogs

A Spoonful of Sugar Free

And two new sugar free blogs that I already love:

Chili Flake

Miranda’s Untamed Kitchen

I leave you with my sugar free breakfast…


Rolled oats cooked in water and topped with unsweetened Baker’s chocolate and tahini. OBSESSED with this combo!