How to Kick the Sugar Habit

by Sara Kelly, RD, LD

Do you find yourself craving candy, dessert or a sugary drink during the day? If you’re anything like me, you can easily take in a 600-calorie dessert after dinner even when you are full. Sugar activates the reward system in our brains. The more sugar we eat, the more we want. On top of this, the amount of sugar in the products we eat has gradually increased over the years. We have been subconsciously conditioned to prefer things sweet. According to a Yale study, the average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily. This is four times the amount recommended by the American Heart Association for adult women.  It’s very easy to overeat sugar when you consider that one 12-ounce can of regular soda has around 10 teaspoons. Eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes and high triglycerides.

If you’re looking to cut back on excess sugar in your diet, try the following tips:

  1. Look for breads that do not contain high fructose corn syrup or excess added sugar. One of my favorites is Brownberry’s Health-Full Flax and Sunflower bread.
  2. Ditch the sodas and try naturally flavored sparkling water such as La Croix. If you’re used to super sweet beverages, they may take some getting used to, but they are an excellent way to help kick the craving for sugary drinks.
  3. Know your sugars. Since ingredients have to be labeled by weight, food manufacturers often use multiple types of sugar to avoid having “sugar” listed as the first ingredient. High fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, lactose, molasses, glucose, and maltodextrin are all different names for sugar commonly used on food labels.
  4. Indulge your sweet tooth naturally. Instead of a candy bar, eat an apple or a banana (or both!). The fiber will help you feel full and less likely to reach for the candy dish later. Fruit also provides beneficial vitamins and minerals. People often tell me that they avoid fruit because it’s high in sugar. This is a very common misperception. As a dietitian who counsels overweight people daily, I can honestly say I’ve never met a single person who was overweight due to eating too many apples! Unless you are a diabetic, I do not encourage restricting fresh fruit at all! Eat as much as you want. The water and fiber content will make you feel full before you have the ability to overeat.
  5. Don’t let your daily caffeine requirements become an excuse to indulge in excess sugar. Gradually decrease the amount of sugar you use in your daily coffee or tea. Add a drop of vanilla or almond extract or a pinch of cinnamon to add flavor.

At West Circle Drive Hy-Vee, we are offering a 7-day sugar detox challenge kit to help make kicking your sugar habit easier than ever. This kit includes 7 filling and nutritious smoothies, 7 fresh salads, and 14 packets of prebiotic fiber. We will be running this challenge May 16 – 22. Email Sara Kelly at or call 507-292-6004 to preorder your kit today.

Sara Kelly - DietitianSara Kelly, RD, LD, CSG, earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Family and Consumer Science – Dietetics from Minnesota State University in Mankato, Minnesota. She completed her dietetic internship at the Bay Pines Veterans Affairs Healthcare System in Bay Pines, Florida. Sara has worked in several areas of clinical nutrition, including three years as an inpatient clinical dietitian at a large hospital in South Georgia, and two years as a renal dietitian at a dialysis center.  She is a Board Certified Specialist in Gerontological Nutrition (CSG). Sara is a registered, licensed dietitian and a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She is passionate about healthy eating and has a special interest in geriatrics as well as vegetarian/vegan nutrition. Sara spends most of her free time chasing after her infant son, Weston. Sara provides a variety of services including store tours, cooking classes, health screenings (biometrics) and individual consultations, as well as answering questions in the aisles. You may contact Sara by email at View all of Sara’s posts here.