Nearly three out of four adults are trying to limit or avoid sugars in their diet, according to a 2021 study. The reasons for cutting out sugar range from better management of blood sugars and losing weight to improving dental health and reducing chronic inflammation. But anyone who has tried to scale back on sugar knows it's not so easy. Our taste buds have been trained to recognize sweetness as an enjoyable and safe trait in foods. The trouble is: The more sugar we eat, the more sugar we want. Food makers know this pattern, which is why 74% of products you can buy contain sugar or alternative sweeteners, or both.
Our demand for ever sweeter foods—coupled with food manufacturers making them for us—has resulted in a nearly 30% increase in added sugar consumption by American adults in the last three decades. But our shift in preferences to wanting lower sugar options also has food formulators responding in kind. The answer has been a flood of products that have less or no sugar, but contain high-intensity sweeteners that contribute fewer calories.
Artificial sweeteners like sucralose and aspartame, sugar alcohols like erythritol, and more natural options like stevia and monk fruit are ingredients that do, indeed, help people with cutting sugar out of diets. But many people balk at the taste (or aftertaste) of these intensely sweet alternatives. Others don't embrace artificial sweeteners because they're skeptical of benefits or worried about risks, such as an increased glucose intolerance (a precursor to diabetes) from frequent consumption of artificial sweeteners.
The good news is that some innovative food makers out there are finding ways to create foods with less sugar in them. And they're doing so without using artificial or natural sugar alternatives. Here are 10 foods to try if you're wondering how to cut back on sugar but you're also not interested in alternative sweeteners.
Courtesy of Amazon
10 Products That Have Cut Sugar Without Using Sugar Substitutes
When you want to reduce the amount of sugar you eat, it's important to learn the top sources of sugar (including sneaky sources of added sugar) and what foods have less sugar. Beverages like sodas and sweetened coffees, as well as sweet snacks, breakfast bars, and condiments tend to be where most sugar comes from. Here are 10 foods from those high-sugar categories to buy that have cut out the sweet stuff naturally.
Good Food For Good BBQ Sauce
Typical BBQ Sauce = 8 to 16 grams total sugar (2 tablespoons)
Good Food For Good BBQ Sauce = 2 grams added sugar (2 tablespoons)
A drizzle of sweet-spicy BBQ sauce can elevate grilled meats and veggies. But most people don't realize that a couple tablespoons of this condiment racks up more sugar than three Oreo cookies! Instead of the typical additions of brown sugar, molasses, cane sugar and corn syrup, Good Food For Good uses dates to add sweetness for just 2 grams of total sugar per serving of their BBQ sauce. This woman-owned company also has a buy-one, feed-one model, so every jar purchased equals one meal donated to fight world hunger. The BBQ Sauce comes in Classic and Sweet & Spicy flavors, and the company has a variety of date-sweetened, low-sugar cooking sauces and condiments.
Buy It: $36, Amazon
Maple Hill Organic Zero-Sugar Milk
Typical Glass of Milk = 12 grams natural sugar (1 cup)
Maple Hill Organic Zero-Sugar Milk = 0 grams natural sugar (1 cup)
Milk naturally contains sugar from lactose, at the tune of 12 grams of sugar in a typical 8-ounce glass. And while this sugar is naturally occurring and not added, many people will find the option to have a zero-sugar, zero-carb milk attractive. Maple Hill has removed the lactose through a proprietary soft filtering process so that each serving still contains the beneficial fats, calcium and potassium in milk but none of the sugar, resulting in a thick, creamy beverage. Perfect for pouring over cereal or adding to smoothies where there is already plenty of sugar from other ingredients. Available in Whole and Reduced Fat (2%), this milk is also a great option for people who are intolerant or sensitive to lactose.
Buy It: $6, Amazon
Skinny Dipped Dark Chocolate Cocoa Almonds
Typical Chocolate-Covered Almonds = 10 grams added sugar (1 ounce)
Skinny Dipped Dark Chocolate Cocoa Almonds = 6 grams added sugar (1 ounce)
Chocolate and almonds are a decadent treat with some health infused from the good fats, protein, and fiber in the nuts. But the sweet-salty snack can go from good to bad when you realize the chocolate layer is quite thick and made from low-quality oils and a lot of added sugar. Skinny Dipped noticed the chocolate-almond ratio was off and decided to make this popular snack in a different way. Instead of coating almonds with an artificially-sweetened chocolate or stevia-sweetened chocolate, they simply opted to make the chocolate coating less thick (aka skinnier), thus cutting out nearly half the grams of added sugars. Available in a variety of flavors and also as chocolate-covered cashews.
Buy It: $25 for 5, Amazon
Typical Kombucha = 8 to 12 grams added sugar (12 ounces)
Revive Kombucha = 5 grams added sugar (12 ounces)
You can't make kombucha without sugar. This fizzy-pungent probiotic beverage is made when a SCOBY (a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) is mixed with tea and sugar, then left to ferment for several days. The yeast and bacteria feed on the sugar, creating carbon dioxide (aka those pleasant bubbles). While kombucha—as a whole category—is lower in sugar compared to sodas, fruit juices and other sweetened teas, the health-conscious crowd is always happy to scale back on as many grams of sugar as possible. That's exactly what Revive set out to create with their popular sparkling beverage that comes in eight fruit-forward flavors like Citrus Ginger, Strawberry Lemon, and Blackberry Grape. The company also has a line of soda-mimicking kombuchas in flavors like Cherry Cola, Root Beer, and Orange Soda, which ring in at 8 grams of added sugars each.
Buy It: $42 for 12-Pack, Amazon
Grandy Oats Classic Granola
Typical Granola = 10 to 12 grams total sugar (½ cup)
Grandy Oats Classic Granola = 6 grams total sugar (½ cup)
Made from oats, nuts, seeds, oil and sweetener, granola is an energy-filled breakfast or snack that is often part of a healthful diet. But granola moves into the more questionable category when cheap inflammatory oils and loads of sugar are added to the mix. The sugars add up fast, especially if you eat granola regularly and in amounts higher than the ¼- to ⅓-cup amount listed on most Nutrition Facts Panels. While other brands may lower the sugar content with stevia, monk fruit or other sugar alternatives, Grandy Oats has instead reigned in the sugar grams by using honey, but in lesser amounts than is typical. The result is a full ½-cup serving that boasts just 6 grams of total sugar for both the Classic and Honey Nut flavors. The company also offers coconut-based, grain-free granola that has 4 grams of sugar per ¼ cup.
Buy It: $20 for 3, Amazon
Kashi Honey Toasted Organic Oat Cereal
Typical Honey Toasted Oat Cereal = 12 to 15 grams total sugar (1 cup)
Kashi Honey Toasted Organic Oat Cereal = 7 grams total sugar (1 cup)
Breakfast cereals are one of the top five sources of added sugars in the American diet. So finding a great-tasting, lower-sugar option can make a big impact on your overall sugar intake, especially if you often turn to cereal for convenience and ease during the morning rush. Kashi has made a focused effort to improve cereal options by reigning in sugar and supporting organic agriculture, and uniquely so by supporting farmers who are transitioning their farmland to organic. Kashi cereal flakes, toasted oats, whole wheat biscuits, crisps, and crunchy cereals all fall on the lower side of total sugars versus other brands of comparable cereals. The Kashi Honey Toasted Organic Oat Cereal, for example, contains one-half to one-third less sugar than other honey-sweetened Os.
Buy It: $3, Target
Theo Dark Chocolate Bar
Typical Dark Chocolate Bar = 10 grams total sugar (28 grams)
Theo Dark Chocolate Bar = 4 grams total sugar (28 grams)
Enjoying a square or two of dark chocolate is a strategy employed by many to satisfy a sweet craving. The bitterness of the chocolate is credited for staving off other sweet cravings while also providing some flavonoid (antioxidant) and fiber benefits. But when it comes to dark chocolate bars, you have many choices. Since the point of enjoying dark chocolate in moderation is to get that sweet taste without a glutton of sugar, why not opt for the lowest-added sugar option that also tastes great? Theo Chocolate is ethically sourced and made from organic cocoa beans, organic cocoa butter, and organic cane sugar. The Pure 85% Dark Chocolate Bar and Salted Cashew 85% Dark Chocolate bar contain an impressively low 4 grams of total sugar per serving.
Buy It: $30 for 12-Pack, Amazon
Solely Fruit Snack Gummies
Typical Fruit Snack Gummies = 8 to 11 grams total sugar (20- to 25-gram pouch)
Solely Fruit Snack Gummies = 7 grams total sugar (20-gram pouch)
Whether they're shaped as bears, rings, bunnies, or tiny fruits, chewable gummy snacks are a fast, easy, and portable way for parents to calm their kiddos' afternoon meltdowns. But it can be disheartening to pick up a box of fruit snacks just to discover artificial fruit flavors and corn syrup as the main ingredients. Reach for something better with Solely whole-fruit mango gummies that are made simply from organic fruit and vitamin C. The company's single-ingredient fruit jerky is also a major health step-up compared to other brands of fruit leather snacks.
Buy It: $5, Amazon
Otamot Organic Essential Sauce
Typical Pasta Sauce = 4 to 6 grams added sugar (½ cup)
Otamot Organic Essential Sauce = 0 grams added sugar (½ cup)
Any Italian cook will tell you that tomato sauce benefits from the addition of a pinch of sugar to help cut the acidity of the tomatoes. But most pasta sauce companies add far more than a pinch, resulting in sauce that contains 4 grams or more of added sugars per ½ cup. Instead, Otamot (that's tomato spelled backward) employs veggies like carrots, red bell peppers, and beets to add natural sweetness, keeping cane sugar far away from the pot. The addition of 10 organic veggies to every jar also ups the fiber to an impressive 6 grams per serving with zero added sugars. Otamot also recently released a new zero-added-sugar pizza sauce.
Buy It: $29 for 4-Pack, Amazon
Chef's Cut Zero Sugar Jerky
Typical Beef Jerky = 2 to 3 grams added sugar (1 ounce)
Chef's Cut Zero Sugar Jerky = 0 grams added sugar (1 ounce)
Beef jerky connoisseurs know the texture, spices and thickness they're after in each high-protein bite. What they don't often find appealing is the addition of added sugars from high-fructose corn syrup or artificial sweeteners. Chef's Cut crafts their perfectly chewy and thick jerky from premium cuts of beef, no-sugar marinades and a proprietary smoking process. Available in Original, Black Pepper, Original Biltong (spice-forward), and Spicy Chili Biltong, as well as beef sticks, chicken jerky and turkey jerky.
Buy It: $24 for 4-Pack, Amazon