17 Easy Ways to Cut Down on Sugar in Your Diet (and lose weight)

17 Easy Ways to Cut Down on Sugar in Your Diet (and lose weight)

You know that something is officially ‘bad for you’ when HM Gov slaps a tax on it. But sugar has been on the unhealthy radar for years and is seen as at least partially responsible for the obesity epidemic.

Before we get to our list of ways to reduce sugar intake –here’s a quick refresher on how much sugar is too much – especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

How Much Sugar Should You Eat?

UK guidelines for adults are no more than 90g total sugars and less than 30g free sugars.

It is the free sugars (including added sugars) that public health professionals are talking about when they say sugar is bad for you.

Are there 'Good' and 'Bad' Sugars?

First we need to define the difference between ‘free sugar’ and sugar naturally occurring within the cellular structures of food.

Under this definition, lactose (milk sugar) when naturally present in dairy products and sugars contained within the cellular structure of foods (particularly fruits and vegetables) are excluded.

To illustrate the difference, the sugar in a glass of unsweetened pure orange juice counts as free sugar, the sugar in a whole orange does not.

The tips given here are to help you to cut free and added sugars from your diet, and amounts/recommendations refer to these types of sugars.

Put another way, you don't need to worry about getting too much sugar from carrots, apples, milk or whole grains.

It would actually really help if nutrition info on food labels made the distinction, but it doesn't. You'll see a figure for carbohydrates, then, 'of which sugars' - which doesn't distinguish between naturally occuring sugars within an ingredient, and any added or free sugars.

Here's an example for an average apple:

Average Apple (165g) Nutrition Information

Calories 73
Protein 0.5g
Carbohydrate 17.4g
of which Sugars 15.9g
Fat 0.2g
Fibre 2.8g

The sugar in the apple above is natural sugar, doesn't count as 'free' sugar and is therefore not counted towards the recommended 30g a day limit. If, on the other hand, you drank pure apple juice - all the sugar would count as 'free' sugars.

See the list on sneaky sugars below for help identifying free and added sugars in food products.

How Much Sugar per Day to Lose Weight?

Simply following government guidelines to cut sugar to 30g a day, from the average UK adult’s 59g consumption, would save around 833 calories a week.

That would equate to around a quarter of a pound of weight loss in a week – almost a stone in a year. Not bad when all you have to do is stay within healthy guidelines to do it.

Of course if you are already on a weight loss plan, the chances are you’re consuming less than 2000 calories a day, so you’d be cutting even more sugar if you stick to no more than 5% of calories from sugar as suggested.

Some examples:

  • 5% calories from sugar on 2000 calories a day = 25g (Approx 6 teaspoons)
  • 5% calories from sugar on 1500 calories a day = 19g (Approx 4.5 teaspoons)
  • 5% calories from sugar on 1100 calories a day = 14g (Approx 3.5 teaspoons)

You can find out how many calories, and therefore how much sugar, you should eat to lose weight at your chosen rate by taking a free trial of the wlr tools.

WLR's 17 Tips to Help Reduce Your Sugar Intake

1. Get rid of it

Remove all sugar, white and brown, from your table and cupboards. Out of sight, out of mind! Or, go all out and completely get rid of all sweet treats, fizzy drinks and sugar from your home.

2. Go Sugar-Free

Opt for sugar-free or low-calorie drinks especially fizzy drinks. This will help not only reduce your sugar intake, but your calories too!

3. Try Adding Fruit or Spice

If you enjoy a lovely bowl of porridge or ready brek in the morning, instead of adding sugar or honey, try having your breakfast with some fresh fruit instead, adding natural sweetness. Porridge tastes great even with a little sprinkle of cinnamon.

4. Flavour your Water

Try drinking more water instead of fruit juice, squash and pop. You can add a little flavor to your water by throwing in some fresh fruits like lemon, cucumber, lime or even mint.

5. Try Salsa Instead

If you love a bit of ketchup with your meal, try substituting it for salsa. 1 tbsp of ketchup has nearly 4g of sugar. Salsa contains less than a gram. Try out our own Strawberry Salsa recipe if you’d like to give it a go.

6. Choose Unsweetened

If you don’t drink milk and choose alternatives such as soya or almond milk, make sure you choose the unsweetened variety.

7. Make your own Dressing

Enjoy a good salad for lunch but don’t want it without dressing? You can still have a tasty dressing that’s sugar free. Go for a simple balsamic and olive oil dressing rather than a heavier Caesar, or honey mustard dressing.

8. Keep an Eye on Breakfast Bars

Watch out for cereal and breakfast bars! They may fill you up when you’re impatiently waiting for lunch at 11am but even ‘no added-sugar’ options can have a surprising amount of sugar!

9. You Can't go Wrong with Fruit

Ravenous an 11am? Pick up some fruit. Fruit contains good sugars that help satisfy a sweet craving.

10. Get Fruity

Cut down on the sugar in your tea or coffee. If you like your hot drinks sweet, try and trick your tastes buds! Go for a Chai, ginger or cinnamon flavoured tea.

11. Dark Chocolate

Worried that reducing your sugar means no more chocolate? Well don’t, you can still get your fix, just go for the darker option!

12. Switch up your Baking

If you love to bake cakes, brownies or any sweet treats, try reducing the amount of sugar used within the recipes, or as an alternative use unsweetened applesauce.

13. Savory over Sweet

Try out a savory breakfast, whip up a veggie omelette or eggs on toast. Starting your day with a sugary breakfast can set you up for sugar cravings throughout the day. Give our tasty mushroom omelette a try.

14. Go Green or Orange

Read labels! The traffic light system makes things a little easier. Try and go for as many greens as possible, a few ambers and minimal reds. However, don’t forget to check the ingredients too to hunt out any of those sneaky sugars.

15. Up your Protein

Eat more protein. This can help keep you feel fuller for longer and help beat the mid afternoon slump when you might be tempted by sugary snacks.

16. Homemade Sauces

Make your own sauces. A lot of supermarket bought sauces can be very high in sugar and batch making them yourself will not only be healthier but also much cheaper. Why not give our easy homemade tomato pasta sauce a go?

17. Limit Yourself

Try and give yourself a quota of how many grams of sugar you will allow yourself in a day. This could mean changing up your breakfast, cutting out desserts or even trying different hot drinks instead of tea and coffee.

Examples of Changes You Could Make

Instead of This

Sugar (g)

Have this

Sugar (g)

250ml Sweetened Soya Milk


250ml Unsweetened Soya Milk


330ml Coca-Cola


330ml Diet Coca-Cola


25ml Honey & Mustard Dressing


25ml Olive Oil & Balsamic Vinegar


35g Green and Blacks Milk Chocolate


Green and Blacks 70% Dark Chocolate


1 Tsp Granulated White Sugar


1 Tsp Unsweetened Apple Sauce


200ml Tea with Water and Semi-Skimmed Milk with No Sugar


200ml Chai Tea with Water


1 Tbsp Tomato Ketchup


1 Tbsp Salsa


1 Serving Dolmio Bolognese  Sauce


1 Serving WLR Homemade Tomato Sauce


25ml Robinson’s No Added Sugar Apple & Blackcurrant Squash with Water


Tap Water



Sneaky Sugars

It’s important to make sure you can find the sneaky sugar in your food!

Sugar comes in a variety of forms; here are a few to look out for:

  • Corn Sweetener
  • Corn Syrup
  • Maltose
  • Fruit Juice Concentrates
  • High-Fructose Corn Syrup
  • Honey
  • Sucrose
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt sugar
  • Molasses
  • Hyrdolysed Starch

How Healthy Is Your Diet?

If you'd like to have a closer look and see how healthy your diet is, have a look at the tools and databases in wlr. You can check if your diet is balanced, how many calories you eat (and how many you need!), track how many servings of fruit and veg you eat in a day, and look up the calorie, protein, carbohydrate, sugar, fat and fibre content of UK foods. Try it free.

Take our FREE trial »

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