New Nutrition Guidelines Recommend Lower Sugar (5 GREAT Options)

Hold on to your carrot sticks everyone, because America’s eating habits are in for a jolt.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently released their latest update to the federal nutrition guidelines, and it isn’t very sweet.

For the first time, the department set a hard limit on sugar, claiming that the white crystals we love so much should constitute only 10% of our daily calories (the added stuff at least). That percentage equals roughly 200 calories, or about 12 teaspoons. A dozen teaspoons? Surely, that can’t be too hard to maintain, you might say. Maybe, but most of us eat about 22 to 30 teaspoons of sugar a day. Huh, you think, as you slowly place that blueberry muffin back on your plate.

“That’s no fun!” scream your taste buds. At least we still get salt, right? Sure, as long as you keep it under 2,300 milligrams. Is that a lot? That’s one teaspoon, folks. Tea. Spoon. Huh, you think, as you slowly place that ham and cheese croissant back on your plate.

What in the name of Health and Human Services am I supposed to eat then, you might wonder. Don’t panic. First, you can make the following broad adjustments to your diet.

  • Substitute sodas and other sugary drinks for water, sparkling water, coffee, or tea. (Watch the creamer and milk for those last two though.)
  • Substitute chips and crackers for vegetables and fruits (the naturally occurring sugars in frest produce don’t count against the suggested limits).
  • Substitute red meat for lean meats, seafood, and beans.

Ok, those are general ideas, but what about specific foods you can eat? Since 31% of our daily sugar intake comes from snacks and sweets, let’s focus on that category. (Sodas and sugary drinks constitute 47% of our sugars. Take a big gulp of that fact, sheesh.)

Greek yogurt with fruit

Yogurt with fruit has long been a staple of healthy snack lists. Then along came Greek yogurt, which is amped up the health factor with all of its protein. As with any food, check the nutritional information on any flavor other than plain; added flavors tend to equal added sugars. Since plain Greek yogurt is, well, plain, you can add your own natural flavors with fruit. Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are easy enough to toss in. If you have designated a food prep day, include time for slicing strawberries, pineapple, or pit cherries that can be tossed into your bowl of yummy yogurt when the mood strikes.

Smoothies

Using our good friend Greek yogurt, smoothies can be a special and delicious snack for the whole family. The basic recipe includes one cup of milk, half a cup of plain yogurt, half a cup of orange juice (the low-sugar variety), and one banana. From there, you can get creative by adding different fruits: peaches, strawberries, blueberries, etc. Peanut butter can add flavor and protein, but again, check for sugar and salt variations between different brands. Finally, toss in a few handfuls of baby spinach for good-for-you bonus points that your family won’t even taste.

Sliced veggies with hummus

This is another snack option whose success may very well hinge on your preparation. We often reach for prepackaged snacks because they’re convenient and ready when we’re borderline hangry (hungry + angry). Rather than grabbing at pre-packaged snack bags, prepare your own sliced vegetables that are ready as soon as our stomachs begin to growl. Carrots are, of course, the most popular veggie snack. If you buy whole carrots, you can peel and slice them before storing them in a container with some water to keep them from drying out. If you buy baby carrots, you’re done. Red, yellow, and orange bell peppers are a delicious option as well. They’re crisp, colorful, and can be sliced ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator in an air-tight container. Carrots and peppers are fine on their own, but dipping them in hummus adds flavor and filling nutrients. While hummus made from chickpeas is the most common kind you’ll see, there are also several yummy white bean and lentil varieties to try.

Whole grain bread with almond butter

Whole grains are an important part of the new dietary guidelines, so bread isn’t dead to us! Just make sure you look for bread made of whole grains and with the lowest possible sugar and salt quantities. As a snack, toast yourself a slice and slather on some nutritious almond butter.

Almond butter is a better source of good fats, fiber, vitamin E, and minerals than the old pantry stable peanut butter. Buy a jar and give it a try before you knock it!

Shrimp cocktail

Ooh, la, la. Look who just got fancy and healthy at the same time. While shrimp might be small in size, they are pretty pricey if you’re trying to serve them as part of an entrée. But toss a few back as a snack and you’ve got yourself a reasonably priced, healthy, easy snack. You can use cocktail sauce sparingly or simply squeeze fresh lemon juice onto the shrimp. Voila!