What to Eat in a Day: 14 Low Sugar Swaps

low sugar swaps
Written by Chrissy Arsenault, MBA, RDN, LD

Sugar is hidden in so many foods that we eat daily, even if we don’t necessarily add table sugar to our foods.

Whether or not you’re following a keto diet, lowering your sugar intake has many health benefits, including helping you keep your blood sugar levels steady throughout the day. Rather than eating processed foods, try to choose foods that contain as few ingredients as possible and read the nutrition label carefully.

Read on to learn more about what to eat in a day to cut back on your sugar while enjoying delicious, nutrient-dense foods!

1. Ketchup

Low Sugar Swap: No added sugar ketchup, tomato paste with apple cider vinegar

Did you know that condiments contribute quite a bit of sugar to your diet? Fortunately, brands such as Primal Kitchen, True Made, and Heinz make unsweetened ketchup that contains no sugar. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also try to make your own “ketchup” by mixing tomato paste with a little bit of apple cider vinegar.

2. Barbecue Sauce

Low Sugar Swap: Dry rub barbecue, hot/buffalo sauce, or low-carb barbecue sauces at home

Similar to ketchup, even a little bit of BBQ sauce on cauliflower (or meat for omnivores) goes a long way. If you regularly put barbecue sauce on your foods, you may want to consider switching to dry rub spices, hot sauce, or make your own barbecue sauce at home (e.g. this vegan BBQ sauce recipe is delicious and lower in carbs!).

3. Pasta/Spaghetti Sauce

Low Sugar Swap: Crush your own tomatoes with olive oil and garlic; or, extra virgin olive oil

Many years ago, I was shocked to discover that my favorite tomato and basil pasta sauce had a whopping 12 grams of sugar per serving. Since then, I’ve been preparing my lentil pasta and turkey meatballs with olive oil and a little bit of pepper. Alternatively, you could easily add fresh tomatoes to it to cut back on the sugar that’s added to most pasta sauces. This is definitely one that requires careful reading of nutrition labels. Note that most pasta dishes are high-carb, so if you’re looking for a keto-friendly option I would recommend noodles made from zucchini or hearts of palm.

4. Oat-Based, Standard Granola Bars

Low Sugar Swap: Munk Pack Keto Granola Bars

Although granola bars may appear healthy, they are often very high in added sugars and not suited for anyone watching their sugar intake. They’re also high in net carbs since they are typically made with oats. However, Munk Pack Keto Granola Bars are made with a nutritious and tasty mix of nuts and seeds. These keto granola bars only contain 2-3g of net carbs and just 1g sugar per bar because they’re lightly sweetened with a natural sweetener called allulose (my favorite!). If you’re looking for steady energy throughout the day without your blood sugar spiking, you have to give these a try!

5. Yogurt

Low Sugar Swap: Plain Greek yogurt (omnivores) or unsweetened nut-based yogurt (plant-based)

Did you know that the average organic yogurt made with cow’s milk contains 13 grams of sugar per 100-gram serving? It’s hard to consider yogurt healthy when there is so much added sugar in a small portion! If you’re an omnivore, consider sticking with plain Greek yogurt. If you’re plant-based, consider choosing an unsweetened or low sugar nut-based yogurt made with cashews or coconuts. Top with crumbled coconut granola bar pieces as desired if you’re looking for something sweet!

6. Ice Cream or Gelato

Low Sugar Swap: Keto ice cream, make your own frozen yogurt or fruit pop

Many of the popular ice cream brands out there contain more than 25g of added sugar per serving. Some keto ice cream products from brands like Halo Top, Enlightened, and Keto Pint contain less than 10g of added sugar but most do contain sugar alcohols which aren’t ideal. Your best bet may be to freeze your own yogurt or smoothie or make your own fruit pops with berries and yogurt.

7. Chocolate Snack Bars

Low Sugar Swap: Munk Pack Keto Nut & Seed Bars

Many popular snack bars out there boast healthy fats from nuts, but then add so much sugar and high fructose corn syrup to their products! For those of you watching your sugar intake, you may be better off sticking with Munk Pack Keto Nut & Seed Bars. These delicious snacks contain just 1 gram of sugar or less and contain no high-intensity sweeteners, which is a common complaint when it comes to low sugar foods. Some of my favorite flavors include the Caramel Sea Salt Keto Nut & Seed Bar and Pumpkin Seed Cinnamon Almond Keto Nut & Seed Bar.

8. Candy

Low Sugar Swap: “Keto” candies

For sweet and sour candies, here are some better-for-you brands like SmartSweets and Kiss My Keto that have developed lower sugar, keto-friendly gummy bears among other candy options so that you can stay on track. Be sure to read up on nutrition labels and find out where you can buy some of these since they aren’t as widespread as popular candy brands.

9. Chocolate

Low Sugar Swap: Dark chocolate, unsweetened cocoa powder with melted coconut oil, Atkins/private label keto peanut butter cups

We all get cravings for some chocolate from time to time. Dark chocolate, especially when it’s at a higher percentage (ideally over 90 percent), is mostly made of cocoa solids instead of milk. This means that you can enjoy dark chocolate chips or squares from time to time without adding all the sugar that you’d normally get from chocolate. Or, if you want a little sweet pick-me-up, try mixing unsweetened cocoa powder with a little bit of melted coconut oil – the coconut oil will provide some natural sweetness while the unsweetened cocoa powder will add some healthy antioxidants to your diet. Lastly, some grocery stores like Walmart carry keto-friendly peanut butter cups from Atkins or private label brands that are high in fat and lower in sugar!

10. Cookies

Smart Swap: Munk Pack Protein Cookies

Who doesn’t love cookies? Although Munk Pack Protein Cookies are not low sugar or low carb (and not a keto-friendly product), they are decadent, better-for-you sweet treats for those who want an alternative to standard cookies. They’re soft-baked and contain 16g of plant protein per cookie. When you’re craving a higher carb treat, it’s best to offset that carb intake with higher protein content (i.e. higher protein to carbs ratio) so that you can stay fuller for longer. My favorite is the Coconut White Chip Macadamia Protein Cookie when I know I have a long run or workout ahead that requires a lot of carbs and protein to fuel me – it contains vegan white chocolate chips and coconut flakes that remind me of coconut macaroons!

11. Cereal

Low Sugar Swap: Keto-friendly cereal

Starting out your day with sugary cereals may leave you drained of energy by the mid-morning from those nasty sugar spikes. Instead, try some keto-friendly brands that have launched products recently. Catalina Crunch (0g sugar and 5g net carbs) claims to be keto-friendly. And Premier Protein cereal (5g sugar and 12g net carbs) may work better than most standard breakfast cereals but does contain some sugar.

12. Soda or Energy Drinks

Low Sugar Swap: Sparkling water, fruit-infused club soda, tea (green, black, oolong)

It’s no surprise that soda is laden with added sugars. And the “diet” sodas may contain no added sugars but are replaced with high-intensity sweeteners that leave much to be desired, especially compared to natural sweeteners like allulose (my favorite!). If you don’t want the added sugars in soda but want something bubbly, consider swapping for sparkling water – either plain or brands like Spindrift or La Croix. You can also make your own fruit-infused club soda – just add sliced fruit and (optional) herbs like mint or basil! For those of you who love soda or energy drinks for their high caffeine content, consider drinking green tea, black tea, or oolong tea for a pick-me-up – they are natural sources of caffeine.

13. Dried Fruit

Low Sugar Swap: Fresh or frozen berries, unsweetened coconut flakes

Not all fruit is created equal. Although dried fruit is a convenient way to incorporate vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber, lots of sugar is often added before the drying process. If you’re a fruit fanatic, try snacking on a small portion of fresh berries or blend some frozen berries into a smoothie – they’re lower in net carbs compared to most fruits. You could also snack on a handful of unsweetened coconut flakes.

14. Sports Drinks

Low Sugar Swap: Broth, coconut water

Although sports drinks are hydrating after a workout, run, or sporting event, they are surprisingly high in added sugar! Instead, try drinking broth (bone broth for omnivores, vegetable broth for plant-based) to restore your electrolytes, or drink some coconut water. However, keep in mind that coconut water contains some naturally occurring sugars, so choose to drink these in moderation if you live a keto lifestyle.

What are other foods you eat daily that you’d love to see a low sugar substitute for? Let me know in the comments below – happy to provide additional tips and tricks on your health journey!

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