How to Cut Back on Sugar

It is hard quitting sugar cold turkey. For some people it is the easiest method but for others, like me, this is the only way I am able to continue and change my lifestyle. I am definitely a “small bites at a time” kind of person, I never bite off more than I can chew!

Sugar Skulls

Quitting sugar is a big deal for me and I want to achieve results and the best way for people like me to cut down their sugar intake slowly allows for the big picture change to actually happen.

My best tips on how to cut back on sugar are:

  • Don’t Add it. This is the easiest way to modify and reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Don’t add any sugar to your tea, coffee, cereal etc. Anything that you normally would add a little sugar, don’t.
  • Beware of Artificial Sweeteners. The artificial sweeteners that you feel might be “safe” while transistioning doesn’t actually help you. You are still used to highly sweetened food, you need to ween off this. Artificial sweeteners can also increase your cravings for sugar and carbs and they can also deplete your body’s store of chromium, which is a crucial nutrient in blood-sugar metabolism.
  • Reduce or Eliminate Processed Carbohydrates. This is important – you will need to make a real effort to reduce or even, eliminate processed carbohydrates such as breads, most pastas, bagels and snacks. These products are loaded with flour and other ingredients that convert to sugar in the body. Plus you are already trying to cut down on processed foods, so these bad boys have to go too.
  • Fat Free or Full Fat? Food that has been processed to be lower in fat is usually higher in sugar to keep the food tasting great. Salt is also increased in fat free and low fat food too, so do yourself the favour and have the full fat versions of food.
  • Eliminate Fruit Juice. This is just a sugar hit, your not getting the fibre and nutrious of the whole fruit, so skip fruit juice altogether. If you want a different tasting beverage, try a couple of slices of lemon and some torn mint in some water. This will break the habit of drinking sugar.
  • Reduce Fruit. This is not an elimination of fruit, but just cut back. Keep it to a maximum of two pieces of fruit a day, or even just a few pieces of fruit a week. Try to have blueberries, pears, apples, cherries and kiwi fruit.
  • Avoid the “healthy sugars”. We are talking about brown sugar, raw sugar, organic raw sugar, turbinado. It is all the same thing as far as your body is concerned – Sugar!
  • Read the Labels. Pick up a product, and instead of just putting it into your shopping basket read the label and look for sugar in the list of ingredients. Learn to read labels and understand what you are consuming is a big part of food awareness.
  • Total Sugars = what? While reading the label, take a moment and look at the numbers in “total sugars”. Divide that number of grams by four and you are left with the number of teaspoons of sugar is in that product. Know what you are eating!

IQS 8 Week Program


  1. What about whole grain breads and pasta, are those not okay??

    • If you want to make a difference and to begin the hards steps of quitting sugar then I would cut back on bread and pasta – of all kinds. This is what I found very hard… breakfast never feels the same without having some toast, but I did find that I made more progress when I cut back. Make sure you do eat a lot of leafy greens and beans to make sure you are getting decent amounts of fibre. But also – monitor yourself and if you find this part extremely hard, then make sure you are cutting back in all other areas first. Remember that it is okay to take baby steps and if you cut back on pasta first, do that and then work on bread.

  2. Brandi says:

    What about raw, unfiltered, local honey? I use very small amounts in my oatmeal, and also in my homemade coffee creamer.

    • It all depends on what you want to achieve if you should cut out honey or not. Sarah Wilson doesn’t have honey, as it is 40% fructose. I try not to have honey, and never really have it on hand in case I binge on it (honey on crumpets!!!). But that is because I know this a trigger food for me. I love honey on cold days. If you are having honey in small amounts, and believe you have cleaned up the rest of your diet, then it will probably do you no harm.

      I found this recipe on Sarah’s site, but haven’t tried it.

      She uses rice malt syrup as the honey replacement since it has far less fructose. Maybe this might be a swap you could consider if you are concerned about the honey. Sounds like you really don’t have any worries, but again, there are swaps out there if you want to give it a go!

  3. Hi there, Im on day 10 of detox and confused slightly about the amount of sugar we are allowed, so to speak. I see it is recommenced that you aim to have 5-9 teaspoons sugar per day maximum and that you should look for foods with less than 3-6 g sugar per 100 g or ml. Does this rule apply which at my stage of detoxing? Would like to introduce more vegetables into my diet but I am concerned about the amount of sugar in sweet potatoes, peppers, tomatoes etc. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    • Sarah mentions at week 3 to
      – Eat products with less then 3-6g of sugar per 100g or 100mls
      – And for dairy, stay under 8g of sugar per 100g or 100mls. The first 4.7g of sugar will be lactose, which is fine. Anything on top of that is added sugar.
      – Drink liquids that contain no sugar only.
      (4g of sugar = 1 tsp of sugar)

      How that relates to vegetables means that at this point in the detox period you are urged to eat vegetables that are not as high in fructose than others. At this point, since you are only 10 days in, you could continue for another week or two without them (if it can be avoided) and then bring back in the sweet potatoes and tomatoes. By waiting another week you will be in the full detox mode – so when you go back and have some sweet potato, I bet you find it A LOT sweeter than before!!!
      If you did eat some sweet potato or tomato, then honestly, I wouldn’t beat myself up about it. Try some of her recipes in the other books if you are bored by the options you have at the moment, but you are 10 days in and doing well, so stay focused for a bit longer if you can!!

      • Hi Kate,
        Thanks for your quick response, it has helped me a lot. It has certainly gave me the encouragement to continue with the detox knowing that I will be able to introduce some higher fructose vegetables later on. Thanks again, Lesley x

  4. Hi Kate,
    I’m on day 8 now and so far so good. I went cold turkey as I’m an all-or-nothing kind of person.
    I work in sales so work closely with people in their living rooms, at a desk, etc and always like to have fresh breath. I usually pop a mint in before I meet them but these all have artificial sweetening. Can you recommend a safe mint?

  5. Dianne Jacobs says:

    Hello Kate

    I have been looking through your web site and am finding it very informative. I have been on my quit sugar journey for just 1 week and have been trying to go ‘cold turkey’ although after reading your web pages is now know that I haven’t quite achieved that as I still have a small amount of honey in my tea or coffee, about half a teaspoon. However I do only have one cup of coffee and usually only one cup of tea per day. The rest of the time I drink water. I have cut out fruit completely which is what I am finding the hardest so read with interest that I can have 1-2 pieces of fruit per day. Is this ok during the ‘detox’ period or should I reintroduce fruit after? How long is the detox period?

    Thank you for your time.


    • Hi Dianne,

      Going “cold turkey” is a hard ask for a lot of people!! You could do a whole “cold turkey” period of two – three weeks and recalibrate your body, or you can do a short time such as a week or so. The Quit Sugar program runs for 8 weeks, and you are really only doing the FULL cold turkey period for 4 weeks of it.
      If you aren’t following the guide and doing your own thing, then you can set your own “cold turkey” period to be anything you want but I would stick to a minimum of a week. Then look at reintroducing some fruit in if you want to and see how you go. A small amount of honey isn’t going to derail you by the sounds of it, but if you want the full experience, try a week without any of that and then taste some honey! It will be sweeter than you remember!

      As for fruit, yep have 1 – 2 pieces a day and that is fine. After the detox period in the guide book, Sarah recommends reintroducing fruit back in but in smaller quantities. That is where the 1 – 2 pieces idea came from. I tend to only really eat some berries in my oatmeal, but if someone brings around a fruit platter with watermelon, oh well you can be guaranteed I will be eating some of that!!!

      Another thing about the quit sugar programs is that we get stuck on eliminating and detoxing, but really it is about the bigger part which is what you now eat. Stuff yourself with vegies, proteins and healthy fats, explore new things in the supermarket that you previously hadn’t tried before. Grab some new recipes from the internet and see what you can whip up. Completely switch up your routine and have dinner type food for breakfast!

      Keep up what is working for you Dianne! This is all for the long haul.

      • Dianne Jacobs says:

        Thank you Kate for your quick reply. Your words are very encouraging and I will keep the detoxing going for at least another week and see how I feel then. As you said this is for the long haul as I really want to change my eating habits for the better, so……… long, slow steps, one at a time. ☺️


  6. Heather McKenzie says:

    Hi Kate

    I recently purchased the ‘I Quit Sugar’ book and am very excited to start my journey. Your blog is so informative so I wanted to ask a few questions.

    1. In Sarah’s book she says that as a general rule the sugar content should be in between 3-6g per 100g or mls. If we start to do this will this greatly decrease the amount of sugar being consumed? (Sorry, that might seem like a dumb question). So I guess what I’m trying to say is to detox from sugar is this the best place to start?

    2. Bread is seen as the enemy however I eat Helga’s Soy and Linseed and the sugar per 100g is 2.1 grams. Would this be okay?

    3. Foods not to be consumed are:
    • Refined sugar
    • White bread, pasta, rice
    • Pastries, chocolates, biscuits, chips, lollies etc

    4. Foods to be consumed:
    • protein – chicken, beef, eggs
    • fresh wholefoods

    Any guidance would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you.

    • Hi Heather,

      You are on the right track, and there is no right or wrong way to do it. The general rule of thumb is sugar content should be in between 3-6g per 100g or mls. So if you look at your bread for instance, it is only 2.1 grams per 100 grams, so that would fall in there nicely. But keep in mind your overall sugar in take shouldn’t exceed 5 – 9 teaspoons of sugar a day (9 teaspoons is 45 grams).

      So by having your bread in there is not the big problem at all and if you remove the extra sugar foods, pastries, chocolate, biscuits etc you will be on the right track!

  7. Hi Kate

    I have just stumbled across your blog and it looks so helpful!? I have tried before and got to week 2 but think I tried to cut too much out at once. I had really bad side affects! I am just wondering if you have some tips for week 2 to 3 when the cravings kick in?

  8. What is the opinion on using Stevia (like in coffee or tea) to sweeten it? Is it as bad as using sugar?

  9. You mention to go for Full-Fat foods instead of low or reduced varieties, I have been unable to have full fat anything since i was little, my daughter is the same. Full fat milks, yogurts, cheese, drinks, even foods like bacon, steak, some other cuts of pork and non extra lean meats cause horrible stomach upsets. how do we get around not using reduced fat items while avoiding taking up residence in the toilet?