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Sugar-Free Meal Plans

By Jody Braverman

Eating a lot of sugar can shorten your life, say researchers of a study published in "JAMA Internal Medicine" in April 2014. Their study revealed that the more sugar you eat, the higher your risk for dying of cardiovascular disease. Eating too much sugar also leads to obesity, diabetes and a host of other potential health risks. Opting to follow a sugar-free diet is a step toward better health. Learn which foods to focus on and which foods are off-limits to make meal planning a snap.

Foods to Include

Fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean meats and seafood, plain low-fat dairy and nuts and seeds should form the basis of your diet. Fruits contain natural sugar as well as essential vitamins, nutrients and fiber. They're a much healthier source of sweetness than foods with added sugar, so feel free to include them in your diet. The same is true with dairy products, which contain the natural sugar lactose. As long as you avoid flavored dairy products with added sugars, you won't break the rules.

Foods to Avoid

For the most part, you should avoid processed foods, which are the major source of sugars in the American diet. According to the American Heart Association, the top sources of sugars in the average diet are soft drinks, cookies, cakes, pies, candy, fruit drinks, sugar sweeteners, dairy desserts and sweetened dairy products, as well as sweetened grain products. Eschewing processed foods and opting for whole foods whenever possible can make meal planning on a sugar-free diet significantly easier.

Watch Out for Hidden Sugar Sources

Even processed foods you wouldn't think contain added sugar can have quite a bit. Condiments are common hidden sources of sugar. Ketchup, for example, may contain almost 40 grams of added sugars per cup. Barbecue sauce, marinades and salad dressings are other common sources of sneaky added sugars. Other foods that often contain added sugars are granola bars, cereals and pasta sauces. Learn to read labels to look for sugar in the ingredients list, as well as honey, fructose, molasses, syrup and anything ending with "-ose."

A Day in the Life

A sugar-free diet doesn't have to be bland or unsatisfying. For breakfast, scramble an egg with spinach and tomatoes and serve it with a slice of whole-grain toast and half a grapefruit. At lunchtime, pack fresh greens topped with sliced veggies of all different colors, lean chicken breast or beans and an ounce of crushed walnuts. Dress your salad with olive oil and vinegar instead of bottles salad dressing. For dinner, pair a serving of salmon or tuna with a serving of brown rice and some broccoli stir-fried with a bit of sesame oil and garlic. For a sweet finish or an afternoon snack, top plain Greek yogurt with fresh berries.

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