So Here’s What I Did.
I went grocery shopping at three different grocery stores…
- Trader Joe’s
- Super Target
- Cub Foods
…and I put together a list of all the good, yummy, sugar-friendly products that I found at all three stores.
If you are doing Sugar Free January with us (a 30-day free challenge! read more here), I thought it might be helpful for you to have some ideas about what pantry essentials and snacks and drinks to pick up so you’d be ready to kick sugar ouuuut at the beginning of the month.
What Counts As Sugar-Free / Sugar-Friendly:
- No added sugar.
I actually like the term Sugar-Friendly for this list, meaning these products are good choices for someone trying to cut out added refined sugars.
In a few rare cases, I allowed up to 2 grams of added sugar in order to keep the list from being totally miserable if not completely unattainable. This will be primarily in the snacks or prepared meals category. I also allowed for naturally occurring sugars (like those in natural unsweetened fruit juices).
I hope you’ll be able to use this list as a guide – but mostly, read labels and make your own decisions on a case-by-case basis.
How I Shop for Sugar-Friendly Products:
I read labels. Here is a visual of how I looked for sugar-free / sugar-friendly products, using yogurt as an example.
This first yogurt has 7 grams of sugar. However, yogurt (dairy) has naturally occurring sugar, so I needed to read the ingredient list to see if those 7 grams were NATURAL or ADDED.
There was no sugar in the ingredient list, so I knew this one was clean. The 7 grams of sugar that we see listed are naturally occurring sugars.
This second one had 14 grams of sugar. And when I looked at the ingredients….
Cane sugar, right there in the ingredient list! I would not consider this one “sugar free” because it has added sugar.
Some nutrition labels will have “sugar” and “added sugar” differentiated right on the package, which is awesome. But not all do, so it’s important to read ingredient lists to find out if there’s sugar in any given product.
Quick team meeting here before we start. Hopefully it goes without saying that THE MOST HEALTHFUL PRODUCTS ARE GOING TO BE WHOLE FOODS, like FRUITS, VEGGIES, MEATS, GRAINS, BEANS… not things that come in a bag or a package.
However, if all of a sudden you feel like you can never eat anything out of a package or bottle or box for an entire 30 days, you’re probably not going to last long. Do you have to simmer homemade pasta sauce for hours or bake your own crackers or mill your own wheat for homemade bread in order to go sugar free?!?! No, no, no.
You can make good choices with your pantry and packaged foods by choosing ones that are sugar-friendly.
Sugar Friendly Snacks:
Crunchy, sweet, salty… a little bit of everything here.
Sugar Friendly Crackers:
Most mainstream cracker brands contain at least 4-5 grams of added sugar. Meh. Thankfully there are a few brands out there that are 100% whole grain (or close to whole grain) AND contain no added sugar.
Sugar Friendly Buddies for your Crackers:
I was happy to find that there were many hummus and plant-based dip options with no added sugar. I even found this black bean layer dip at Cub that had no added sugar! Yay dips.
Sugar Friendly Ready-Made Meals:
Totally in favor of homemade meals. We have a bunch of them right here. But sometimes, life happens, and you need a can of soup. These were a few I found that I was kind of excited about – remember to look at those labels.
Whole Wheat Pasta:
Basic/easy. Should be available at almost any grocery store!
Sugar Friendly Pasta Sauce:
Pasta sauce is naturally sweet (thank you, tomatoes), but finding pasta sauce without added sugar is more challenging that you might think. Thumbs down for that. But with a little bit of careful label reading, you should be able to find an option with no added sugar. My favorite is DeLallo.
Sugar Friendly Yogurt / Dairy:
Here’s where we’re looking for the no-added-sugar varieties by reading labels, looking at ingredient lists, and basically just leaning towards “plain” or unflavored yogurt or milk / almond milk. Cheese should be good to go!
Sugar Friendly Drinks:
Remember, some of these drinks DO CONTAIN SUGAR. But they don’t have added sugar. If unsweetened fruit juice is on your “yes” list, I’d like to recommend you add a celebratory cocktail of sparkling water and a little natural fruit juice to your dinnertime routine! Light a candle, pour yourself a little mocktail, start your dinner on the stove… it’s great. I actually prefer to drink the juice straight, even just a half of a glass, in a wine glass to be fancy, and then drink my sparkling water on its own… but I’m weird like that.
Sugar Friendly Breakfast:
Okay, this is for sure the hardest meal for me personally. I have to basically give up on cereal because I just don’t like the taste of unsweetened cereal (although I’m intrigued by the Trader Joe’s purple corn cereal – I may have to try that). Savory breakfast (think egg + avocado toast) is a lifesaver. I also included my favorite no-sugar-added whole grain bread. That seedy, grainy bread, with a spread of peanut butter, and maybe a few slices of banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon? Yes and more yes.
Condiments / Other Sauces:
You know, the stuff you put on your grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, or eggs. This zhoug sauce has me intrigued.
Good Quality Sweets, If You Leave Yourself A Little Wiggle Room:
And I do leave myself a little wiggle room. This dark chocolate bar is EXCELLENT. It’s dark and rich and it still tastes good even with only 6 grams of sugar in half of the bar. WHAT!! This is my go-to for a square of dark chocolate after dinner on nights when I just need a little something to carry me through. (Obviously both of these are my exceptions as they have added sugar. You can read more about my approach to including a few limited, high quality sweets in this post.)
Okay though. This is Our Zone:
Friends, this is our zone. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, meats, that kinda thing. LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY COLORS!
I’m so curious to know if label-reading (and looking for sugar) is something you’ve done before, or something that seems totally overwhelming? Do you have any favorite sugar-free or sugar-friendly products already? Tell me what you think!
P.S. GETTING SO EXCITED FOR JANUARYYYYYY!