What is a sugar-free diet?

What is a sugar-free diet?

Several years ago, Jennifer Lopez and Alex Rodriguez made headlines for following a sugar-free diet. Since then, posts about following a sugar-free diet have been popping up randomly on social media. Given how powerful this eating plan is, it’s understandable to be at least a little curious about the sugar-free diet and what it includes.

While it seems obvious…what is a sugar-free diet, exactly? Could you really have it number Sugar on a sugar-free diet? Are fruits okay or does everything sweet need to be thrown away? Nutrition experts break it all down.

What is a sugar-free diet?

It’s important to make this clear up front: there is no definitive definition of a sugar-free diet. says Scott Keatley, RD, one of the owners Ketley’s Medical Nutrition Therapy.

Keatley notes that some sugar-free diets “require eliminating added sugar, sugar from fruit, as well as milk sugars.” But, he notes, “the most common difference is to cut your added sugar intake to zero.” (Added sugar, if you’re not familiar with it, is sugar added to foods versus naturally occurring in them.)

What are the benefits of a sugar-free diet?

So… why are people doing this again? There are several different reasons. Jessica Cording, RD, CDN, dietitian, health coach, and author says: The Little Book of Game Changers. With that said, some people cut sugar out of their diets to try to be healthier.

Says Keri Ganz, MS, RD, author of small change diet.

Other people are cutting out sugar to try to lose weight. “It’s not uncommon for people to lose weight when they limit added sugar,” Cording says. “A lot of processed and packaged foods with a palatable taste tend to have added sugar, and cutting out these foods will limit some of the extra calories.”

What are the disadvantages of a sugar-free diet?

It depends on how extreme you are with this. If you stop eating all forms of sugar (including naturally occurring sugars) and remove foods like fruits from your diet, “you lose important nutrients that your body needs to perform at its best,” Gans says.

In addition, it is also difficult to follow a sugar-free diet. “It’s quite a challenge to get the number of added sugars to zero, because sugar tastes good and can provide a dose of dopamine,” says Keatley. “So, by staying away from cold turkey with added sugar, you may often find yourself getting frustrated and also frustrated with all the reading you have to do on packaged foods or restaurant foods.”

What can you eat on a sugar-free diet?

“You can eat any whole food,” Keatley says. Lists fruits, vegetables, starches, legumes, nuts, meat, and other foods to include in this diet.

“When you start to dip into modified foods, that’s when you need to check the nutritional label,” he says. Keatley recommends staying away from products that contain any of the following:

  • Brown sugar
  • corn sugar
  • corn syrup
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • honey
  • raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • sugar solution
  • fast absorbing sugar

Need a quick list to get you started? Gans offers this as a model for a day of eating on a diet without added sugar:


A bowl of oatmeal made with cow’s milk or an unsweetened milk alternative, a tablespoon of natural peanut butter, and a small banana


Large mixed green salad topped with grilled chicken, avocado, chickpeas, olive oil and vinegar


A cup of plain Greek yogurt with sliced ​​strawberries


Grilled salmon with roasted Brussels sprouts and roasted baby potatoes topped with a little butter or sour cream

Is it safe to follow a sugar-free diet?

Keatley says this can be safe, provided you focus on added sugars and not all foods that contain sugar. “Eating all forms of sugar in whole foods — not drinks — is a way to maintain your energy levels, satisfy your sense of taste, and meet your nutritional goals,” he says.

Jans agrees. “If your diet currently consists of a large amount of added sugar and you now limit these foods, it would be 100 percent safe,” she says. “However, if you start taking this to an extreme, it can definitely be unhealthy. Besides limiting the important nutrients your body needs, any restrictive diet can take an emotional toll on its user that can impact their daily lives.”

In general, experts recommend that you only aim to reduce your intake of added sugar versus focusing on eliminating it entirely. “Break the idea of ​​exclusion,” Keatley says. “Don’t try to cut added sugar to zero, but try to balance the grams of added sugar with the grams of dietary fiber. This will result in a more sustainable diet that has benefits beyond just reducing sugar intake.”

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