If you’re anything like me, you are inspired this time of year — to eat healthier, plant a garden, cook more from scratch, or maybe just cook at all. Going from Mac & Cheese for dinner (or pizza delivery) to homemade quinoa patties isn’t a transition that happens overnight though, especially if you’ve never heard of quinoa before.
Dietary changes can take some time to put into practice, what some might call a “journey.” I thought I’d share the small, easy changes I’ve made over the last few years to help my family eat healthier and cut back on sugar (especially high fructose corn syrup). Here’s a few simple ways we’ve cut back on sugar without really noticing:
USE PURE MAPLE SYRUP
I feel good feeding my family things that have one ingredient. I made the switch to pure maple syrup a few years ago and will never go back. No added ingredients, no high fructose corn syrup, just pure maple syrup. Not only is it great on pancakes, it can be used in baking too. If you’re ready to stock up, Costco has one of the best prices around.
USE NATURAL PEANUT BUTTER
I grew up eating Jif and Skippy and I think they are delicious. I used to walk past the glass jars of Adams peanut butter and think that only hippies bought it. Who STIRS their peanut butter before they eat it? But once I had kids to feed, I started thinking about what I was eating more.
I now either have Adams peanut butter or Kirkland Signature Natural Peanut Butter in my cupboard (Fred Meyer’s Natural Peanut Butter is a great deal as well). Jif and Skippy will always taste good to me, but I like eating peanut butter that has no added sugar even more.
DITCH THE BOXED CEREAL
Cereals are full of empty calories and lots of sugar. They are a great habit to give up. The last time my kids had Fruit Loops I ended up dumping out the box and swearing that I would never buy them again. I don’t know what it is about Fruit Loops (sugar+food coloring), but it makes my kids crazy.
One of the recipes that has become a staple in our home is our Maple Cluster Granola. I could eat it for every meal. As mentioned in the post, “Good luck waiting until the granola cools to start sampling.” The recipe has simple, versatile ingredients, is easy to make, and tastes delicious.
My other favorite breakfast “cereal” is overnight oatmeal. Chia seeds are all the rage right now and having them with some oats and fruit for breakfast is a great way to start the day. As long as there is coffee too of course.
Make-ahead smoothie kits are also a fantastic option! You can make several on the weekend, freeze and have breakfast all week.
This one is really simple! Whatever a recipe calls for – use less! Chances are you can cut back a little bit without even noticing a difference in the flavor. Or start cutting back a lot and tell your taste buds they are going to have to get used to it.
A good place to start is our low-sugar banana bread recipe!
WATCH THE DAIRY
Have you looked at the sugar content in the Greek yogurt you have in your fridge? Yikes. I think I’d be better off eating a pop tart. It’s really unfortunate that sugar makes things taste so darn good.
Once you’ve bought that pure maple syrup I mentioned, or stocked up on raw honey at Costco, you can start buying plain yogurt and adding your own sweetener. Top it off with some homemade granola for a really delicious treat! It’s great to be in control of the ingredients. If you want to go all out, you can make your own homemade plain yogurt.
MAKE YOUR OWN SNACKS
This is a tough one. Since I seem to be running late all the time, it’s nice to be able to toss a granola bar or fruit snack to my kids when we’re in the car. My number one strategy for not eating pre-packaged convenience food it to simply not buy it. What I’d like to do more of is make my own. This post has some great snack food advice as well as some recipes.
For days that we really are running behind and don’t have anything made, I try to keep a stash of Larabars in the house (you can also make homemade Larabars). Simple, no-fuss ingredients and only natural sugars added.
MAKE YOUR OWN CONDIMENTS
I’m not sure when it happened exactly, but some time ago our country started putting corn in everything. Corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, modified corn starch – it’s in a lot of what we eat. Take a look in your refrigerator and at the cans in your cupboards. It’s a hard thing to avoid.
Did you know that most condiments like salad dressing and barbecue sauce can easily be made at home? And when you make it yourself, you have control over what’s going into it. I haven’t followed through on this one yet, but I have strong intentions of making Buttermilk Ranch Dressing. For a really simple dressing, try some Lemon Garlic Vinaigrette.
Looking for more ways to swap out packaged food?
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