I posted the following on my private family blog last year and wanted to post it again here, as it is still a very important and relevant topic:
I like sweets as much as the next person and there have been times in my life when my diet has included too much of them. I am fortunate in that my mom raised my siblings and I on basically no refined sugar, so I always have that habit and example to fall back on. This isn't to say that we didn't ever have sweets growing up, just that she usually used sugar substitutes in the goodies she made for our family--and she still does. (I will talk about sugar substitutes in another post.)
First of all, in order to recognize how to cut back, most people need a reality check on how much sugar they are actually consuming. I am often surprised when I eat a few meals with other people by how many sugary things are included as a matter of course and not as dessert (which, for my family, is the only time sugar is included).
Think about your beverages first. Do you drink chocolate milk, punch (Cool-Aid or non 100% fruit juice), or soda (pop)? If so, those add a lot of sugar--and calories--to your daily consumption. Do you eat sweet foods for breakfast? Most people do, if the number of sweet breakfast foods available are any indication; think donuts, sweet rolls, pop tarts, sugary oatmeal packets--and the vast majority of cold cereals. I habitually refuse to eat or drink anything sweet (except for fruit, which is a must) in the mornings because otherwise I get a headache and feel gross for hours afterward (not the best start to the day). --Oh, and here's a plug for the benefits of eating breakfast, if you're one of those people who doesn't.
Next, think about those extras that many people add to lunches and dinners that really aren't necessary or don't have much nutritional value or substance, like most fruit snacks, granola bars, and jello. Even much of the canned fruit available at the store is packed in sugar-laden syrup! And most jams and jellies are made with tons of sugar.
These are just a few ideas to get the wheels turning. If after doing the above inventory you feel overwhelmed about cutting it all out, don't be. As we say in Spanish, "poco a poco." If you will make small changes little by little (I've said this before and I'll say it again), you can help yourself and your family become sensitized again to non-sugar foods, and feel better and be healthier. You could even lose extra pounds, if you need to: One of my friends was struggling to lose some weight, and after she swore off a few food items, including refined sugar, she lost the pounds! And my dad, who has always been a chocoholic, a while back finally chose to follow my mom's long-time lead and swore off sugar too. He also lost quite a bit of weight and noticed an increase in energy, clarity of mind, and fewer aches and pains. Amazing!