If you have decided to eat a sugar-free diet, whether due to medical reasons or personal preferences, you probably need some help getting started. Most foods contain either processed or natural sugars, even if they do not taste particularly sweet. You can use the following tips to make your transition to a sugar-free diet much easier:

Tip #1: Cut back slowly on your sugar consumption – If you currently eat a lot of sugar, it can be hard to stop eating it all of a sudden. Not only is it more of a challenge to find good, healthy foods to eat, but it can also have a negative effect on your body. Someone who goes from eating a lot of sugar to no sugar at all can feel irritable, drowsy, and nauseated. So, step down your sugar consumption slowly. In general, quitting anything cold turkey can have very unpleasant side effects. There are healthier ways to go about things.

Tip #2: Learn to read food labelsIt might seem easy enough to choose healthy foods, but did you know that most no-fat and low-fat items are loaded with sugar? That is how they get flavor without fat! Do not assume that “health food” is healthy. Instead, get into the habit of looking at the label and making a healthy choice that way. Keep in mind that comparable food items labeled as “sugar free” may be surprisingly high in fat. By law, the labels have to be correct, and although they are confusing to read at first, learning to look at the nutritional value can really help you cut back on the sugar in your diet.

Tip #3: Watch what you drink, not just what you eat – Drinks, even those that sound healthy like apple juice, are often loaded with sugar. Most people know to avoid soft drinks, but you should be mindful of the amount of sugar in your tea, coffee, and juice as well. Keep in mind that sugar can be found even in “diet” drinks and some kinds of flavored waters. Read the labels of everything you are ingesting, not just your foods. Finally, keep in mind that wine, beer, and mixed alcoholic drinks all typically contain sugar, and usually in high amounts. Cutting back on the amount of alcohol you consume can really reduce the amount of sugar you consume on a daily basis.

Tip #4: Make your own foodsCooking and baking are not as hard as you may think, even if you are a beginner. The problem with processed foods is that they contain preservatives and massive amounts of sugar to prolong the shelf life and make them taste good. Buying fresh ingredients to prepare snacks and meals does not take that much more time and it is typically a lot healthier for you than buying food in a box or can. You can control the amount of sugar you use, and you can even find recipes that use sugar substitutes instead of granulated, powdered, or brown sugar.

Tip #5: Learn how to decode the word “sugar”Just because something is labeled as sugar-free does not mean that it does not have some form of sugar in it. This is where things get tricky. The following terms are all words to describe various forms of sugar: honey, lactose, fructose, corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, and galactose. Fruits (and their juices) also are a source of sugar. While some options, like honey, might be slightly healthier for you than other alternatives, if you are trying to avoid sugar altogether, make sure you learn the terminology. Products are legally allowed to be labeled as sugar-free if no sugar has been added, but that does not mean that the foods do not naturally contain sugar.

Tip #6: Cut the carbsSugar is a type of carbohydrate, and as such, carb-heavy foods contain sugar. White breads, pastas, and so forth might not taste sweet, but they are full of sugar. Choose healthy carbohydrates instead, like whole grains, potatoes, and other foods high in fiber. Remember that your diet should be full of proteins and green vegetables if you want to cut as much sugar as possible from your diet.

Tip #7: Talk to your doctorSimply put, even if you are diabetic or have another medical reason for wanting to cut the sugar out of your life, you should not suddenly switch to a drastic diet to avoid all sugars. This is unhealthy for your body and, in the long run, the body does need sugar – just not in the forms so prevalent in our everyday lives. Instead, choose healthy carbohydrates, natural forms of sugar, and other healthy foods to fill your meals. Your doctor or a professional nutritionist can help you come up with a great sugar-free plan that will fit your lifestyle.