How do vegans cut out sugar?

Quick answers:

Vegans cut out sugar in several ways:

– Avoiding processed foods with added sugars
– Using natural sweeteners like fruit, maple syrup, coconut sugar, etc. instead of refined white sugar
– Reading nutrition labels carefully to identify hidden sugars
– Cooking more meals at home instead of eating out
– Opting for unsweetened versions of plant milks, yogurts, etc.
– Limiting or avoiding sugary desserts and baked goods
– Focusing on getting carbohydrates from whole fruits and vegetables instead of refined grains

Why do vegans want to cut out sugar?

There are several reasons why vegans aim to limit sugar intake:

Weight management

Added sugars can lead to increased calorie intake and weight gain over time. Since vegans avoid animal products, they rely more on plant-based foods – some of which can be high in added sugars like desserts, sweetened non-dairy milks, etc. Cutting back on added sugars helps manage weight on a vegan diet.

Blood sugar regulation

Fiber from whole plant foods helps regulate the release of sugars into the bloodstream. Processed sugary foods lack fiber, causing blood sugar spikes and crashes. Limiting added sugars helps keep blood sugar levels more stable.

Dental health

Bacteria feed on sugar and produce acids that erode tooth enamel. A vegan diet high in sugary processed foods puts dental health at risk. Reducing sugar intake helps protect teeth.

Nutrient density

Added sugars displace more nutrient-dense foods in the diet. Focusing on whole foods over sugary processed items helps ensure adequate nutrient intake.

Gut health

Excess sugar can negatively impact digestive health by altering gut bacteria and promoting inflammation. Cutting back on sugar supports healthy gut function.

Curb unhealthy cravings

The more sugar you eat, the more sugar cravings increase over time. Reducing sugar helps reset taste preferences and cravings for sweets.

How vegans avoid processed foods with added sugars

Reading nutrition labels is key for identifying added sugars in packaged foods. Things to look out for include:


Names like sugar, brown sugar, cane sugar, beet sugar, evaporated cane juice all indicate added sugars.


Ingredients like high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, agave syrup, rice syrup contribute added sugars.


Watch for sweeteners like sucrose, dextrose, maltose, honey, nectar, molasses, coconut palm sugar.

-ose words

Ingredients ending in -ose like dextrose, glucose, lactose, sucrose denote sugars.

Food Category Products to Avoid
Beverages Soda, sweetened iced tea, juice drinks, flavored plant-based milks, sweetened waters, sports/energy drinks, coffee drinks with syrups
Breakfast Foods Pre-sweetened cereals, instant oatmeal with added sugars, frozen waffles/pancakes, granola with honey/sugar
Snacks Fruit snacks, granola bars, cookies, candy, protein/energy bars
Condiments Syrups, sugary salad dressings, ketchup, barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce
Desserts Cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream, chocolate, frozen yogurt, puddings
Baked Goods Donuts, muffins, pastries, sweet breads

Reading nutrition labels and ingredients lists can help identify foods with added sugars to avoid. Focus on whole, minimally processed foods without added sweeteners.

Using natural sweeteners

Vegans can satisfy cravings for sweet flavors using natural alternatives to white sugar:


Fresh fruits like bananas, dates, applesauce, mashed berries provide natural sweetness for smoothies, oatmeal, baking, etc. Dried fruits can also be used sparingly.

Maple syrup

Maple syrup offers a rich, caramel-like sweetness. Look for 100% pure maple syrup, not pancake syrups with added sugars. Use moderate amounts.

Coconut sugar

Derived from coconut palm sap, coconut sugar has a low glycemic index to help moderate blood sugar response. Use like brown sugar in baking.


Molasses provides an intense, bittersweet flavor. Blackstrap molasses offers iron and other minerals. Use sparingly as it is still high in sugar.


Extracted from the stevia leaf, stevia provides zero calories and a sweet taste. Look for pure stevia extracts, not products with added sugars.

Monk fruit

Monk fruit extract is a no-calorie, high-intensity natural sweetener. Does not raise blood sugar. Use powdered monk fruit in baking.

Chicory root

Inulin fiber from the chicory root offers sweetness while stimulating digestion. Use in coffees, oats, baking.

When using liquid sweeteners like maple syrup and molasses, reduce other liquids in recipes. Get used to less sweetness over time by gradually reducing natural sweetener amounts.

Reading nutrition labels for hidden sugars

Flip labels over and read the nutrition facts and ingredients list to identify added sugars, even in health foods:

Non-dairy yogurt

Many fruit-flavored and vanilla yogurts have added sugar or syrups. Opt for unsweetened.

Plant-based protein powder

Sweetened protein powders often contain sugar alcohols or stevia. Choose unsweetened.

Nutrition/protein bars

Sugars like brown rice syrup, tapioca syrup boost sweetness. Look for low sugar bars or make your own.

Canned beans

Some canned beans are cooked with sugars. Rinse well or buy low-sodium, no sugar added varieties.

Jarred tomato sauce

Many pasta sauces have added sugars. Check for sauces with just tomatoes in the ingredient list.

Whole grain bread

Even healthy-sounding breads can contain sweeteners like honey, brown sugar, or corn syrup. Check the label.


Ketchup, barbecue sauce, salad dressings, and dips often contain hidden sugars. Make your own healthy versions.

Cooking more meals at home

Preparing meals at home makes it easier to control ingredients and avoid added sugars:

– Make dressings, dips, sauces, oatmeals, soups, curries, stir fries, etc. from scratch using whole food ingredients
– Roast, steam, or sauté vegetables to bring out natural sweetness without needing to add sugar
– Experiment with spices like cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, cloves to add sweet flavor
– Try new whole grains like farro, freekeh, quinoa, bulgur as the base for plant-based bowls and salads
– Focus on balanced nutrition – don’t restrict carbs, but opt for whole food sources over refined
– Satisfy sweet cravings with fresh fruit as dessert instead of processed sweets

Simple homemade meals let you limit processed ingredients and added sugars. With practice, cooking tasty plant-based meals at home becomes easy and enjoyable.

Choosing unsweetened versions

Many processed plant-based products now offer unsweetened options:

Non-dairy milk

Soy, almond, oat, and other plant milks come in unsweetened varieties without vanilla or sugar.

Plant-based yogurt

Look for unsweetened coconut or almond yogurts to avoid added sugars. Or make your own from plant milk.


Buy plain tofu. Flavored smoked or teriyaki tofu often contains sugars.

Nut butter

Look for 100% nuts/seeds ingredients. Avoid added oils, sugars, and salt in processed nut butters.


Make your own low-sugar granola at home or look for unsweetened versions without honey or sugar.

Protein bars

Seek out bars sweetened with coconut sugar, dates, or monk fruit instead of brown rice syrup.

Reading labels helps find unsweetened and no sugar added versions of many products. If you can’t find a healthy option, consider making it yourself.

Limiting sugary desserts and baked goods

It can be challenging to avoid all sweets on a vegan diet. Here are some tips:

– Allow yourself a small portion of dessert on special occasions
– Make sweets using natural sweeteners in moderation
– Focus dessert on fresh fruit, perhaps with a small amount of dark chocolate
– Choose nutrient-dense sweets like chia puddings, avocado chocolate mousse
– Stay out of the baked goods aisle at the grocery store
– Avoid keeping sweets in the house or workplace
– Readjust taste buds by going without sweets for 30 days
– Increase protein, fat, and fiber at meals to avoid sugar cravings
– Manage stress through exercise, socializing, relaxing hobbies

With mindfulness and patience, vegans can train themselves to enjoy healthier dessert options and avoid emotional eating of sugary processed foods.

Eating more whole carbohydrates

Instead of refined carbs like sugar, white flour, white rice that spike blood sugar, base meals on fiber-rich whole food carbohydrates:


Enjoy a rainbow of non-starchy veggies – greens, peppers, mushrooms, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, etc.


Beans, lentils, and peas offer protein with slowly-digested carbs.

Whole grains

Choose minimally processed whole grains like oats, quinoa, brown rice, barley over refined grains.

Starchy vegetables

Root veggies like potatoes, sweet potatoes, winter squash contain fiber that slows sugar absorption.


Focus on low-glycemic options like berries and apples instead of tropical fruits.

Whole food carbs nourish the body and microbiome without spiking blood sugar. They provide antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients lacking in refined sugars.


Cutting out added sugars requires diligence for vegans who want to achieve optimal health and keep processed foods to a minimum. But it certainly doesn’t mean eliminating all sweetness! Natural whole foods offer plenty of options for satisfying a sweet tooth while providing nutrients and fiber instead of empty calories. With careful label reading and a dedication to home cooking, most vegans find they can happily limit sugar without sacrificing flavor or fun. Moderation and balance is key for any healthy plant-based diet.

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