I Am Dying For A Brownie – Can I Have Sugar When Trying to Lose Weight?

Sugar provides extra calories and little nutritional value.  Extra sugar intake is linked to increased risk for diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.  How much sugar it takes to negatively affect weight or cause other negative health affects is hard to measure.  There is no designated amount of sugar we need in our diet, but there are recommended amounts of healthy foods that have natural sugar like fruits, dairy and whole grain foods.  These foods get broken down to glucose molecules in the body.

Can Sugar be a Part of a Diet?

Excess and empty calories promote weight gain.  Ideally, cutting extra sugar out of the diet is beneficial for weight loss.  However, sugar in small amounts eaten with other foods may be part of a diet for weight loss.  Here are some tips for small doses of sugar:

  • Try eating only 1 or 2 bites of your favorite sweet instead of the whole thing.  Research suggests we feel our craving satisfied after a couple of bites.  Enjoy those bites and savor the flavors.
  • Eat a small amount of sugar with protein, fiber and some healthy fats to slow the release of sugar into the blood stream after a meal.  If you have a bit of sugar in your coffee in the morning, drink it with a healthy breakfast.
  • Make the majority of calories in your diet “clean foods” like unprocessed lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  This way adding a small sugar treat here and there won’t sabotage your weight loss effort.
  • Don’t set yourself up for failure.  If you are craving a brownie, have a small bite of one and don’t feel bad.  It is better to have a small brownie once in a while instead of going a long time without any then binging on a large amount.
  • If you have a dessert in your house, take a small piece then get it out of the house so it is not tempting you.  You can also store treats in the freezer so they are more inconvenient to access.
  • Watch out for liquid sugar calories!  Sweetened drinks can have a very high amount of sugar in them.  Try to avoid drinking sugary drinks.

When is the Best Time to Eat Sugar?

If you feel you need to have some sugar in the day, eat something with sugar before or after exercise.  This way the sugar will more likely restore muscle glycogen content instead of being stored as fat.  This does not mean you can eat all the sugar you want before or after exercise.

A small amount of sugar, ideally less than 15gm, is still recommended.  Chocolate milk is often used as an example of a nutritious snack post workout.  Consult a Registered Dietitian for more information or questions for sports nutrition.


Decreasing sugar in the diet is recommended.  If it is hard for you to cut out sugar, make it a goal to continue to decrease your intake of extra sugar.  Focus on eating foods that have natural sugars like whole fruits, low fat dairy and whole grains like oatmeal or quinoa
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