Sugar Free January Product Guide - Skillful Cook
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Sugar Free January Product Guide

Sugar Free Product Guide

So Here's What I Did.

I went grocery shopping at three different grocery stores...

  • Trader Joe's
  • Super Target
  • Cub Foods

...and I put together a list of all the good, yummy, sugar-friendly products that I found at all three stores.

If you are doing Sugar Free January with us (a 30-day free challenge! read more here), I thought it might be helpful for you to have some ideas about what pantry essentials and snacks and drinks to pick up so you'd be ready to kick sugar ouuuut at the beginning of the month.

What Counts As Sugar-Free / Sugar-Friendly:

  • No added sugar.


I actually like the term Sugar-Friendly for this list, meaning these products are good choices for someone trying to cut out added refined sugars.

In a few rare cases, I allowed up to 2 grams of added sugar in order to keep the list from being totally miserable if not completely unattainable. This will be primarily in the snacks or prepared meals category. I also allowed for naturally occurring sugars (like those in natural unsweetened fruit juices).

I hope you'll be able to use this list as a guide - but mostly, read labels and make your own decisions on a case-by-case basis.

How I Shop For Sugar-Friendly Products:

I read labels. Here is a visual of how I looked for sugar-free / sugar-friendly products, using yogurt as an example.

This first yogurt has 7 grams of sugar. However, yogurt (dairy) has naturally occurring sugar, so I needed to read the ingredient list to see if those 7 grams were NATURAL or ADDED.

yogurt container with nutrition facts

There was no sugar in the ingredient list, so I knew this one was clean. The 7 grams of sugar that we see listed are naturally occurring sugars.

This second one had 14 grams of sugar. And when I looked at the ingredients....

nutrition facts on a yogurt container

Cane sugar, right there in the ingredient list! I would not consider this one “sugar free” because it has added sugar.

Some nutrition labels will have “sugar” and “added sugar” differentiated right on the package, which is awesome. But not all do, so it's important to read ingredient lists to find out if there's sugar in any given product.

Quick team meeting here before we start. Hopefully it goes without saying that THE MOST HEALTHFUL PRODUCTS ARE GOING TO BE WHOLE FOODS, like FRUITS, VEGGIES, MEATS, GRAINS, BEANS... not things that come in a bag or a package.

However, if all of a sudden you feel like you can never eat anything out of a package or bottle or box for an entire 30 days, you're probably not going to last long. Do you have to simmer homemade pasta sauce for hours or bake your own crackers or mill your own wheat for homemade bread in order to go sugar free?!?! No, no, no.

You can make good choices with your pantry and packaged foods by choosing ones that are sugar-friendly.

Sugar Friendly Snacks:

Crunchy, sweet, salty... a little bit of everything here.

thai lime and chili almonds in a bag
cinnamon banana chips in a black bag
parmesan and rosemary popcorn
simply balanced chickpeas in a bag
kind granola bars in a box
strawberry apple chia in a box
black mission figs in a container
roasted plantain chips in a bag

Sugar Friendly Crackers:

Most mainstream cracker brands contain at least 4-5 grams of added sugar. Meh. Thankfully there are a few brands out there that are 100% whole grain (or close to whole grain) AND contain no added sugar.

simply balanced multigrain flax pita crackers in a box grains first whole grain crackers multi-seed crackers in a bag beet crackers in a box whole wheat flour sesame crackers

Sugar Friendly Buddies For Your Crackers:

I was happy to find that there were many hummus and plant-based dip options with no added sugar. I even found this black bean layer dip at Cub that had no added sugar! Yay dips.

cilantro and jalapeno hummus
black bean layer dip

Sugar Friendly Ready-Made Meals:

Totally in favor of homemade meals. We have a bunch of them right here. But sometimes, life happens, and you need a can of soup. These were a few I found that I was kind of excited about - remember to look at those labels.

chickpea and roasted red pepper soup in a can

lentil soup in a containersimply steamers unwrapped burrito bowl veggie taco skillet dinner in a bag mexican casserole bowl in a box chicken burrito bowl in a box risotto with vegetables and chickpeas in a bag

Whole Wheat Pasta:

Basic/easy. Should be available at almost any grocery store!

organic whole wheat fusilli pasta

Sugar Friendly Pasta Sauce:

Pasta sauce is naturally sweet (thank you, tomatoes), but finding pasta sauce without added sugar is more challenging that you might think. Thumbs down for that. But with a little bit of careful label reading, you should be able to find an option with no added sugar. My favorite is DeLallo. 👌🏼

organic marinara sauce marinara pasta sauce delallo tomato basil sauce organic marinara sauce

Sugar Friendly Yogurt / Dairy:

Here's where we're looking for the no-added-sugar varieties by reading labels, looking at ingredient lists, and basically just leaning towards “plain” or unflavored yogurt or milk / almond milk. Cheese should be good to go! 🙏🏼

organic plain whole milk yogurt organic grassmilk plain yogurt simply balanced greek yogurt

Sugar Friendly Drinks:

Remember, some of these drinks DO CONTAIN SUGAR. But they don't have added sugar. If unsweetened fruit juice is on your “yes” list, I'd like to recommend you add a celebratory cocktail of sparkling water and a little natural fruit juice to your dinnertime routine! Light a candle, pour yourself a little mocktail, start your dinner on the stove... it's great. I actually prefer to drink the juice straight, even just a half of a glass, in a wine glass to be fancy, and then drink my sparkling water on its own... but I'm weird like that.

unsweetened oolong tea
purple carrot juice
grapefruit sparkling water

fresh pressed pomegranate juice

sparkling mineral waterV8 purple power

Sugar Friendly Breakfast:

Okay, this is for sure the hardest meal for me personally. I have to basically give up on cereal because I just don't like the taste of unsweetened cereal (although I'm intrigued by the Trader Joe's purple corn cereal - I may have to try that). Savory breakfast (think egg + avocado toast) is a lifesaver. I also included my favorite no-sugar-added whole grain bread. That seedy, grainy bread, with a spread of peanut butter, and maybe a few slices of banana and a sprinkle of cinnamon? Yes and more yes.

sprouted bread

unsalted peanut butter

organic purple maize flakes

Condiments / Other Sauces:

You know, the stuff you put on your grilled chicken, roasted vegetables, or eggs. This zhoug sauce has me intrigued.

zhoug sauce
tunisian harissa hot chili pepper paste with herbs and spices
tahini sesame seeds
sriracha hot chili sauce
drew's smoked tomato dressing and marinade
Newman's own olive oil and vinegar dressing

Good Quality Sweets, If You Leave Yourself A Little Wiggle Room:

And I do leave myself a little wiggle room. This dark chocolate bar is EXCELLENT. It's dark and rich and it still tastes good even with only 6 grams of sugar in half of the bar. WHAT!! This is my go-to for a square of dark chocolate after dinner on nights when I just need a little something to carry me through. (Obviously, both of these are my exceptions as they have added sugar. You can read more about my approach to including a few limited, high-quality sweets in this post.)

organic dagoba dark chocolate dark chocolate almonds

Okay Though. This Is Our Zone:

Friends, this is our zone. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, meats, that kinda thing. LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY COLORS!

rows of colorful vegetables

rows of raw meats

rows of colorful fruits rows of vegetables

I'm so curious to know if label-reading (and looking for sugar) is something you've done before, or something that seems totally overwhelming? Do you have any favorite sugar-free or sugar-friendly products already? Tell me what you think!


Also, FYI because I know sometimes the digital world is confusing, this post is NOT sponsored by anyone. 🙂

Filed Under: Sugar Free January

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  1. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great post! While I am not sugar free (yet!) I am a label reader. Thank you.

    P.S. I have been thinking of you, Bjork, and Afton all year, especially during this time, and I will continue to do so. Many thoughts prayers and hugs are being sent your way.

  2. Skillful Cook Logo

    Just a little error on the “where is the added sugar” for many products including the TJs blueberry yogurt you spotlighted.
    A) In Nutrition Facts, Total Sugars… added sugars are called out. No need to hunt for the culprit ingredient.
    B) If you go hunting, know your quarry. Tapioca Syrup. More added sugars there than in what you focused on.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      They are included SOMETIMES. The FDA revamped those nutritional requirements this year and extended the date to suppliers/manufacturers to update their labels. So in some cases you still may have to search. It’s a good habit anyway.

  3. Skillful Cook Logo

    I did the Whole 30 before Thanksgiving and found that sugar was my main problem as far as brain fog and mood swings was concerned. I was surprised to see sugar on my bacon! My favorite breakfast was half a baked sweet potato topped with banana, cashew butter, raisins and toasted coconut. I felt full for hours.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      The baked sweet potato sounds good. Applegate makes a no sugar bacon that’s quite delicious!

  4. Skillful Cook Logo

    First of all, great list. As a label reader myself though, one product jumped out at me right away. My husband loves Sriracha, but I don’t eat it because it does contain added sugars. Is that a special no-sugar added Sriracha sauce? Because the bottle in my house lists sugar as the second ingredient.

    1. Skillful Cook Logo

      I was going to ask the same thing! Sriracha absolutely has added sugar. I think that the only way to have sugar free Sriracha is to do it yourself.

    2. Skillful Cook Logo

      Cholula hot sauce is delicious and sugar free. Not sriracha but very delicious and might be a good substitute.

  5. Skillful Cook Logo

    I always read labels and we (husband still eats cereal) eat very, very little which comes from a package–I do love my homemade desserts including homemade ice cream!!!

  6. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great post! Thanks for all the great ideas. I’m excited for a sugar free January!

  7. Skillful Cook Logo

    I always tend to look at the carbs, not the sugar in food because I have a type 1 diabetic in the family, and its based on carbs, it has saved me from buying junk food or juice I knew I shouldn’t be buying in the first place! I do love the idea of this. My husband wants to hit the reset button in January and this might be exactly what I need. I just have to figure out how to drink coffee without added sugar and that is what will get me.

  8. Skillful Cook Logo

    Can’t wait! Although, I’m preparing by eating all the leftover Christmas cookies.

  9. Skillful Cook Logo

    Anyone have tips for mixers or things to drink in the alcohol department that are sugar friendly? I know giving up alcohol entirely will set me up for failure 😂 so I’ve been trying to figure out what my plan is there.

    Also Lindsay and Bjork, just want to say I appreciate your approach to this so much! (Also planning on allowing myself a little dark chocolate 😉) I won’t go so far as to say that I’m excited for this, but I think it will be really good for me!

      1. Skillful Cook Logo

        I have been obsessed with muddled mint (optional), honey whiskey & any flavored sparkling/seltzer water. DELICIOUS!

  10. Skillful Cook Logo

    Going sugar free for 30 days is definitely on my bucket list for 2018 and you’re getting me so excited! I’ve gone sugar free before and it feels so good. Especially after ALL OF THE SWEETS at the holidays. Don’t get me wrong–there’s a time and a place for all of the sweets. But I’m excited for this time and place for a little bit of a challenge. 🙂

  11. Skillful Cook Logo

    My family has been refined sugar free for almost four years now. We read ingredients and look for added sugars, and allow only 3 sweeteners (honey, real maple syrup, and stevia).We love Trader Joe’s! A few things we enjoy from TJ that aren’t on your list are: soft corn tortillas, sprouted bread, fruit spreads (in the jelly & pb section), and their dark chocolate honey mints(omg!).

  12. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks for the list! My husband and I are joining you this month and I was getting a little overwhelmed, but your list is a great starting point! And from stores that are readily available to us!

  13. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great post! I was already excited to jump onto your Sugar Free January idea, but this really helped me think of some things I can have on hand to make it easier, and to also make it doable while feeding my family. So many inspiring ideas. Can’t wait to see the recipes too. Thanks

  14. Skillful Cook Logo

    The tahini sauce from Trader Joe’s is an excellent no sugar added sauce for veggies and meat!

  15. Skillful Cook Logo

    I love the idea of no sugar January! My husband and I are already doing a 30 day fitness challenge to jump us back on track of regular exercise etc!

    I try and read all labels while grocery shopping, keyword, TRY. I love some of the ideas you’ve listed. Our go-to for sweet treats or a sugar craving are broiled goat cheese on a cracker with berries on top. Creamy, savory and sweet with the berries! And, of course, dark choclate.

  16. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’ve always been a label reader. Maybe it’s because I’m from CA or maybe it’s just because my dad always took me shopping and that’s what HE did.
    Anyway…I also do sugar-free, as of last March. I’ve been “eating clean” with no sugar, no dairy and no gluten — and when I say no sugar, I mean no refined sugars. I look for things that have agave and stevia. Sometimes honey or coconut sugar. It’s not that hard to give up the sugar if you have good substitutes!! I use a protein powder for my breakfast shakes that has pure can sugar. I know that a lot of people will say that I’m “cheating” or our bodies don’t differentiate….but in my case, it’s more rejecting the processed refined sugar than the rejecting sweeteners overall.

  17. Skillful Cook Logo

    I would inquiry the cost for your three stops. I would like an idea to budget outside of what I still need to spend for the family food on top of this expenditure. Needs to be reasonable to some degree I hope.

  18. Skillful Cook Logo

    Great idea! Husband and I are onboard and excited to cut out the sugars in January. Can’t wait to get started!

  19. Skillful Cook Logo

    going to give this a try, at the very least watch the labels closely… While you’re looking, keep an eye on the sodium (aargh)

  20. Skillful Cook Logo

    Love this level of detail!! This makes it way easier to know where to start … I’m pumped!! Additional Q: have you posted the winners of your giveaway?

  21. Skillful Cook Logo

    I’m definitely a label reader! I still buy junk food but I really try overall to be careful with what I buy regarding added sugar.

    All your posts about going sugar-free in January really make me want to join! But being in France the first week of January I know I won’t be able to do it… Thinking about doing it in February though!

  22. Skillful Cook Logo

    Thanks for this! I was feeling very unprepared to succeed at this, so a huge help. I’d love to see more non-Trader Joe’s ideas since we don’t have one.

  23. Skillful Cook Logo

    Medjool dates in the fridge and frozen grapes are what got me through the last time I went sugar-free!