Sugar From the sweetener you stir into your morning coffee to the after-dinner dessert you can’t resist, the amount of sugar you consume between breakfast and bedtime adds up quickly.

Americans down more than 22 teaspoons a day, according to the USDA, which is more than double what experts recommend. At the same time, research links diets high in added sugar to increased risk for diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

So what’s the best way to slash sugar without sending your relentless sweet tooth into shock?

“Save your sweet budget for things that taste great, like dessert,” suggested Jacob Teitelbaum, a physician and author of “Beat Sugar Addiction Now.”

Use the following strategies to cut sugar where it won’t be missed and ward off cravings without feeling deprived.

Commit to a sugar quota.

The first step to reducing your sugar intake: Figure out exactly how much of the sweet stuff you’re shoveling in. Find the grams of sugar on a nutrition label and divide that number by four. That’s how many teaspoons of sugar a food or drink contains. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit themselves to no more than six teaspoons or 24 grams of sugar per day and men no more than nine teaspoons or 36 grams. The good news: How you spend those spoonfuls is entirely up to you, said Teitelbaum.

Know what counts as sugar.

Natural sweeteners like evaporated cane juice, agave nectar, honey and fruit juice concentrates might have healthy advantages over refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup, but that doesn’t mean they should be excluded from your sugar budget. Also, don’t be fooled by words like “organic” or “raw” in front of a sweetener’s name – it’s still sugar.

Don’t fear all artificial sweeteners.

Sugar substitutes shouldn’t be feared, but some are healthier than others, said Teitelbaum. He recommends naturally derived, filtered zero-calorie sweeteners such as stevia and erythritol. “Keep in mind that brand matters in terms of taste,” he said. Unless stevia is properly filtered, it can leave a bitter, licorice-like aftertaste. Sweet Leaf is a good option, as are Truvia and PureVia, which are blends of stevia and erythritol. If there’s no stevia in sight and all you have to choose from are the traditional pink (saccharin), yellow (sucralose) and blue (aspertame) packets of chemical-based sweeteners, pick pink. “There’s a very long safety record with Sweet’n Low,” said Teitelbaum.

Don’t drink your fruit.

Sweetened fruit juices are one of the biggest sources of added sugar in our diets. Some varieties contain more than a teaspoon of sugar per ounce along with little real fruit. For example, a 15.2-ounce bottle of Tropicana grape juice drink packs 72 grams – 18 teaspoons’ worth – of sugar and contains only 30 percent juice.

Find good-tasting soda alternatives.

Like fruit juice, soft drinks do serious damage in the sugar department. A 20-ounce bottle of Cherry Coca-Cola is loaded with 70 grams of sugar, for example. Teitelbaum suggests switching to coconut water, which contains a fraction of the sweet stuff (a 14-ounce bottle of Zico Natural has 60 calories and 12 grams of sugar) plus at least 500 mg of potassium per serving. Or look for beverages sweetened with stevia or erythritol, like SoBe Lifewater, Vitamin Water Zero or Zevia zero-calorie soda.

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