Woman adding sugar to beverage


Sugar shakedown: Cutting down on added sugar

The USDA recently announced new dietary recommendations and the biggest change was to the amount of sugar we should have in our diets. This is the first time the guidelines have given us a number to aim for, since past versions simply stated to decrease intake of added sugar.

The new recommendation is to consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugar. The key word is added sugar. We are not talking about the sugar found naturally in foods like the fructose in fruit or lactose in milk. Be aware that current food labels list only total sugar and do not separate out natural versus added sugar like the new proposed food labels will. For now, look at the ingredient list to see if it’s been added. Remember there are a lot of different names for sugar!

Doing the math
The new guidelines provide us with a number to help determine how much sugar is too much, but people may still wonder what 10 percent of their calories looks like. As a starting point, consider this. Most people need around 2,000 calories, which comes out to 50g added sugar. 50g sugar means nothing to most of us, but every 4g sugar = a teaspoon of sugar. So 50g = 12.5 teaspoons of sugar.

If you try to imagine eating 12.5 teaspoons of sugar that may seem like a lot, but you would be surprised how quickly you can reach, and exceed, this number. A lot of our favorite foods and drinks have added sugar, and we are just not aware how much.  Here are some of the most surprising culprits of added sugar:

Most of us are aware of the amount of sugar in energy drinks and soda, but even sweet tea and sports drinks, which are perceived as better choices, have more than half of your days’ worth of added sugar. Consider using spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and herbs like mint to flavor your unsweetened beverages.

While this is typically categorized as a healthy snack, if you are buying flavored yogurt there is often added sugar. The only way you can figure out how much is natural or added sugar is by comparing a plain versus flavored variety. Buy the unflavored variety and add your favorite fruits to sweeten while also adding fiber that will help you feel fuller.

Spaghetti sauce
Instead of buying spaghetti sauce that contains added sugar, choose a basic no-added salt tomato sauce and sprinkle in your own herbs and spices like onion powder, garlic powder, dried oregano and basil, and black pepper to give it lots of flavor. You won’t miss the sugar or salt!

Salad dressing
This is another condiment that people don’t realize can have a lot of added sugar. Two tablespoons of salad dressing can sometimes have 3 teaspoons of added sugar. Making your own salad dressing is really easy and can be fun. I like mixing ¼ cup grapefruit juice with ¼ cup olive oil or if you like vinegar, replace some of the olive oil with a white wine vinegar, and add a dash of ground ginger. 


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