Sweet treats are fine in moderation but Le Bonheur clinical dietitian Virginia Perry warns us about foods that contain hidden sugar. Perry also provides good information on how much sugar you should consume per day, according to the newly published 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
What comes to mind when you think of sugar? Probably cookies, cakes and candy. While those are the more recognizable sources, they aren’t the only ones. Sugar is commonly found in everything from fruit to cereal to condiments to sodas and is making headlines. However, it’s not the sugar found naturally in fruit and dairy that’s of concern, but rather the “sneaky” sugar that’s been added to many of our foods.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were recently released and include a notable change in the limit placed on added sugars. The Guidelines recommend Americans limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of their daily calorie needs. What does that mean? If an average adult requires 2,000 calories, that’s a limit of about 12 teaspoons or 48 grams of sugar per day. Kids with lower calorie needs would need less than that. To put it in perspective, one 12-ounce can of regular soda has almost 10 teaspoons, or 39 grams of sugar. While we know that eating too many desserts isn’t great for our health, the over consumption of added sugars in all of our foods is emerging as a key health concern.
Added sugars add calories to our foods, but offer virtually no nutrition. If you read nutrition facts labels, you may have seen sugar disguised as ingredients such as cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, raw sugar and crystal solids. And while brown sugar, honey, maple syrup and brown rice syrup may seem like more “natural” sources, they are still a source of added sugar.
Why is this important? While excess sugar in the diet has been linked to obesity and Type 2 diabetes, studies have shown that gradual reduction, especially from sweetened drinks, may improve our risk of developing these diseases.
So what can you do? Avoiding obvious sources of added sugars is one thing, but it can be found in many foods where we may not expect it.
Common offenders include:
- Cereals and granola
- Instant oatmeal packets
- Frozen meals
- Granola, protein and cereal bars
- Pasta sauce
- Dried fruit, canned fruit in syrup, applesauce and fruit juices
- Condiments: Barbecue sauce, ketchup, salad dressing
- Beverages: regular soda, Kool-Aid, lemonade, sweet tea, vitamin water, sports drinks
At the grocery: Fill your shopping cart with whole foods whenever possible. Fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruits can all be great options. Remember that anything found in a package is susceptible to added sugars, so be sure to read those labels.
At home: Cook from scratch when possible and buy ingredients with limited added sugar. Instead of buying flavored yogurt, sweeten plain yogurt on your own with fruit. Making your own granola, pasta sauce and homemade treats means you are in control of what goes into them.
In your cup: Infuse your water with fruit or sugar-free zero calorie flavoring packets.
On the go: Even gas stations offer fresh fruit. Paired with some lightly salted almonds, you’ve got a great snack. If you’re reaching for a granola bar, look for ones with less than 10 grams of sugar.