The new dietary guidelines focus on cutting added sugar intake. But what does that really mean? What is an added sugar? You may think, I don’t eat candy or drink soda, so how does that affect me? Well, you may be surprised to find sugar is hiding everywhere. It can be found in your yogurt, your bread, your favorite BBQ ribs, even your lactose-free soy milk.


The Department of Health and Human Services along with the USDA recommend cutting your added sugar intake to less than 10% of your caloric intake. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends to lower your intake of added sugars below 5% for even further benefits and for the prevention of overweight and obesity. For women, this is equivalent to 6 tsp/day, men 8 tsp/day. The typical American eats 31 tsp of sugar daily. This is equivalent to almost 500 added calories and 25% of the average persons daily caloric intake. So it is clear we are eating too much added sugar for our waistlines.

Currently, food labels do not differentiate between added and natural sugars. The label just states sugar. This is why the label of 1 cup of milk will show 11g sugar. This sugar is naturally occurring lactose sugar, there is actually no added sugar. Despite the FDA requesting the specific source of sugar be stated on the label, there will be some time before this is enacted. In the meantime, you must act as your own sugar detective. You must determine how much sugar has been added to the food by looking for hidden sugars in the ingredient list. There are many different names sugar can go by and manufacturers are sneaky. They may use many different names in the 8th, 9th, and 10th ingredients so you may not think sugar is a significant amount. But, when they are actually all added up, added sugar is the No.1 ingredient.

Here are some names sugar can go by in the ingredient list: corn syrup, dextrin, invert sugar, beet sugar, cane sugar, corn sweeteners, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, malt, date sugar, galactose, maltodextrin, maple syrup, sorghum syrup, glucose solids, barley malt, dextran, rice syrup, organic raw sugar, treacle, molasses, sucrose. These are just a few of the alternate names sugar can go by and you should become familiar with.

So, how can I cut my intake of added sugars? Lets change some of the the biggest offenders to be healthier.

  • Instead of 1 packet of maple-brown sugar oatmeal (3tsp added sugar), add a poached egg and half an avocado to quick cooking steel cut oats for zero added and natural sugars.
  • Instead of 8oz chocolate milk (3tsp added sugars), store vanilla bean pods in 8oz reduced fat milk (12g natural sugars, zero added sugars).
  • 1 cup of marinara sauce will have 4tsp added sugars.  Choose tomato products without added sugars and add a splash of naturally sweet balsamic vinegar for a depth of flavor.
  • Instead of 1 cup of maple-bacon baked beans (7.5tsp of added sugar), spike up your pinto beans with cooked bacon, smoked paprika, and smoky chipotle.
  • There are almost 9tsp of added sugar in your nonfat flavored latte.  Add a sprinkle of cinnamon or cardamom to your non-flavored plain latte (18g natural sugars).
  • Instead of your 6oz blueberry flavored yogurt (5tsp added sugar), use 6oz plain greek yogurt (6g natural sugars) with 1/4 cup fresh blueberries (4g natural sugar) and stir in 2tsp natural nut butter topped with some toasted nuts for crunch.

Sugar is found everywhere.To better your health, it is important you act as your own nutrition advocate and search out added sugars.  Now that you know where to look and what to look for you can reduce your intake and your risk of heart disease, weight gain, and diabetes.

Written by: Leah Hammel

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