Even if you don't have a sweet tooth, chances are you take in more than your fair share of sugar each day. Added sugars can be found in everything from soda to salad dressing and even in otherwise healthy foods like yogurt.
The World Health Association recommends cutting back on refined sugar to reduce your risk of obesity. The added sugar in our diets seems to be adding up to extra pounds on American waistlines. The amount of added sugars in products is on the rise. According to the American Dietetic Association, the average American consumed about 123 pounds of added sugar per year in 1980. By 1999, that number had risen to 158 pounds. Why? We eat out more often, and we're eating more and more packaged foods and drinking more and more beverage.
The Sugar Bowl
You don't need to have a sugar-free diet, but reducing the amount of sugar you consume is a wise decision. Look for the following items on the ingredients label - they're all forms of sugar:
- Corn syrup or high fructose corn syrup
- Fruit juice concentrate or fructose
- Sugar - white, brown, raw or cane
Look for the amount of sugar listed on the "Nutrition Facts" panel of the foods you buy. It will be listed in grams. Remember: No matter what the source is, be it the natural fructose in strawberries or the added sweetness of corn syrup, it all winds up in the same place on the nutrition facts label. If a product only lists fresh or dried fruit in the ingredients list, you know that the sugar is derived from these sources. However, if cane sugar and corn syrup are listed in addition to the strawberries, you know that sugars have been added.
Cutting down on sugar:
- Avoid heavily sweetened breakfast cereals. Go for ones that have 10 grams of sugar or less per serving.
- Energy bars and drinks are a common source of hidden sugar. Look for ones that have less than 12-15 grams of sugar per serving.
- Watch out for reduced fat and fat-free products. Sugars are often added to mask the loss of flavor when fat is removed. You may be cutting out fat, but not necessarily calories.
- Limit sweetened beverages like milkshakes and coffee drinks, which are deceptively full of sugar and calories.
- Buy juices that are 100 percent fruit juice. Be careful about products that say "100 percent natural." That doesn't mean they're not loaded with added sugars. Avoid products that call themselves "juice cocktails" and "juice beverages."
- Mix fresh or dried fruit into plain yogurt. Many fruity yogurts are loaded with added sugar.
- Learn to appreciate the natural tartness of fruits like grapefruit, strawberries and other berries. Choose fruit when it's in season and it shouldn't need any added sweetness.
Frances Largeman, R.D., earned her undergraduate degree from Cornell University and completed her dietetic internship at Columbia University in New York. Frances has appeared on local and national TV and has been quoted in Cooking Light magazine, as well as food and health sections of local newspapers across the country.