USDA Sugar Guidelines

Sugar does not have its own special stripe on MyPyramid, yet recommendations about sugar consumption are an integral part of the USDA Dietary Guidelines, and their message is carried through in the pyramid.

The USDA Dietary Guidelines recommend eating fewer sweets to reduce calorie intake, ensure adequate vitamin and mineral intake, and control weight. Eating a lot of foods with added sugar typically crowds out more nutrient-dense foods, which is detrimental to your health and to your waistline. This article will help you to understand the role that sugar plays in your daily diet.

Sugars: Discretionary Calories
Added sugars, including sugars and syrups added at the table or in food processing or preparation, are empty calories because they have no nutritional value, yet they are loaded with calories. Sugars not naturally present in food are part of your discretionary calorie allowance. You need to carefully consider where to spend those discretionary calories, especially since they also include solid fats and alcohol. If you consume alcohol or higher-fat foods on one day, you'll need to really limit or avoid sweets altogether that day. On the other hand, if you avoid fats and alcohol, you may have room in your calorie plan to have that favorite sweet treat. It's up to you to balance your discretionary calories. Read labels carefully. Sugar masquerades under many names in the ingredient list. To compare amounts of added sugars, check the "Sugars" portion of the Nutrition Facts panel. Keep in mind that the natural sugar in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose) are also listed. These sugars are not much of a concern.

How Much Sugar Should I Eat?
The amount of added sugar listed in the discretionary calorie allowance is a maximum amount of sugar to consume each day. It is your "sugar budget," and you don't want to exceed it. This assumes that your solid fats are kept to the amounts listed in the fat section and you don't drink any alcohol that day. If you do, then you'll need to reduce your intake of added sugars and/or solid fats to keep your calorie scale in balance.

Below is a table that will help you estimate the amount of sugar you should eat each day, according to your calorie intake.

Daily Calorie Level
Added Sugars, Example
12 grams (3 tsp)
20 grams (5 tsp)
32 grams (8 tsp)
36 grams (9 tsp)

Learn More

At first glance you may think you have nothing to worry about. Perhaps you don't add a lot of sugar at the table. Unfortunately, many processed foods have sugar added to them. Consider that a single 12-ounce can of soda has about 10 teaspoons of added sugar. An 8-ounce container of fruit-flavored yogurt typically has 7 teaspoons of added sugar, and a tablespoon of ketchup has 1 teaspoon of added sugar in every tablespoon. You can see that it's easy to exceed your sugar allowance unless you're very vigilant.

See the next page for more sugar consumption tips.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.