USDA Sugar Guidelines

Sugar Consumption Tips

Sugars to Avoid
Added sugar goes by many names on food products, and you need to know all of them to avoid blowing your discretionary calorie allowance and your calorie-balance scale. Here are some names to watch out for:
  • Brown sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Lactose
  • Corn syrup
  • Maltose
  • Dextrose
  • Malt syrup
  • Fructose
  • Molasses
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Raw sugar
  • Glucose
  • Sucrose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Sugar
  • Honey
  • Syrup

Not much for you in sugar -- they don't call it "empty calories" for nothing! Honey has a small amount of nutrients but is still a concentrated sweet. Molasses has a few minerals, but again, it's mostly concentrated sweetness. You'll do better getting your nutrients elsewhere in lower-calorie foods.

Best Bites for Weight Loss
Read the Nutrition Facts panel of foods to select those with the least amount of sugar and calories. Choose unsweetened foods as much as possible, such as unsweetened applesauce. Sugar-free foods, those sweetened with artificial sweeteners, are another choice. Some people prefer to avoid artificial sweeteners, in which case eat smaller amounts of the regular version of the food. Use fruit to sweeten foods so that you'll at least get some fiber, water, and nutrients along with sweetness. For instance, add fruit to cereal or yogurt. Use fruit to satisfy your sweet tooth -- it's much lower in calories than sugar-laden foods. Substituting fruit for candy bars -- even just some of the time -- will save you an enormous number of calories.

Other Tips

  • Keep low-sugar snacks handy. The more healthy alternatives you have ready, the less likely you are to grab sweets on the run. Keep the cupboard and refrigerator stocked with low-sugar choices you've searched out at the supermarket. For instance, graham crackers and unfrosted animal crackers can satisfy a cookie craving with less sugar (and fat, too) than most cookies. Dried fruit can stand in for candy. Unsweetened iced tea can substitute for soda pop.
  • Keep high-sugar foods out of sight and hard to get to. Store sweets in the back of the cupboard so you can't see them: Out of sight, out of mind! Put sweets in the freezer, making them unavailable for a quick munch.
  •  Use sugar from the sugar bowl sparingly. Sometimes adding a very small amount of sugar might make a healthy food palatable so that you'll eat it. For instance, most people don't care for unsweetened oatmeal, which is a great whole-grain food. But if a spoonful of maple syrup or brown sugar makes it acceptable to you, go ahead and use a little. This would be a wise way to use discretionary calories.
  • Eat only half your usual amount of high-sugar foods. Share dessert, put half away, or have a smaller portion to begin with.
  • Drink less sugar-laden pop and other sweetened beverages. Be sure to be a label looker when it comes to the beverage aisle. Many clear beverages with fruit pictured on their labels actually contain as much or more sugar than soda pop. Even "lightly sweetened" teas rival soft drinks in sugar content.
  • Choose unsweetened beverages when you can, or check the "Sugars" portion of the label. Drinks like Gatorade and Powerade have only 14 grams of sugar per cup (compared to soda pop's typical 27 grams per cup), and the "light" versions of Gatorade and Powerade have only half that much -- 7 grams of sugar. Sparkling waters with natural flavorings often have no calories.
  • Keep low-sugar snacks available in the car. Try a mix like this that keeps well in a resealable plastic baggie:
    • 1 cup each of several low-sugar, whole-grain cereals (e.g. Cheerios, Total, Grape-Nuts)
    • Raisins to taste
    • Handful of nuts or sunflower seeds
See how to set goals for sugar intake on the next page.