By Jessie Funchion, MS, RD, LDN

Tis the season! For cookies, cakes, pies and more. Did you know that the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day? For most people, that amounts to nearly 150 pounds of added sugar a year! This far exceeds the recommended daily intake of added sugar of 36 grams (9 teaspoons) a day for men and only 24 grams (6 teaspoons) a day for women.

1) Swap out the sweet drinks

Sweetened drinks are the most common source of added sugar in American diets. To start, skip sugar in your coffee and add sweetness with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Also, nix sweetened iced tea and sodas, and switch to fruit-infused water or flavored seltzer.

2) Switch to natural sugar sources

Sugar in the form of whole fruit (fructose) or dairy (lactose) is a healthier alternative to sugary foods. Fruit and dairy come packed with fiber, protein, fat, and/or phytochemicals (the antioxidants found in fruits and vegetables). Add fruit to your oatmeal or cereal or enjoy 100% fruit juice in controlled portions (4-8oz/day). And if you must splurge for dessert, try to limit yourself to one 100-calorie treat a day or less.

3) Log your food intake for a few days 

You may be surprised to find you’re consuming way more sugar than you realized. Tracking helps increase your awareness and helps you find ways to cut back. Apps like My Fitness Pal allow you to track the nutrition content of the foods you eat.

4) Check food labels for sugar content

Some foods that you THINK are healthy are often loaded with added sugar. The worst offenders include:

  • Instant oatmeal
  • Breakfast cereal
  • Yogurt
  • Jarred pasta sauce
  • Condiments like ketchup and barbecue sauce
  • Salad dressings, especially fat-free dressings
  • Granola bars

As a general rule, add up the grams of fiber plus the grams of protein per serving—the number should be greater than the amount of sugar. Or, simply stick to foods that have less than 5 grams of added sugar per serving.

5) Drink some water or take a nap

You may not be surprised to hear that you crave sugar when you’re tired. But, you MIGHT be surprised to find that you crave sugar when you’re actually just thirsty. Think about whether you need to rest or simply drink a cold glass of water before you reach for the sweets.

 

Are you watching your sugar intake?  Added sugars can be found in many products. Of course the usual suspects include candies, sweets and sugar sweetened beverages such as soda, but added sugars can be found in many other foods including whole wheat bread and greek yogurt.  This doesn’t mean that you need to raid your refrigerator and toss your Chobani, though. Just be mindful of your intake. Look for key words in the ingredient list such as syrups (including high-fructose corn syrup), dextrose, fructose, invert sugar, and regular old sugar. Also, be aware of other more attractive sounding forms of sugar such as evaporated cane juice and organic raw sugar which are both still sugar. 

The current guidelines for added sugars aren’t very clear, but the American Heart Association has put forth it’s own guidelines which is good to keep in mind. They recommend that females intake less than 6 teaspoons of added sugars daily, which is equivalent to 24 grams or about 100 Calories and men intake less than 9 teaspoons daily, which is equivalent to 36 grams or about 150 Calories. For frame of reference, just one 12oz can of Coca Cola has 140 Calories and 39 grams of sugar. Be mindful of sugar you add to your coffee and tea as well. A packet of sugar is equal to one teaspoon, so they can add up quickly in your morning cup of coffee. 

Your best bet is to try your best to look for products that are low in sugars. Choose more naturally sweet foods such as fruit (these sugars don’t count towards the recommended total). The current nutrition label does not need to differentiate natural from added sugars, so be sure to read the ingredient list. Also, try limiting your own added sugars. Start by making your coffee up yourself instead of having it pre made from your coffee shop. Then try gradually cutting back on the amount you use.