Americans eat too much sugar.

Consider this:

  • 17 tsp (68 g)=The average adult’s daily sugar intake. That’s about one 20 oz bottle of cola. (It has 65-69 g of sugar.)
  • 9 tsp (38 g)=Recommended daily limit for men.1
  • 6 tsp (25 g)=Recommended daily limit for women and children over 2.1

That means we’re eating twice as much as is recommended.

Obvious sources of added sugar include sweetened sodas and other sugary drinks (like energy drinks and coffees). There’s also candy, baked goods and desserts. You may think your diet is low in added sugar because you don’t sprinkle it on yourself. Unfortunately, it can be hiding in surprising places like:

  • Whole-grain cereals and granola
  • Instant flavored oatmeal and flavored yogurt
  • Frozen foods
  • Granola bars, protein bars and cereal bars
  • Pasta sauce
  • Dried fruit, canned fruit, applesauce and fruit juices
  • Baby food
  • Barbecue sauce, ketchup, salad dressing and other condiments2

Sugar sick?

Too much added sugar in your diet can affect your health in many ways. It can lead to problems with your teeth, weight gain and inflammation. It may even cause your skin to show signs of aging faster than normal.1 More importantly, eating excessive amounts of sugar puts you at a higher risk for:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Cognitive problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s
  • Colon cancer
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • High blood pressure, cholesterol and triglyceride levels
  • Kidney disease
  • Liver disease
  • Obesity
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Retina, muscle and nerve damage1

Change can help: Start reading labels

The new food label lists added sugars in products.3 Be aware of ingredients with “sugar” or “syrup” in their name, or anything ending with “-ose.” White sugar is sucrose, fruit sugar is fructose, processed sugar from corn is dextrose and so on. While agave nectar and honey sound natural, they’re still considered added sugars.

Make your own

The easiest way to know how much sugar is in your foods is by cooking from scratch. Make your own pasta sauce, granola or baked treats. Try using naturally sweet fruits and vegetables when baking and cooking. Mashed bananas, sweet potatoes and unsweetened applesauce are all suitable substitutions for sugar in recipes.

Refreshing alternatives

If it’s your habit to drink sweetened sodas or sugary drinks, consider switching to water (tap, bottled or unsweetened sparkling) or sugar-free drinks. If taste is what you’re after, there are many varieties of water flavored with the essence of fruits or herbs. Or you can make your own—simply add things like fruit or vegetable slices to a glass of water. Lemon, watermelon, cucumber or mint leaves add refreshing tastes without added calories or sugar.

When you’re in the mood for a snack, try one of these tasty options with no added sugar.4

Pumpkin spice popcorn Toss 3 cups of air-popped popcorn with 1 tsp olive oil, 1 Tbsp shelled pumpkin seeds and ¼ tsp pumpkin spice.

Banana bread-style oatmeal cup Mash ½ banana in a bowl. Add ¼ cup prepared oatmeal and ¼ tsp ground cinnamon. Mix well. Top with 1 Tbsp toasted walnuts.

Fruit and cheese plate Slice 1 small pear or apple. Serve on a plate with 1 low-fat string cheese or 1 oz of low-fat cheese, cut into cubes.

Mojito snack bowl Place ½ cup cubed pineapple and ½ cup cubed cucumber in a bowl. Toss with 1 tsp lime juice and ½ tsp chopped fresh mint leaves.

Speak with a dietitian today

Choosing to eat less sugar is great for the whole family. When it comes to children, there are easy ways to help them eat healthier.

Published February 21, 2024


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