Beware of the Low-Sugar Revolution

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If you’re trying to cut out added sugar from your diet, you aren’t alone. Make sure you’re doing it right; get the inside scoop on the sweet stuff.

Sugar in the Crosshairs

The release of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines launched an attack on added sugars, urging Americans to cap their intake at no more than 10 percent of total calories — that’s about 200 calories, 50 grams or 12 teaspoons for a 2,000-calorie diet. Instead, the average American takes in upward of 20 teaspoons per day (and lovers of soda and candy take in way more).

This new recommendation has prompted a spike in the number of low-sugar foods on the market. Since sugar is found in everything from condiments to breakfast cereal, some nutrition smarts are certainly called for.

It’s also important for consumers to understand the difference between added and natural sugars. Added sugars are just that — an ingredient, such as granulated white sugar, maple syrup, corn syrup or honey. Naturally existing sugars are found in fruit and dairy; these types of sugars will affect the tally on a food label but aren’t associated with the pile of unhealthy calories that too much added sugar contributes.

Sugar Shock

Evidence of the low-sugar revolution can be spotted all over store shelves. Here are a few of the most-common foods you’ll find, and tips on what to look for.

Juices: There’s a huge crop of lower-sugar juices in stores and vending machines. The bottom line: If it’s not 100 percent fruit juice, pass! Some brands also offer kids’ juices that have been diluted with water — save money and do that on your own.

Yogurt: Yogurt, which is calcium-rich, can be one of the most-difficult foods to evaluate. Most flavored varieties are made with a combination of fruit, milk and added sugars. To keep the calories low, many brands use a combo of sugar and artificial sweeteners like sucralose and acesulfame potassium. Reach for plain yogurt flavored with fresh fruit, or a brand like Chobani Simply 100, which is free of artificial sweeteners.

Kids’ Cereal: Don’t let the cartoon characters fool you; most popular breakfast cereals for kids contain more than 3 teaspoons of sugar per cup. Opt for lower-sugar kid-friendly offerings like Nature’s Path Peanut Butter Panda Puffs or Barbara’s Puffins.

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.