The Lowdown on Sugar

Learn how to become a better eater with help from Ellie Krieger.

There is nothing wrong with a little sugar once in a while. After all, it makes food taste delicious. What would a bowl of oatmeal be without a swirl of brown sugar? The problem is, most people go so far overboard with sweeteners that they're drowning in their sugar bowls. The average American eats the equivalent of 20 teaspoons (40 grams) of added sugar a day. That's twice the recommended amount.

Keep in mind, I'm not talking about the sugar that's naturally occurring in foods like fruit and milk products–even vegetables contain some sugar. That is not the problem. I'm talking about refined sugar that's added to foods and beverages to sweeten them up. When you consider one 12-ounce can of soda has the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar, the amount that should be your daily limit, you can see how quickly the numbers can add up. Try these simple steps to keep your sweet tooth in balance.

  • Switch to sugar free, calorie free drinks like water. For a splash of flavor add lemon or orange slices, or try a sparkling water with a little fruit juice.

  • Buy unsweetened cereals and yogurts and add your own sugar for flavor. Chances are you will use much less than the food manufacturers do.

  • Go ahead, have dessert. Just keep portions small and keep it to a few times a week.

  • Read food labels. Grams of sugar are listed on the food label, but the label doesn't distinguish between naturally occurring sugars and added sugar. So even 1 cup of plain milk will show 12 grams. Better yet, read the ingredient list and look for added sugar in all its guises. Fructose, cane sugar, corn syrup and maltodextrin are all added sugars.

  • Opt for honey, maple syrup and molasses. They still count as added sugar, but at least these less refined sweeteners give you some minerals and antioxidants.
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