I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.
There’s so much in the news these days about the dangers of eating too much sugar I find myself tuning out the frightening warnings so I can enjoy my favorite gelato in peace. If you’ve stopped listening to those broadcasts, too, you’ll be happy to know you don’t have to stick to a sugar-free diet for it to be a healthy one. What those reports about high added sugar diets fail to mention is that the people who consume them often have other dietary habits that contribute to poor health, like not eating enough fruits and vegetables or using too much salt. But research on people who eat well-balanced meals based on plant foods and healthy fats and oils, such as the Mediterranean Diet or DASH Eating Plan, shows us you can include some added sugar as part of a happy, healthy lifestyle!
That should be good news for anyone, like me, who doesn’t think they could survive on a diet with no added sugar. Instead, do as I do and strive to use less added sugar while choosing foods built on the principles of good nutrition. Let me explain how.
Naturally-Occurring Sugars Differ from Added Sugar
Sugar is naturally found in fruits, vegetables, grains and milk products. It is what makes a fresh peach taste so sweet and why onions caramelize when heated. The foods these naturally occurring sugars are found in are an important source of key nutrients we need every day.
Many foods and beverages also have sugar and other sweeteners added to them to make them taste sweet or to perform other functions. Lowering the amount of these added sugars is the goal. The easiest way to know if added sugars are in the foods you buy is to check the ingredient list for any of these terms.
Recommendations for reducing the added sugars you consume start by knowing how much sugar you can eat. The amount can vary from 4 to 12 teaspoons of sugar a day for caloric intakes of 1000 to 2200 a day based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA), although these recommendations may change with the release of the 2015 DGA. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends limiting added sugars to less than 10% of total calories, which would be 6 – 14 teaspoons a day for caloric intakes of 1000 – 2200/day.
Unfortunately, we cannot tell from reading a food label how much added sugar is in a serving of a food or beverage. That may change when food labels are redesigned, but until then, here are three simple tips that can help you follow a diet with less added sugar.
Tips to Finding Foods and Beverages with Less Added Sugar
- Ingredients are listed by weight with the one used in the greatest amount coming first, so if an added sugar is at the end of a long ingredients list on a nutrition panel it is most likely not present in a significant amount.
- Foods and drinks made with no- and low-calorie sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweetener Products, typically have less added sugar than their full sugar counterparts.
- The more types of sugar there are in the ingredient list the more likely their combined weight would appear higher on the list.
And if you’re confused by all the sugar claims you see on food labels, be sure to read my blog about how to read food labels.
Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.
For more information about living a healthier lifestyle, visit the Healthy Lifestyle section of this blog.