Sweet isn’t always so sweet
Natural sugars that come from fruits and vegetables are a part of a healthy diet, in part because of the other nutritional benefits in the foods in which natural sugars are found.1 Added sugars are the real problem in our diets today, especially sugar that’s hidden in foods which we don’t expect it to be in.
According to MDHealth2 the recommended daily sugar intake for men, women, and children is as follows:
Women should be taking in no more than 100 calories worth of added sugar. Women’s sugar intake should be no more than 24g or 6 teaspoons a day.
Men should be taking in no more than 150 calories worth of added sugar. Men’s sugar intake should be no more than 36g or 9 teaspoons a day.
Preschoolers should be taking in no more than 16g or 4 teaspoons of sugar a day.
Children ages 4-8 should be taking in no more than 12g or 3 teaspoons of sugar a day.
Teenagers should be taking in no more than 20-32g or 5-8 teaspoons of sugar daily.
It’s probably safe to say that we all know that the amount of sugar in a regular can of soda is pretty high. In fact, there are nearly 9 teaspoons of added sugar in just one can, which is more than women and children should have in a day – and the maximum amount a man should have.
That’s why many people choose water and other healthier beverages to drink. The sugar in a can of soda, a chocolate bar, cookies and other sweets is pretty obvious and we expect it to be there. But what many people don’t realize is that sugar is hidden in lots of processed foods that we might not expect – even in ones that are marketed as healthy alternatives.
For example, you may think that having a big green salad with a flavorful salad dressing is a great, healthy meal – but processed salad dressings are often loaded with added sugar, especially ones that are labeled light or low fat. They use sugar to compensate for the lack of flavor from the missing fat.
Other foods to watch out for
Oatmeal cereals and other granola type cereals. Always check for the sugar content on the label of cereals. You’d be surprised at how many grams of sugar per serving there can be in some of the cereals that would otherwise appear to be healthy. Just because it’s labeled whole grain doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a healthy option. Making your own granola at home is easy and fun, and you can customize it to suit your family’s tastes. Check out Food Network’s Healthy Eats blog for some delicious granola recipes.
Yogurt. If you have it in your fridge, take a quick peek at the amount of sugar in just one serving of your favorite flavored yogurt. In some cases it can be almost as much as a serving of pudding, which means you’re essentially having dessert for breakfast! Choose plain, unsweetened yogurt and add fresh or frozen fruit, a little cinnamon, and a small drizzle of honey for a much healthier breakfast option.
Dried fruit. It’s great to add to homemade granola for a little burst of sweetness, but check the ingredients when you buy any kind of dried fruits. Make sure what you pick up and take home is just dried fruit – no extra sugars added.
Smoothies. These delicious drinks can be packed with nutritious fruits and lots of cool, hydrating liquid, but again, look at the ingredients. If you’re making them at home from scratch, make sure you’re not adding ice cream, syrup, sweetened yogurt, or sugar-laden fruit punches, and they can be a very healthy drink option. For more tips on how to make good-for-you smoothies, check out our article on this smooth way to stay healthy and hydrated.
Special coffee beverages. Companies like Starbucks and other chains list the nutritional information for their beverages on their websites. Before you indulge in that sweet treat, make sure you know exactly how much sugar you’ll be consuming if you do. Remember that opting for skim milk isn’t going to make much of a difference when you’re drinking a beverage that sill has 11 teaspoons of sugar in it.
Canned soups and jarred sauces. Yes, there’s added sugar here too! If you have time, it’s always better to make soups and sauces from scratch because you control the ingredients and you can keep added sugar out of these types of meals. We have some great tips for big batch soups and healthy soup options in our Soup it up article.
Never assume that because something is marketed to you as a healthy alternative that it’s actually as healthy as you think it should be. Always check the labels before you purchase processed foods, and whenever possible make food for you and your family from scratch so that you can control the sugar, salt, and fat that goes into it. As an added bonus, food from scratch also almost always costs less and tastes a lot better!
For more information on how to spot added sugar, visit Healthy Living.