Cutting or reducing sugar from your daily diet may be routine or common sense for you, but you may be eating and drinking more sugar than you realize because it’s added to so many foods and beverages. We know what more sugar means…more calories.
While your body uses all sugar, a simple carbohydrate, for energy, it’s best to get the sugar from food that naturally contain it, like fruits, vegetables and dairy foods. “Added sugar” refers to the sugars and syrups added to foods during processing. For most Americans, desserts, sodas, and energy and sports drinks are the top sources of added sugar. Not only does the added sugar contribute to additional calories, it provides little nutritional value and is often found in foods that also contain solid fats.
In the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that no more than about 5 to 15 percent of your total daily calories come from added sugar and solid fats.
In trying to identify added sugar, the Nutrition Facts includes natural sugars found in certain ingredients, such as grain, fruit and milk. Looking at the ingredient list to determine if sugar is listed among the first few ingredients – a sign that the product is high in added sugar – is the most reliable way to identify added sugar. You’ll need to look for ingredients ending in “ose” (fructose, glucose, maltose and dextrose) and for the following: cane juice and cane syrup, corn sweeteners and high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate and nectars, honey, malt syrup and molasses.
To reduce the added sugar (and calories) in your diet, try these tips:
- Drink water or other calorie-free drinks instead of sugary, nondiet sodas or sports drinks. That goes for blended coffee drinks, too.
- When you drink fruit juice, make sure it’s 100 percent fruit juice – not juice drinks that have added sugar. Better yet, eat the fruit rather than juice. Also, drink reduced-calorie juice or dilute juice with plain or sparkling water to help lower the calorie count.
- Choose breakfast cereals carefully. Although healthy breakfast cereals can contain added sugar to make them more appealing to children, plan to skip the non-nutritious, sugary and frosted cereals. Use skim milk in that healthy cereal.
- Opt for reduced-sugar varieties of syrups, jams, jellies and preserves. Use other condiments sparingly. Salad dressings and ketchup have added sugar.
- Choose fresh fruit for dessert instead of cakes, cookies, pies, ice cream and other sweets.
- Buy canned fruit packed in water or juice, not syrup.
- Snack on vegetables, fruits, low-fat cheese, whole-grain crackers and low-fat, low-calorie yogurt instead of candy, pastries and cookies.
So, as you grab for a soda or other sugary drink to cool down this summer, go for a refreshing glass of ice-cold water instead. By limiting the amount of added sugar in your diet overall, you can cut calories without compromising on nutrition.