Where Is Sugar Hiding?

Katherine Cork's picture
By Katherine Cork on October 12, 2017

By now, most of us know that too much sugar in our diet isn’t a good thing. It can be a contributing cause of many health problems, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
 
So how much is too much? And how can you reduce how much you’re getting?
 
According to the World Health Organization, adults and children should get no more than 10 percent of their calories from sugar. The American Heart Association suggests limiting sugar to nine teaspoons (38 grams) a day for men and six teaspoons (25 grams) a day for women.
 
“The average American gets double or even triple the recommended amount of sugar each day,” said Troy Mueller, R.D., an outpatient clinical dietician at Carilion Clinic. “When you consider that one non-diet can of soda can contain as much as 40 grams of sugar, you can quickly go over the recommended limit.”
 
There are obvious sources of sugar—like that can of soda, candy, cookies and ice cream—but some other foods that are high in sugar may surprise you.
 
Troy suggests keeping an eye on these foods and beverages, which might contain more sugar than you think:

  • Drinks – Juice, soda and energy/sports drinks are major contributors to sugar consumption. But coffee and tea can be, too.
  • “Healthy” foods – Yogurt, cereal and granola bars can be good for you, but plenty of them are also loaded with sugar.
  • Canned foods – Sugar is a preservative and some canned soups and sauces are chock full of the sweet stuff. 
  • Salad dressings – Sugar can be used to make “light” food taste better; just because something is lower in fat or calories doesn’t mean it’s low in sugar.
  • Condiments – A little bit of ketchup, BBQ sauce and other sauces can add a lot of hidden sugar to your meal.
  • Bread – You don’t usually think about bread being sweet, but one slice of whole wheat bread can often have up to five grams of sugar.

The best way to figure out how much sugar you’re getting is to read labels. See if sugar is one of the top three ingredients and look at how many grams of sugar there are per serving—and remember that often you will eat more than one serving.
 
The Food and Drug Administration is requiring that added sugars be included on food labels in coming years, so it will be easier to choose foods with less sugar and see how sugar is stacking up in your diet.
 
There are also some simple ways to cut back on sugar, like using one less packet of sugar in your coffee or adding fresh fruit to plain yogurt instead of buying it pre-sweetened. It may take time to reduce your sugar intake, but your health is worth it!
 
For more guidelines on sugar, visit the American Heart Association.