Looks can be deceiving! Unfortunately today, sugar takes many different forms in the food we purchase. We can no longer trust labels to tell us in lay man's terms the ingredients our foods contain. We must educate ourselves so we can make the best decisions for ourselves and our loved ones.
EatRight.org shares that a high intake of sugar is linked to cavities, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and other health conditions.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines recommends Americans limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of their daily calorie needs. That's about 12 teaspoons (48 grams of sugar) on a 2,000-calorie diet. But for kids — especially little kids, who may only need 1,200 to 1,400 calories per day — it's even less.
Common Sources of Added Sugars
Some sources of added sugars are easy to spot, such as:
- Sugary beverages (soda, fruit punch, sweet coffee and energy drinks)
- Sugary cereal
- Candy and chocolates
- Flavored yogurt
- Baked goods such as cakes, pastries and cookies
However, added sugars can hide in some surprising places, including:
- Whole-grain cereals and granola
- Instant oatmeal
- Frozen foods
- Granola bars, protein bars and cereal bars
- Pasta sauce
- Dried fruit, canned fruit, applesauce and fruit juices
- Baby food
- Barbecue sauce, ketchup, salad dressing and other condiments
Tips for Avoiding Added Sugars
The first step in reducing your family's added sugar intake takes place in the grocery store. Scan labels for added sweeteners and, instead, fill your shopping cart with healthier options. Sally Kuzemchak, MS, RD, a blogger and mother of two, recommends reaching for naturally sweet foods. Her favorites? "Fruit! Lots of veggies are naturally sweet too, especially bell peppers, carrots and sugar snap peas," she says.
When it comes to beverages, Kuzemchak recommends water and milk. "Many other beverages have ingredients kids don't need, like caffeine, added sugar and artificial dyes or sweeteners," says Kuzemchak.
You can also reduce added sugar intake at home by cooking from scratch. By making your own granola, pasta sauce and condiments and serving homemade baked treats, you are in control of the ingredients used. "With baking recipes, I frequently cut the sugar with no negative effect to the recipe or to how much my family likes it," Kuzemchak says. "I usually start by cutting it by a quarter and go lower if possible."
One common source of added sugar is flavored yogurt. You can start reducing added sugar intake from yogurt by mixing half a serving of flavored yogurt with half a serving of plain, unsweetened yogurt. This trick works with cereal too. As your family's taste buds adjust, gradually use less and less of the sweetened varieties.
Make a healthy relationship with food the overall focus instead of a completely sugar-free diet. Encourage positive associations with foods such as fruits and vegetables by playing up their good qualities and fresh taste — and save the sweet stuff for special occasions.
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