Today, I am doing something completely out of character. I am not focusing on the list of ingredients and instead looking at how much sugar is in SOOO many products these days.
The Problem With Sugar
The problem with sugar is honestly not sugar itself, but the quantity in which it’s being consumed. Over the last few decades our consumption of sugar has skyrocketed to “nearly 130 pounds of added sugars per person, per year,” which is 1/3 pound (or 2/3 cup) per day! That’s as much as four times as what’s recommended…keep this chart handy as you review the products below:
The American Heart Association’s recommended daily allowance of sugar:
- 3 teaspoons of added sugar for children
- 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women
- 9 teaspoons of added sugar for men
According to Mark Bittman, “Added sugar . . . is the tobacco of the twenty-first century” and “probably the most dangerous part of our current diet.” One of the biggest concerns is that many people don’t realize how much added sugar they’re actually consuming. You might think you’re in the clear if you simply avoid sweets, but added sugar lurks in some pretty unexpected places, including salad dressings, dried fruit, spaghetti sauces, breads, cereals, condiments, flavored yogurts, beverages, and even crackers.
Added Sugar vs. Naturally Occurring Sugar
As I’ve mentioned before, I almost always exclusively read the ingredient labels and never look at the Nutrition Facts panel – except for when I am trying to figure out how much sugar a product contains. And that’s because I know over consumption of added sugar is so easy to do and also so bad for our health. At this time though, the grams of sugar listed on the label combine both naturally occurring sugar (often found in fruit and dairy products) and refined, added sugar – two VERY different things in my opinion!
Nature does a good job of packaging whole fruit with the right amount of sweetness and also the right amount of other nutrients (including fiber, which helps to slow absorption). So thanks to nature naturally occurring sugar that’s found in whole foods is not to fear (whew!)…the much bigger problem is the white stuff! With this in mind, I tried to mostly select products for my little “Sugar Project” below that I believe are low in naturally occurring sugar so we can for sure know that the grams of sugar listed on the label are mainly referring to refined, added sugar (the stuff we need to cut back on). There are always exceptions to the rule though, which I explain below.
Why Artificial Sweeteners are No Better
Now if there’s one thing I want to be sure of – I don’t want anyone walking away from this post thinking they should go for the artificial sweeteners instead since they don’t add up on the nutrition label. Just for the record, I’d MUCH rather eat “real” sugar over the artificial stuff any day. More on that here.
1. Frosted Mini Wheats
This product is one of those that could be healthy if it weren’t coverd in a blanket of sugar. If you’re feeding this to your children for breakfast, yes, they’ll be consuming some much-needed whole grains, BUT they’ll also almost max out on their recommended daily allowance of added sugar with just one serving. Next time go for the plain wheat cereal …even if that means sprinkling a 1/4 teaspoon of your own sugar on top (which would be a huge improvement)!
2. Fruit Snacks
I am so tired of seeing these treats labeled as “fruit.” The main fruit these contain is fruit juice, which, referencing what I said above about naturally occurring sugars, has been stripped of all the good nutrients and fiber that nature intended to go with all the natural sugar. So, while I’d personally rather drink fruit juice than eat straight-up sugar, I believe it should still be consumed in moderation as well.
3. Granola Bars
This right here is inspiring a “health foods that aren’t healthy” post. Granola bars tend to have a “healthy” reputation (and I love the homemade version where you can control the amount and what type of sugar is added), but be careful that you aren’t maxing out your added sugar for the day with one bar!
4. Froot Loops
I am guessing most of you don’t think of “Froot Loops” as a health food, but isn’t it interesting that even with the first ingredient in this cereal being sugar that it contains just as much added sugar as those “healthy” granola bars shown just above? And I promise my point here is not for you to eat more Froot Loops!
Once again, we all know this product isn’t a health food either, BUT I was a little surprised that just in 2 tablespoons of sprinkles my children would easily exceed their recommended daily allowance of sugar. Let’s remember this doesn’t even consider the sugar used in the cake or the frosting. So the next time you want to add some colorful sprinkles to your child’s dessert, I would just say be cognizant about not going overboard.
Here’s another “health” food that’s really not. Kids are downing this stuff left and right and as you can see here, it’s FULL of sugar – not to mention it’s loaded with artificial dyes and other questionable ingredients. I think it’s also worth mentioning that the bottle pictured here contains 2 1/2 servings, which means it contains more than 13 teaspoons of sugar in total – ack! I personally think water is a great thirst quencher after being active, but I know some more serious athletes feel like they need “more” than that. Homemade gatorade recipes can be found online, and coconut water is another popular alternative to consider and discuss with whomever told you to drink this stuff in the first place!
7. Snickers Bar
Snickers commercials like to suggest eating their candy as a “snack,” but now we can see that if you’re really craving a candy bar you should consider eating half of one and most definitely count it as a dessert instead!
Obviously regular sodas are full of sugar. But I must admit I was taken aback with how much! 16 teaspoons in this 1 bottle? Yikes! But don’t think reaching for the diet version is any better. Be sure and check out my post on artificial sweeteners to read more about that.
Were any of these surprising to you? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments below!
(PS – If you want to do a little “Sugar Project” of your own at home – my kids actually thought this was fun to do – download my free Sugar Conversion Chart to help you decide exactly how many teaspoons are in all those grams you see on the label.)