I was a little disheartened to recently see a reader write into EatingWell Magazine and ask, “I’m dieting. Should I skip fruit (and its sugar)?” Here’s my answer to that – noooo! That was the magazine’s answer too, although a little more toned down LOL. The author went on to explain that “people who eat fruit tend to be slimmer than those who don’t,” and that “we rarely overload on fruit … in fact, most of us aren’t consuming nearly enough” – nowhere near the recommended 2 cups per day.
The Sugar in Fruit (i.e. Naturally Occurring Sugar)
Of course, it’s imperative we eat plenty of vegetables as well, but it’s important to understand that the naturally occurring “sugar” in fruit is absolutely nothing to fear. It has been packaged together by nature with the right amount of nutrients and other good stuff (like fiber, which helps to slow absorption). Fruit is a healthy whole food which is exactly what our bodies need!
This line of thinking is all too similar to comments I’ll occasionally receive on a school lunch post of mine (like the one below). Now and then someone will say “that’s a lot of sugar” when in fact there is not a single drop of highly processed white sugar added. What they’re usually referring to is the fact that this lunch includes a variety of fruit as well as (plain) yogurt, all which contain naturally occurring sugar and (as I’ve just explained) is categorically nothing we should avoid!
I try not to get frustrated when people say those things about what I feel is an incredibly wholesome and unprocessed lunch (especially compared to the Standard American Diet)! But I do agree this particular meal happens to be void of vegetables and also contains homemade whole-wheat waffles (made with a small amount of honey – a natural but “added” sugar, no less). I tend to look at the whole day though, or even the entire week, when making sure we’re good on veggie consumption – not just one meal. Oh, and no one’s perfect LOL.
Avoiding Added Sugar
In fact, this next picture is a lunch that would make me think “that is a lot of sugar” – ADDED sugar. This is an example of what we should avoid. That simple word “added” makes all the difference! There’s easily 12 or 16 teaspoons (as many as 64 grams) in the soda alone. Not to mention the cupcake, jelly beans and even white bread all contain added sugar! But nowadays sugar consumption no longer just comes from sweets and sodas. Food manufacturers add it to everything from the bread I mentioned, to salad dressings, crackers, yogurts, peanut butter and more. You’d be hard-pressed to find factory made food without it!
Changes to Nutrition Facts Label
This big difference between “added sugars” and naturally occurring sugars is precisely the reason I’ve been looking forward to the Nutrition Facts label change announced a few years ago. Sadly, the deadline given to manufacturers to make the required updates has been delayed! But even so, some companies have already started.
I found a package with the updated label at Target the other day. These cherries are a perfect example of a product that contains both naturally occurring sugar (in the fruit) as well as added sugar. But, before the label change, it was challenging to tell how many grams of sugar is from the fruit itself versus the added white stuff in this bag.
Now though we can see that this dried fruit has 17 grams, which is over 4 teaspoons, of added sugar per serving (see my conversion chart here)! That exceeds the recommended allowance of sugar for children (which is 3 teaspoons- for the entire day)! This is exactly why I try hard to avoid dried fruit with any added sugar at all. I’d prefer to enjoy a cookie for my allotment of sugar for the day instead, haha.
Hopefully, more companies will follow suit soon! Has anyone else noticed the label change on products yet? If so, I’d love to know what you’ve uncovered about your favorite packaged foods and how much added sugar they honestly contain!