Dear Dietitian – How can I cut added sugar in my diet?

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Published Thursday, May 6, 2021
PICT Leanne McCrate Dear Dietitian
by Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, CNSC

Dear Readers,

We Americans eat a lot of sugar. Why? Because it tastes good. The American Heart Association recommends six added teaspoons a day for women and eight teaspoons per day for men. While most Americans' sugar consumption comes from soda pop, there is also hidden sugar in many foods.

To be clear, we are talking about added sugar, not naturally occurring sugar found in fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose).  Sugar is not inherently bad for you; it's the excessive amount that becomes a problem.  Lots of sugar means lots of calories, leading to weight gain and putting one at greater risk for certain diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires food manufacturers to list all the ingredients in their food products on the label. Food labels also must list the amount of sugar in grams per serving. While most of us recognize sugar, or sucrose, other ingredients are very similar to sugar and should be noted:

  • Any food with sugar in its name; for example, coconut sugar or date sugar
  • Cane juice
  • Caramel
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Glucose solids
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Maltose
  • Molasses 
  • Nectar; for example, apricot or agave nectar
  • Sweet sorghum
  • Syrup and any food with syrup in its name, such as rice syrup or maple syrup

Here are some practical tips for decreasing sugar in your diet:

  • Focus on fresh foods. These will not have added sugars.
  • Eat five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.  These foods will provide fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which will help with cravings. The fruit will also help satisfy a sweet tooth.
  • If you like to have sweets in your everyday diet, try to limit it to 100-200 calories a day. You may also consider saving dessert for once or twice a week.

Good health to you!

Dear Dietitian

Leanne McCrate, RDN, LD, CNSC, aka Dear Dietitian, is an award-winning dietitian based in Missouri. Her mission is to educate consumers on sound, scientifically-based nutrition. Do you have a nutrition question? Email her today at deardietitian411@gmail.com. Dear Dietitian does not endorse any products, health programs, or diet plans.

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