Sugar is found naturally in some foods and drinks, like fruit and milk, but it is also added to many of them. Added sugars give these items a sweet taste. Most Americans get too many calories from added sugars and over time this may affect their weight and health.
Many people think of desserts as the main source of added sugars, but there are many foods and drinks that contain them. For example, sweetened drinks like regular soft drinks, some fruit drinks, and energy drinks are all sources of added sugars. Snack foods, like crackers, and even ready-to-eat foods, like pizza and pasta sauces, can be made with added sugars. People may also add sugar to what they eat and drink, like sprinkling sugar over cereal or pouring flavored creamer in coffee.
Soon you’ll be able to determine the amount of added sugars by looking at the Nutrition Facts label. For right now, the best place to find this information is in the ingredients list. The ingredients that appear first are in the largest amount.
Be sure to look for foods and drinks that don’t have sugar (or some other sweetener) listed as the first ingredient. Other examples of sweeteners and sources of added sugars include: brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, molasses, sucrose, white granulated sugar. But there are others, too.
Sources of added sugars often lack nutrients we need for good health. Whereas foods and drinks that contain natural sources of sugar provide nutrients, like vitamins and minerals. For example, fruits like strawberries are a great source of vitamin C, and milk provides vitamins A and D and calcium.
It’s not necessary to avoid all sources of added sugars. The problem is that many of us include too many sources of added sugars or eat and drink larger amounts than is recommended. When this happens there is less room for more nutritious foods and drinks.
So in the future, if you have a taste for something sweet try eating some fruit first. When you’re thirsty reach for milk or water. Other ways to reduce sources of added sugars include: making or buying healthier versions of baked goods, including foods and drinks with added sugars less often, and eating or drinking smaller amounts.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend less than 10% of our calories come from added sugars. To find out how many calories you are getting from added sugar, you can track your foods and drinks using the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) SuperTracker. Visit www.ChooseMyPlate.gov for more information. For a referral to a registered dietitian nutritionist and for additional food and nutrition information visit www.eatright.org.