We do sugar in this country like we do everything else ─ in a big way, but it hasn’t always been like this. The average American now consumes about 130 pounds of sugar per year. That’s three pounds per week or 3,550 pounds over a lifetime.
You may be thinking, “There’s no way I eat that much sugar.” Most of us don’t consume that much sugar on purpose, but it comes hidden in many of our everyday foods.
Excess sugar is definitely not our friend. It has been linked to weight gain, depression, low-energy, metabolic, heart, and cardiovascular disease, acne, hormone imbalances, inflammation, aging and more.
According to Corporate Health Magazine, a whopping 35-49 percent of children born after 2000 will fall into diabetic ranges. Luckily, a little knowledge goes a long way and we have the power to reverse this frightening trend.
Here are a few surprising sugar bombs that may be lurking in your kitchen right now and simple ways to switch them out for healthier options:
Note: To turn grams into teaspoons simply divide by four for an approximation.
1. Protein bars – These bars are often put in the fit and healthy corner, but in reality can be loaded with sugar. A power bar contains 25g or 6 teaspoons of sugar. There are three different versions of simple sugars in just the first five ingredients. That’s equivalent to a Hershey chocolate bar.
Sugar fix – If you must have a protein bar, look for a lower-sugar version with quality ingredients that you recognize. A better alternative is trail mix. Take a visit to your local bulk bins and put together your own personalized combo of dried fruits and nuts. Look for unsweetened dried fruits.
2. Yogurt – Yogurt is often touted as a health food but many are loaded with added sugars. Milk contains natural sugar called lactose, but usually above and beyond is added high fructose corn syrup or other forms of sugar. A blended Kroger yogurt has 33g or 8 teaspoons of sugar and lists sugar as the second ingredient with a third add-in later down the list. To put that in perspective, there is the same amount of sugar in a Snickers bar.
Sugar fix – Unsweetened Greek yogurt is an excellent alternative. If you need extra sweetening, add a little bit of raw honey and/fruit. Greek yogurt is also higher in protein keeping you feeling full longer. Bonus!
3. Cereal – So called “healthy” cereals can have as many as six health claims on the front of the box, reassuring you that you’re doing the right thing by purchasing it. Yet, when you flip it over and read the label, the facts don’t lie. Raisin Bran, for example, contains 17g or 4 teaspoons of sugar per one cup serving, but that’s not from the raisins. It’s due to the added high fructose corn syrup and two other added sweeteners. The same goes for many of the packaged oatmeal choices out there. With that kind of sugar content, it would be like eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream for breakfast.
Sugar Fix – Read labels in the store and find a low-sugar cereal that you like (hint: you’ll have better luck in a natural store or aisle.) Another option is to make your own. I like to mix together raw nuts, chia seeds, rolled oats, and dried or fresh fruit drizzled with a bit of honey. As for oatmeal, choose the unflavored/unsweetened version and choose to dress it up yourself.
4. Drinks – I’m going to pick on Starbucks here because I know many of us share that addiction. One small glass bottle of vanilla cappuccino has 52g or 13 teaspoons of sugar. The little flavored Via packets list sugar as the first ingredient before coffee – which means there is more sugar than coffee in the “coffee” drink.
Other sugary drinks to watch out for include:
- Coke (20oz)………………………65g or 16tsp
- Powerade (32oz)………………50g or 12.5tsp
- Red Bull (12oz)…………………39g or 10tsp
- Vitamin Water (20oz)………..33g or 8tsp
- Fruit Juice (8oz)…………………24g or 6tsp
Sugar fix – Water is always the best choice. Try dressing it up with added fruit to make it more interesting. When you go to a coffee place opt for unsweetened drinks that you can sweeten yourself later if you desire. Tea also can be a great choice and has added health benefits. Cut fruit juices with soda water to decrease sugar levels.
5. Sauces – There is a reason why little kids (and some big kids) lick the ketchup right off the fries. You guessed it, sugar. Here are a few examples of sauces with higher sugar levels. One serving of most of these has as much sugar as a glazed doughnut.
- Ketchup (1Tbs)…………………4g or 1 tsp
- Spaghetti sauce (1/2cup)…..10g or 2.5tsp
- BBQ sauce (2Tbs)………………11g or 3tsp
- Teriyaki sauce(2Tbs)…………11g or 3tsp
Sugar Fix – Try to find alternatives like spice rubs instead of BBQ sauce or mustard instead of ketchup. Sometimes, only these sauces will do, so opt for the lowest sugar versions you can find and use sparingly. Unsweetened spaghetti sauce is rare, but does exist. You’ll have better luck in a natural food store or aisle. Get creative and make your own healthier versions.
How much is ok…
The American Heart Association says that for most American women, no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons of sugar. For men, it’s 150 calories per day, or about 9 teaspoons. That said, your body doesn’t need added sugars to function and they add absolutely no nutritional value so avoid them when you can. The average adult consumes approximately 22 teaspoons while the average child consumes 32 teaspoons per day.
Benefits of a low-sugar lifestyle…
- Weight loss
- Steadier energy levels
- An overall feeling of greater well-being
- More consistent moods
- Clear skin
- Alleviation of hormonal issues
- Reduced chance for metabolic, heart, and cardiovascular disease
- Stronger immune function
- So much more
The Bottom Line…
“Sugar is not food. It’s a high calorie drug dressed up in the cutest way.” – Julia Ross
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Lisa Bakosi is a Certified Health Coach and owner of Hygea Health & Nutrition, LLC. She provides private coaching to individuals, hosts a variety of health seminars, guest lectures at events, and specializes in Employee Wellness Programs. She works with her clients on diet and lifestyle strategies to feel good and look great. Visit www.hygeahealthnut.com to learn more about her training and unique approach to health.