The 2015 dietary guidelines are broad and nonspecific, emphasizing whole grains, eating a variety of colors of vegetables, lean protein, nuts and oils. The only specific recommendations are around keeping saturated fats and added sugars each to less than 10% of total daily calories. For the average American that’s not much direction, but hopefully the next few paragraphs will shed some light. My last post explained how to get to 10% on saturated fat; today’s post will focus on getting to 10% for those sugar babies.
Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods and beverages through processing or preparing them. It doesn’t include naturally occurring sugars found in foods like fruit and milk but it does include that syrup I just had with my pancakes this morning, the sugar in my French Vanilla yogurt and the sugar in the coconut cream pie I’m going to make for company this evening. It also includes the tiny bit of sugar I put in my coffee and tea.
The biggest source of added sugars for Americans is from soda, sports and energy drinks. It’s also found heavily in the specialty coffees from Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts – a Venti Caffe Mocha has 44 gms of added sugar. Some not-so-obvious added sugars are found in cereal, sauces and soups, and even ketchup. Keep in mind, this also includes other sweeteners that are popular today like Agave, honey and coconut sugar. So how do you know what 10% of your total daily calories looks like?
Calculating Your Sugar
Using the Mayo Clinic calorie calculator and estimating calories for a 55 year-old woman who is 5′ 6″, weighs 160 pounds and is somewhat physically active 2-3 times a week, her daily calorie recommendation would be around 1850 calories. If you were to take 10% of her calories, based on the 2015 dietary guidelines, she should limit her added sugars to about 185 calories a day. To convert this into usable information you need to understand that there are 4 calories in a gram of sugar. Dividing 185 by 4, it leaves her with 46 grams of sugar with which to titillate her mouth for the day.
What’s In Your Sugar Bank
It’s all about choosing wisely by knowing where the hidden sugars are, while also learning how to find good substitutes for favorite foods that are high in sugar. A 20 ounce serving of coke pours 65 grams of sugar down your throat. Four pieces of that Godiva Milk Chocolate bar yields 21 grams. My coconut custard pie calls for 1 1/2 cups of sugar. Divided over 8 pieces that is still 38 grams of sugar. My favorite yogurt, Cabot’s Low-Fat French Vanilla has 28 grams of added sugar in one cup! Youser. That was an eye opener when I first saw that.
I’m always on the search for a low sugar tomato sauce and even at 3 gms of sugar in half a cup, Muir Glen has much less than most with some containing up to 13 grams of sweetener in their sauce. I know what you’re thinking, I used to think the same way. You’re saying, “tomatoes are good for you with all that lycopene, right?” So next thing you know that pasta is hidden underneath 2 cups of sauce and 52 gms of sugar. Why not wash it down with some coke and follow that with a nice brownie – the all American favorite. And I know what tends to happen with that brownie mix. I’ve thought this same way. It goes into a 8″ x 8″ pan and cutting it into 9 brownies looks so much better than cutting it into 16. A 2″ brownie, really? Is that a dessert or just a nibble? Now that 18 gms of sugar has turned into 32. Combine the pasta sauce, the coke and the generous brownie and voila! You’ve consumed nearly 150 gms of added sugar – more than 3 days worth!
You Can Make This Work Sugar Baby!
Ahhh, I love my sweets too, I understand. This is how I’ve made it work for me;
- Save your desserts for the end of the day and have just one paying attention to portion size and take small bites, savoring each one. Let it dissolve slowly in your mouth.
- Instead of sodas, try seltzer water. I bought a Soda Stream and I add a natural, calorie free flavoring. Or as a transition try mixing regular soda with diet soda and limit your soda as much as possible.
- Stop the energy and sports drinks. If you are thirsty, have water. If you really need a little flavoring then add some fresh lemon or lime to your water or a tablespoon of 100% orange juice.
- Eat dark chocolate instead of milk chocolate. It has far less sugar and delivers more of the heart healthy flavonoids than milk chocolate. Eat it mindfully, knowing where your other sugars are going to come from in your meal and over the day.
- Move away from artificial sweeteners and sugar-free sodas if possible. They just raise your sweet thermostat in your palate and make you want added sugar in your other foods.
- Read food labels, become informed and get smart. You would be surprised how much sugar is in everything we eat.
- Make more of your desserts with fruit. My Blueberry-Rhubarb crisp is delicious but you can substitute with any fruit. Even frozen mango makes a delicious crisp! Fruit crisps have less fat and carbs than a pie and are a delicious way to get some whole grains while controlling the sugar.
- Cut sugar in recipes by a third. You won’t notice it. I made my last coconut custard pie by reducing it to one cup and added some extra vanilla extract a touch of nutmeg to enhance other flavors.
- Stop eating cold cereal for breakfast or have just steel-cut oats with a tsp of honey or sweeten with about 25 raisins (dried fruit is concentrated with sugar since the water is removed). Whole grain toast with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter, a smoothie or even low-fat cottage cheese with some fruit, is a fabulous breakfast.
- Make fresh fruit your dessert. Some fresh in season cut up fruit tossed with some lemon or lime or some cinnamon does satisfy the sweet craving, delivers crunch as well as a boat load of vitamins and fiber. We need to look at fruit differently. It needs to be elevated to dessert status and not just a box to be checked off.
Some might ask what is the big deal about sugar. The bottom line is that it comes to emotional and physical health. We know big swings in blood sugar leads to mood swings and impairs sleep. Eating too much sugar also raises triglycerides, leads to weight gain and puts added stress on the pancreas. With 29 million people in the United States with diabetes and 8 million of those not even aware they have it, isn’t it worth knowing what’s going in your mouth so you won’t be caught by surprise? And who knows, you might find that following a few of these suggestions are no big deal. Now that’s a nice payback! Please forward this to the people you care about.