Don’t let your sweet tooth sour your health

Published 5:21 pm Friday, July 28, 2017

Some research studies have shown that excess added sugars can increase your risk of disease. Use these tips to reduce your added sugar intake.

We often hear added sugars are not good for us. Added sugars have been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cavities. Added sugars add calories to food without adding nutrients or other essential vitamins and minerals. When we eat too many added sugars, we usually consume less foods that are more nutrient packed. As a result, it can be difficult to meet all of our nutrient needs within our calorie limits. Some foods have natural sugar, which can be found in some dairy products, fruits and vegetables. However, eating foods with natural sugar provide more nutritional value because they have many other essential nutrients.

What are added sugars? Added sugars are sugars and syrups that are added to foods and beverages during preparation and processing. Added sugars can be found in many foods. More familiar foods with added sugars include: soda, sweet tea, juice, energy drinks and other sweetened beverages, candy, sweetened cereal, jelly and baked goods, such as cakes, doughnuts and cookies. There are some foods with added sugars that are not so obvious. Whole grain cereals, granola, pasta sauce, frozen foods, instant oatmeal, flavored yogurt, and condiments, such as barbecue sauce, salad dressing and ketchup all have added sugars. They can even have many other names and be disguised in our food. Check the ingredient list on the nutrition facts label to see if added sugars are hiding in your food. Some of the more familiar names for added sugars include: high fructose corn syrup, honey, agave, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, evaporated cane juice, rice or corn syrup and brown sugar.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends consuming 10 percent or less of your daily calorie needs from added sugars. Based off of a 2,000-calorie diet, eat no more than 200 calories or 48 grams of added sugars daily. A 12-ounce Coca-Cola has 39 grams of added sugars and a 12-ounce Mountain Dew has 46 grams of sugar. That means drinking one 12-ounce soda almost meets all of your daily added sugar allowance. The good news is that changes are coming. In 2018, keep an eye out for the new nutrition facts label that will include added sugars. The added sugars will be found below total sugars on the nutrition label. This will make it much easier to find those hidden added sugars in foods we would not think are there.

Now that we have learned more about added sugars, let’s discuss how to decrease added sugars in your diet. Most people can drastically reduce their added sugar intake by reducing their intake of sweetened beverages. How many sweetened beverages are you drinking? Swap out your soda for naturally flavored sparkling water and sweet tea for unsweetened iced tea. Instead of consuming soda at a meal, opt for a cold glass of milk or water. Have no more than 6 ounces of 100-percent juice daily or none at all.

Most days of the week, choose fruit for dessert. One small chocolate chip cookie may have as much as 10 grams of sugar or more. Limit dessert to no more than two to three times per week. When eating dessert, be mindful of the portion size. You can also swap out sugary cereal for unsweetened cereal, such as Cheerios. Add one fresh banana to sweeten. Replace flavored packets of oatmeal with instant oatmeal and flavored yogurt with plain non-fat yogurt, then add a cup of fresh berries or a banana to sweeten and a sprinkle of nuts for crunch instead of granola. Drizzle honey on top for sweetness. Over time, decrease the amount of honey added until you do not need any at all. Cutting back on added sugar can decrease your sweet tooth over time. Your taste buds will adjust as you gradually decrease your sugar intake.

Cut added sugars with healthy snacks. Instead of reaching for candy or cookies, grab a snack without added sugars. Choose a fresh piece of fruit or small handful of nuts instead of a granola bar. Have fresh veggies with no sugar added, salad dressing or hummus. Have low-fat cheese with four to five whole grain crackers. Avoid buying sweets to reduce temptation. Keep these healthy snacks readily available so you are more likely to make healthier choices.

Making a few changes to your diet can have a big impact on your health. Reducing your added sugar intake can significantly reduce your risk of obesity and disease. Follow these simple tips and cut your sweet tooth.

Heather Eads, RD, LDN, is a clinical dietitian at Vidant Beaufort Hospital and can be reached at or 252-948-4937.