Sign Up for Updates
If you want to eat less sugar, you’ve got to know where to look. Sugar hides in hundreds of everyday foods.
Trying to eat less sugar is difficult, and not just because we like it so much. Sure, it’s hard to give up something that tastes so good, but what really makes eating less sugar so tough is the fact that it’s nearly impossible to avoid it.
There is so much sugar added to so many foods that the average American adult eats about 22 teaspoons of sugar (350 calories) every single day. That means we’re each eating about 3 pounds of sugar a week, or 150 pounds a year, or nearly 18% of our total calories from sugar alone. Where is all this sugar coming from?
Some sugars naturally occur in foods, like lactose (natural milk sugar) or the natural fructose that adds sweetness to fruits. Those aren’t added sugars, they’re just a component of these foods in their natural state.
But added sugars are just what they sound like: they’re sugars that are added to foods during processing, or during preparation or at the table.
When you spread jam on your toast, or sprinkle sugar in your coffee, or when a recipe calls for a sugary ingredient, you’re adding sugar to your food. But it’s the processed foods we eat that dump lots of added sugar into our bodies. As foods are processed, becoming further and further removed from their natural state, a lot of sugar is often added along the way. A small fresh apple has some natural sugar in it, maybe 15 grams or so. But process it into sweetened applesauce and you’ve now got another 15 grams of added sugar per serving. Natural whole wheat has virtually no sugar in it. But process it into sugary cereal flakes and you could be eating a few tablespoons of added sugar in every bowlful.
Some added sugars are pretty obvious, like the jams and jellies, table sugar, honey or syrup we put on our foods. Then there’s the 53 gallons of sugary soft drinks that the average American consumes every year. This which accounts for about a third of our total added sugar intake. We also get plenty of sugar from treats like cakes and cookies, candies and frozen desserts. These are the sugars we can see. But nearly a quarter of the sugar we eat is hidden away in processed foods.
Unless you are a fanatic about reading ingredients labels, there’s a good chance that you’re eating sugar you didn’t even know about and in places where you wouldn’t expect to find it. I’ll bet you didn’t think a serving of pasta sauce could harbor nearly 5 teaspoons of sugar, or that 80% of the calories in ketchup come from sugar. Once you start looking at ingredients lists, you’ll find sugar in everything from soups to salad dressings.