In 2002, the World Health Organization recommended that sugar should account for no more than 10 percent of one’s daily calories; that amounts to roughly 50 grams of sugar a day, or around 12 teaspoons. But now the organization has dropped its recommendation for sugar to an intake of just 5 percent of total daily calories. For an adult with a normal BMI, that’s about 25 grams (or six teaspoons) of sugar.
And while most people may not imagine they’re eating six teaspoons of sugar a day, keep in mind that one can of soda may contain up to 40 grams of sugar – and that's 10 teaspoons. The Associated Press reports that Americans and others on a western diet would have to cut out a whopping two-thirds of their total sugar intake to meet the new WHO guidelines.
So where to start? Modern packaged food is packed with sugar in such staggering levels that the dietary-minded must become label sleuths to avoid it. But once you get the hang of it, it becomes pretty easy; and thankfully, it doesn't always mean eating an apple instead of a cookie. The following are great examples of where you can start cutting sugar ... without giving up too much.
1. Eat applesauce instead of applesauce
What? Well, more specifically, eat unsweetened applesauce instead of regular applesauce. A single serving cup of Mott’s Applesauce delivers 22 grams of sugar; a single serving cup of Mott's Applesauce Natural Applesauce (unsweetened) has only 11 grams — and seriously, you may not even notice a difference in taste.
2. Eat grown-up cereal instead of kids' cereal
You wouldn’t eat a Twinkie for breakfast, would you? Well you might as well if you're eating one of the uber-sweetened cereal brands on the supermarket shelf. Case in point: Post Golden Crisp cereal rings in at 14 grams of sugar per three-fourths of a cup, while a full cup of Cheerios has a barely-noticeable one gram of sugar.
3. Drink coconut water instead of Gatorade
If you are an endurance athlete running marathons and such, your muscles will appreciate the carbohydrates from the sugar in Gatorade and other performance drinks. But if you're not running 26.2 miles in a stretch, do yourself a favor and shun the sugary drinks. Twenty ounces or Gatorade Orange will set you back 34 grams of sugar, while 17 ounces of Vita Coco coconut water has 22 grams; and coconut water offers the sodium and potassium that other sports drink promise ... without the sludge of artificial ingredients.
4. Eat graham crackers instead of Oreos
Oreos may be milk’s favorite cookie, but they are crammed with sugar. Two Double Stuff Oreos supply 13 grams of sugar; meanwhile, two sheets of graham crackers provide only eight grams. And while we're on the subject of cookies, remember that you can control the amount of sugar you use when making them at home, like, if you were thinking of trying homemade versions of Girl Scout cookies or something.
5. Use all-fruit spread instead of jam
Have you tried a fruit spread before? A product like Polaner All Fruit is so sweet and fruity it’s confounding why anyone would opt for a product that has more sweetener than fruit. And as for sugar? One tablespoon of Polaner All Fruit Strawberry contains six grams of sugar; one tablespoon of Smucker's Strawberry Jam gives you 12 grams.
6. Eat fresh pasta sauce instead of commercial tomato sauce
Beware the surprising sugar bomb that is commercial pasta sauce. Popular brands of tomato sauce in a jar can pummel an eater with up to 11 grams of sugar (and more) for a half-cup serving. If you want tomato, a much better bet is to dice half a cup of fresh tomatoes, toss them with olive oil, garlic and fresh basil, and add to hot pasta for a delicious uncooked pasta sauce … and less than 3 grams of natural sugar. Otherwise, there are endless recipes for homemade pasta sauces, sans sugar, that you can make yourself.
Nine out of 10 people would reach for a nutrition bar over a chocolate bar when trying to make the healthy choice … but no, step away from the PowerBar. Some nutrition bars sneak up to 32 grams of sugar into a serving, while an earnest chocolate bar, like Equal Exchange’s Organic Ecuador Dark Chocolate Bar has a mere 12 grams of sugar. (For the worst of the bunch, read 7 nutrition bars that are worse than candy.)
Now see? That wasn't too hard at all.
Related stories on MNN:
- 8 surprising sources of refined sugar
- Complete guide to sugar and sugar substitutes
- 12 tips for kicking the refined sugar habit