Mental Monday

How to Cut Back on High Sugar Foods

The American Heart Association recommends a drastic cut in the amount of added sugar we consume, from the current average intake of 22 tsp per day down to 6 tsp for women and 9 tsp for men. Teens' current sugar intake is even higher, at a shocking 34 tsp, so they have even more cutting back to do! Do you know how much sugar you are consuming everyday? Do you know where sugar is lurking?

Sugar in Your Food
Dessert is not the only place you'll find sugar. Sugar lurks most in soda and sweetened beverages.

High-Sugar Drinks:

a large Slurpee (40 oz): 21 tsp of sugar
a bottle of regular soda (20 oz): 13 tsp
a bottle of regular iced tea (20 oz): 10 tsp
a can of regular soda (12 oz): 8 tsp
a bottle of Vitaminwater (20 oz): 8 tsp
a small iced cappuccino (12 oz) : 8 tsp
a tall Frappuccino blended coffee (12 oz): 7.5 tsp
a small Slurpee (12 oz): 6.5 tsp

Other High-Sugar Foods:

1 cup of Ben & Jerry's All Natural Chocolate ice cream: 10 tsp
a Kit Kat candy bar: 5 tsp of sugar
Yoplait Whips yogurt (4 oz): 5 tsp
a Haagen-Dazs ice cream bar with chocolate coating: 4.5 tsp
a cup of Kellogg's Honey Smacks cereal: 4.5 tsp

* The above numbers are rounded. One teaspoon of sugar yields about 4.2 g of sugar.

What Added Sugar Really Means

Added sugar is empty calories - that means it provides no nutrients other than calories. An average 22 tsp of sugar intake means we are all eating about 352 empty calories in sugar every day. No wonder we have a problem of obesity in this country! With a 350-calorie quota, you could have eaten a 6-inch sub sandwich plus fruit!

The Bottom Line

It makes perfect sense to cut down your sugar intake, whether it's for your heart, blood sugar, or weight. Since we need 6 - 8 glass of liquid a day and drinks are the major source of added sugar, look for low-sugar (or sugar-free) beverage alternatives, like water, homemade iced tea, milk, and brewed tea or coffee. There's nothing wrong with using sugar to enhance food flavor, as long as it's in reasonable amount. And it's fine to add sugar to your tea or coffee - since most people just add 2 to 3 tsp per cup, not 13 tsp like you'll find in soda! There is also one very compelling reason to cut your sugar intake from 22 tsp to 6 tsp a day - it will help save 270 calories a day, which means losing 14 pounds in just 6 months!

Written by Gloria Tsang, R.D.
Published in September 2009 on



Tigerlilly said...

Great post. Sugar is sneaky... it hides in EVERYTHING! The best thing to do is try to stick to eating natural sugars... like the kind thats in our fruit... and stay away from anything processed!

Hope your having a great Monday! I'll be happy when its over.

Becca55 said...

I need to start cutting down again, i got back on the soda and chocolate and cookie wagon. Thanks for this article it is something that makes you really think about what you are putting in your body!

Diane, Fit to the Finish said...

It does hide in everything. I just read a post (can't remember which one) where she talked about finding sugar in spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes. I never thought to look for sugar in those types of foods!

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