Sugar!

Over the past month, the hot nutrition topic at Gourmet Gorilla has been sugar. What is sugar? What is the effect on the body? And how can we reduce it? All great questions.

There are two types of sugars that I like to focus on, natural sugar & added sugar. Natural sugar can be found in veggies, fruits, some grains, & dairy products. Added sugar includes, “any sugar or caloric sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. This includes putting sugar in your coffee or cereal. Added sugars (or sweeteners) can include natural sugars such as white sugar, brown sugar, and honey as well as other caloric sweeteners that are chemically manufactured (ex. High fructose corn syrup).” -American Heart Association

Obesity rates, especially in children, have increased tremendously over the past 25-30 years leading to the obesity epidemic. The consumption of added sugars has also skyrocketed. There is no doubt that added sugars have contributed to this epidemic. Increased added sugar consumption can also lead to type 2 diabetes, tooth decay, high triglyceride levels, and heart disease. It's a big deal. So how do we monitor our children’s consumption of added sugars? Great question!

The American Heart Association recommends that children have no more than 3 tsp (12 grams) of added sugars a day. The best place to start reducing added sugar is the nutrition label:

  1. Does the product contain fruit, veggies, or dairy? If not, all of the sugar is added.

  2. The ingredient list lists ingredients in descending order by weight. If one of the ingredients listed below is in the top 5 ingredients, it would be best to monitor consumption: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrates, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, sugar, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, syrup, cane juice, evaporated corn sweetener, crystal dextrose, liquid fructose, and fruit nectar. Those are all “added sugars.”

Reducing added sugars in the diet can be hard, but extremely important for the health of your child. If you strive to eat more natural and whole foods and decrease processed food consumption that is a great step in the right direction.. Below are 5 common foods that are high in added sugars.

  1. Regular soft drinks, energy drinks, & sports drinks. Fun fact: 4 grams of sugar = 1 tsp of sugar. This means a 12 oz coke which as 39 grams of sugar has over ¾ cups of added sugar!   

  2. Ice Cream & sweetened yogurts (try to find yogurt with less that 7 grams of sugar)  

  3. Candy

  4. Store Bought Granola Bars (limit consumption of bars with lots of chocolate and peanut butter. They are amazing, but basically a snickers bar in a different package)

  5. Condiments: Ketchup, salad dressing, bbq sauce, ranch dressing

-Samantha Sullivan, RDN, LDN