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What’s Cooking with WHRY: Shocking Sugar

October 19, 2016
by Carissa R Violante

While a moderate amount of naturally occurring sugar is part of a healthy diet, consuming too much sugar can lead to poor health. Research suggests that over-consumption of sugar is directly related to obesity, in part because of the way our bodies digest and store carbohydrates such as sugar. Obesity is also one of many contributors to cardiovascular disease risk, the leading killer among U.S. women, and consuming added sugars — sweeteners that are added to processed food and drinks to enhance flavor — only further increases these risks.

The best way to steer clear of added sugars is to be informed and to understand how they differ from naturally occurring sugars, like those found in fruit. Check nutrition labels for ingredients such as corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, and glucose. The presence of ingredients like these means that more sugar was added to the product on top of any naturally occurring sugars already present in the food. If possible, try to avoid packaged and processed foods and drinks, and eat whole foods instead, or make snacks from scratch.

Recommended daily sugar intake values vary by age, weight, and activity, but a healthy, middle-aged woman should aim to limit all sugars to 50 to 55 grams (g) — or about 13 teaspoons — per day.

That might sound like a lot, but let’s take a look at how quickly sugars can add up:


Average Breakfast
Healthier Choices
Cinnamon raisin bagel, 11 g sugar Whole grain bagel, 5 g sugar
Cream cheese, 1 g sugar Unsweetened peanut butter, 3 g sugar
Vanilla coffee creamer, 5 g sugar Unsweetened almond milk, 0 g sugar
17 grams sugar 8 grams sugar

Healthier Choices: Try a whole grain bagel, with about half as much sugar as cinnamon raisin, and top it with natural, unsweetened peanut butter. While peanut butter may be higher in calories and naturally occurring sugars per serving than cream cheese, it contains less fat and more protein and fiber that are better for filling you up and fueling your morning. If black coffee is not for you, try using unsweetened almond or coconut milk instead of a sugary creamer.


Average Lunch
Healthier Choices

Tomato soup, bowl, 14 g


Vegetable broth soup, bowl,

7 g sugar

Salad with fruity

vinaigrette, 23 g sugar

Salad with herbal vinaigrette,

12 g sugar

Fresh lemonade, 43 g sugar

Water, 0 g sugar

80 grams sugar

19 grams sugar

Healthier Choices: Creamy soups and bisques are usually high in calories, and more likely to be high in sugars. Swapping a creamy soup for a clear broth-based soup with vegetables or beans could cut up to 50 percent of sugar per serving. Salad is a great healthy choice, but the wrong dressing will sneak in some extra sugar where you least expect it. Could you imagine spooning nearly 6 teaspoons of sugar over your plate of leafy greens? Savory, herbal vinaigrettes tend to have little to no added sugars — just make sure you stick to the serving size. The real danger above is the lemonade, with about 11 teaspoons of sugar alone! Water is the best bet for hydration, but unsweetened iced tea is a good choice too.


Average Snack
Healthier Choices

Fruit on the bottom yogurt, 25 g sugar

Hummus and peppers, 12 g sugar

Frozen mocha coffee, small, 42 g sugar

Hot tea, 0 g sugar

67 grams sugar

12 grams sugar

Healthier Choices: Switching from a sweet snack to savory snack is a good way to stick to your recommended daily amount of sugar. For example, fresh yellow pepper strips, high in restorative Vitamin C and digestion-aiding Niacin, pair well with hummus. But if you’re craving a sweet treat, a handful of fresh berries contain only naturally occurring sugars and are high in satisfying fiber. If you need a refreshing drink option other than water, hot tea is a naturally sugar-free beverage that also happens to be packed with beneficial antioxidants.


Average Dinner
Healthier Choices

Orange glazed sweet potatoes, 33 g sugar

Baked sweet potato, 6 g sugar

Barbeque chicken with sauce, 17 g sugar

Dry rub barbecue chicken, 0 g sugar

Peas, 6 g sugar

Peas, 6 g sugar

56 grams sugar

12 grams sugar

Healthier Choices: Sweet potatoes are a great source of Vitamin A, B-6, and fiber — and with 6 grams of naturally occurring sugar they are sweet enough on their own. Skip the hassle of an orange glaze and simply bake your sweet potatoes with a dash of cinnamon for spice. Did you know you could get the same smoky seasoning of barbeque sauce and none of the sugar by using a dry rub on chicken? Mix equal parts smoked paprika, cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder and sprinkle on chicken before cooking as you normally would. As for the peas… they sound delicious!

Original Daily Total: 220 grams of sugar, or 55 teaspoons!
Healthier Choices: 51 grams of sugar — the “sweet” spot.

The information provided here may help you make more informed choices. However, it is not a substitute for an individualized nutrition plan, medical opinion, or diagnosis. You should always consult with your personal physician to make decisions about your diet and nutrition.

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Submitted by Carissa R Violante on October 19, 2016