Flavour of the Week

Added Sugars: How Easy is it to Get 10%?

flavour-of-the-week-logoExperts agree the current National Institutes of Medicine recommendation that no more than 25% of total caloric intake come from added sugars is far too high; that’s why most clinicians use the more conservative World Health Organization upper limit of 10% (and suggest that if you could hit <5% that would be even better). But what exactly does 10% of your total energy intake from added sugars look like?

Sugar is one of those insidious ingredients – sure, it’s obvious that soda and candy are pure sugar but there are a lot of “healthy” foods loaded with added sugars too… and food labels certainly don’t help. Here are some quick examples of just how much added sugar might be lurking in your diet.Consumption of added sugars has boomed in the last 30 years (1), up  roughly 20% and 30% in children and adults, respectively. While jumping from 228 kcalories per day in 1977 to 300 kcalories today may sound pretty un-scary, here are some stats from The Obesity Society Annual meeting in 2014 regarding “heavy” sugar consumers:

  • Adults in the top 20% of sugar consumers are eating 721 kcalories from added sugar per day
  • Children in the top 20% of sugar consumers are eating 673 kcalories from added sugar per day

Using the World Health Organization recommendation of no more than 10% of total kcalories from added sugar and the token 2,000 kcal diet, here’s what 10% (roughly 50 grams of sugar), looks like

Sugar cubes


Sugar. The O.G. of sweetness. Whether it’s white sugar, brown sugar, honey, syrup or (most) jams 50 grams of sugar works out to roughly 12.5 teaspoons.


Cola. As we mentioned in TGIF last Friday,
1.5 cans of soda will get you to 50 grams of sugar pretty quick! With about 23 grams of sugar per 1 cup (8 oz), one 355 ml can provides 2/3 of the recommended daily upper intake of sugar.

PB cups


Candy. Everyone knows candy is pure sugar and is a “treat”, but who can resist the candy and chocolate in the checkout aisle at the grocery store? Especially if they are hungry when shopping… Using our personal weakness, the peanut butter cup, as an example each delicious PB cup contains 8 grams of sugar, so pounding a three-pack sleeve on the way home gets you 5% of 2,000 total kcalories and six cups provides 50 grams of sugar. Yikes!

fruit drinks

Fruit Drinks.
Sunny D and fruit punch are NOT juices – just check out the ingredient list, look for anything with some -ose (the typical ending for a “sugary” product i.e. glucose, fructose etc.) right behind water. It means sugar is the second highest ingredient by weight. We consider vitamin-enriched waters and sport drinks (consumed as a beverage during non-athletics) in this category. With a range of 21 – 26 grams of sugar per 1 cup (8 oz), these beverages load up a day’s worth of sugar in one large 16-oz glass.
flavoured yogurt

Flavoured Yogurt.
Yes, yogurt is a good source of probiotics, protein and calcium BUT most flavoured yogurts are LOADED with sugar. Some is naturally occurring as lactose… but that’s only about 8 grams per 175 ml (3/4 cup) serving. Make sure to read the Nutrition Facts table – some yogurt may load in as much as 16 grams of sugar per single serving container. That’s 4 teaspoons!

dried cranberries

Dried Fruit.
Dried cranberries are the worst offenders when it comes to dried fruit. To make the berries “palatable” (Ocean Spray’s words, not ours) there is as much as 17 grams of ADDED sugar per 1/4 cup serving! The naturally tart berries only provide about 3 grams of natural sugars per 1/4 cup, so try to find unsweetened (if you can) or look for those with lower total sugar.

BBQ sauce

These are sneaky ones. While anything obviously sweet, like those wwith a ketchup-base will be high in added sugar, check out the labels on salad dressings too. In a 30 ml serving of BBQ sauce (about 2 tbsp) there are 8 grams of added sugar. Doesn’t sound like much, but just think about how fast it comes out of the bottle…

Flavoured Coffee.
Adding flavoured syrup to your morning latte can nearly double the sugar content – the lactose found in a grande size provides 19 grams, but adding flavour ups the total sugar to 37 grams. Ask for half-sweet or add your own sugar.

instant oatmeal

Instant Oatmeal.
Plain, unflavoured oatmeal is a favourite of no one (a review on Quaker’s site likens it to eating “papier-mâché”), but opting for the pre-flavoured variety will provide you with 12 grams of added sugar per tiny packet – that’s like adding a tablespoon of sugar. Try going with unflavoured and adding fruit, nuts, spices, and (if necessary) a small amount of sweetener such as honey, brown sugar or maple syrup.

No Baloney’s advice? We are by no means saying you need to live a sugar-free life! We do think that awareness is half the battle, however, as the amount of added sugars in everyday, benign-looking products is often MUCH higher than you think.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it were easy to differentiate added sugars from those that are naturally occurring? While both the US FDA and Health Canada have proposed changes to include a separate “added sugar” listed on the Nutrition Facts label, there is, not surprisingly, some serious industry resistance. You can find great suitable-for-work commentary by Marion Nestle on her website Food Politics. We would also highly suggest the hilarious and definitely NSFW (unless you have headphones!) take on added sugar courtesy of John Oliver.


One thought on “Added Sugars: How Easy is it to Get 10%?

  1. Pingback: This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness - Sheila Kealey

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s