You may not drink soda or other sugar sweetened beverages, and maybe you stick with dark chocolate for your desserts. But there are many non-dessert foods that contain significant amounts of added sugar. These hidden sugars can add up pretty quickly, and excess sugar intake has been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and weight gain. If you want to figure out if you need to curb your sugar intake from all sources, take this quiz to find out.
For a ballpark estimate of how much sugar you should eat, the World Health Organization recommends no more than 5% of total calories should come from added sugar, which equates to a maximum of 25 grams of added sugar daily for a 2,000 calorie diet. This is a great starting point when reducing your sugar intake, but I recommend people aim for an ultimate goal of an average of 10 grams of added sugar or less per day. When you're eating packaged foods, it's essential to read labels, and make sure you aren't overdoing your sugar intake from these hidden sources:
These can have as much as 28 grams of added sugar per 1/4 cup serving, usually in the form of high fructose corn syrup. Instead of buying barbecue sauce, make your own with pureed tomatoes lightly sweetened with honey and molasses. Try this barbecue sauce recipe with only 4 grams of added sugar per 1/4 cup.
Canned and jarred tomatoes sauces can have as much as 10 grams of added sugar per 1/2 cup serving. Instead use unsweetened tomato sauces, or make your own. If you really want to keep it simple, blend up tomatoes with garlic and herbs to make a simple unsweetened tomato sauce.
This much-beloved American standby is often sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, despite not really needing to be sweetened. Tomato paste is a great substitute for ketchup. The sweetness of the tomatoes is all you need!
Yogurt can have as much as 16 grams of added sugar in addition to the naturally occurring sugar, in the form of lactose, in yogurt. Instead choose plain yogurt, and add your own fruit.
Something else to keep in mind is that the lower the fat content of the yogurt, the higher the lactose content is. Nonfat yogurt can have as much as 19 grams of natural sugar (lactose) per cup compared to the 11 grams in a cup of full fat yogurt. Full fat yogurt also tends to be more satisfying and keeps blood sugar steadier by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates into your bloodstream.
Always go for the unsweetened variety, and add a few drops of honey or maple syrup to sweeten it yourself if you need to. Flavored almond or soy milk can have as much as 16 grams of added sugar per cup. "Original" unflavored varieties tend to have less sugar than vanilla or chocolate varieties, but are still usually sweetened.
Margaret Wertheim, R.D., is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and is the author of Breaking the Sugar Habit: Practical Ways to Cut the Sugar, Lose the Weight, and Regain Your Health. Take this quiz to determine whether you need to curb your sugar intake. Margaret holds a Bachelors in Biochemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She counsels individuals and groups on how to adjust their diet to include whole and real foods to support optimum overall health. She also specializes in supporting women's health, fertility, and pregnancy through nutrition and lifestyle choices. Check our her blog for the latest nutrition information, healthy eating tips, and recipes, check out her Breaking the Sugar Habit online course, or sign-up to download your free Natural Sweetener Guide or Fertility and Pregnancy Resource Guide.