How to eat less sugar

Trying to eat less sugar is difficult – and not just because we like it so much. Sure, it’s hard to give up something that tastes so good… but what really makes eating less sugar so tough is the fact that it’s nearly impossible to avoid it.

There is so much sugar added to so many foods that the average American adult eats about 22 teaspoons of sugar – that’s 350 calories worth – every single day. To put it another way, that means we could each be eating about 1.36 kilograms of sugar a week or 68 kilograms a year, or nearly 18 percent of our total calories from sugar alone. Where is all this sugar coming from?

What are added sugars?

Some sugars naturally occur, in a healthy form, in foods – like lactose (natural milk sugar) or the natural fructose that give fruits their sweetnes. Those aren’t added refined sugars – they’re just a component of these foods in their natural state.

But added sugars are just what they sound like – they’re refined, processed sugars that have been added to foods during processing, or during preparation, or at the table.

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When you spread jam on your toast, or sprinkle sugar into your coffee, or when a recipe calls for a sugary ingredient, you’re adding sugar to your food, of course. But it’s the processed foods we eat that dump lots of added sugar into our bodies.

As foods are processed – becoming further and further removed from their natural state – a lot of sugar is often added along the way. A small fresh apple has some natural sugar in it – maybe 15 grams or so – but process it into sweetened applesauce and you’ve now got another 15 grams of added sugar per serving. Natural whole wheat has virtually no sugar in it – but process it into sugary cereal flakes and you could be eating a few tablespoons of added sugar in every bowlful.

Recommended reading: Are we poisoning ourselves with sugar?

The sugar you see

Some added sugars are pretty obvious – like the jams and jellies, table sugar, honey or syrup we add to our foods. Then there’s the 200 litres of sugary soft drinks that the average American consumes every year – which accounts for about a third of our total added sugar intake.  We also get plenty of sugar from treats like cakes and cookies, candies and frozen desserts. These are the sugars we can see – but nearly a quarter of the sugar we eat is hidden away in processed foods.

The sugar you don’t see

Unless you are diligent about reading ingredients labels, there’s a good chance that you’re eating sugar you don’t even know about – and in places where you wouldn’t expect to find it.

I’ll bet you didn’t think a serving of pasta sauce could harbour nearly 5 teaspoons of sugar, or that 80 percent of the calories in tomato sauce come from sugar. Once you start looking at ingredients lists, you’ll find sugar in everything from breads and tinned beans, to soups and salad dressings.

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.