Nutrition Articles

The Hunt for Hidden Sugar

How Much of the Sweet Stuff is Hiding Your Foods?

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Ready for a little experiment? Grab that jar of sugar, a measuring spoon, a plate and a can of regular soda. Then, dump one teaspoon of sugar onto the plate. Repeat this nine more times. Do you know what you have, besides a mess? The amount of sugar in one 12-ounce can of soda! Just look at that mound!

Now locate the sugar listing on the soda's nutrition label—40 grams. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon. Do the math. That innocent can of pop contains 10 teaspoons of sugar and 160 empty calories.

Even if you don’t drink regular soda, the typical American now eats the equivalent of about 31 teaspoons (124 grams) of added sugar every day. That sugar alone adds up almost 500 extra calories—about 25% of the average person's caloric intake. WOW!

Less is More
So how much should you limit your sugar intake? Several health organizations, including the American Heart Association, suggest that added sugar should be limited to no more than 6-7 percent of your total calories. This does not include naturally occurring sugars found in fruits (fructose) and dairy products (lactose). The chart below lists the maximum recommended daily sugar intake based on various calorie levels.

Maximum Sugar Intake

Daily Calorie Intake

Grams of Sugar

Teaspoons

1,200

21

5

1,500

26

6

1,800

31

7

2,100

36

9

2,400

42

10

2,700

47

12


Deciphering Labels
It can be confusing to try to find out how much added sugar a food contains. The sugar listing on a Nutrition Facts label lumps all sugars together, including naturally-occurring milk and fruit sugars, which can be deceiving. This explains why, according to the label, one cup of milk has 11 grams of sugar even though it doesn't contain any sugar “added” to it.
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481SHARES

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About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

Member Comments

  • Here is another vote for a SP sugar tracker. I want to recommend the Sugar Busters program and book. It is based on the fact that refined sugar intake raises blood glucose levels which increases insulin secretion.The pancreatic hormone insulin stores excess glucose as fat and prevents fat already in the cells from being used as energy. Do a Google search for Sugar Busters and you will find a list of foods to avoid that are loaded with added sugar or have a high glycemic index. I know this can be a radical change for some people, but improved health and weight loss is worth the sacrifice. You have to really want it. - 4/29/2014 9:38:35 PM
  • EX-SKINNY60
    Sugar and salt make a diet HARD, but let's address the OTHER down-side of "healthy" dieting...MONEY!!
    ! Just try to eat healthy and your shopping receipt jumps up $50 to $100 more. Not to mention the GAS prices that it takes to go to all those stores to buy this, that, or the other "healthy" thing that one needs to truly stay on a healthy diet. *SIGH*

    I know that I sound like a "downer-pig" but it is only too true! - 4/24/2014 9:32:59 AM
  • Please add the Sugar tracker so we can track the sugar we are consuming. Listen to your followers.......W
    E WANT A SUGAR TRACKER. Thank you. - 2/6/2014 3:00:47 PM
  • SCKELL
    I am looking for low carb eating.....trying to stay within 100 sugar calories a day.....you need to know that all carbs have sugar in them....some good and some bad..... every carb gr. equals 4 sugar calories......loo
    k at lables on everything....it may say no sugar...but if it says it has 1 gram of carbs that equals 4 sugar calories.... if two grams of carbs are on the lable that equals 8 sugar calories....if you are only doing 100 sugar calories a day that is how to figure out your sugar calories in food....that does not mean you eat cookies and junk food.....you eat real food that keeps your sugar levels in the normal range ....look for book called The 100....... - 1/9/2014 10:55:23 AM
  • SEEMINMALIK
    simply thankful:)
    - 12/1/2013 4:49:00 AM
  • I too agree with the "hidden sugar", I mean really?! Here was the opportunity to get people to take a second look at "healthy" foods like yogurt and whole grain breads even meat etc, and mark totally missed. It was nice however to see the math laid out as to the actual quantity sugar grams equals too. - 8/9/2013 10:13:34 PM
  • yeah, does anyone know who on SparkPeople we can contact to see if then can modify the tracker to be able to track the daily amount of sugar we are consuming?
    - 7/29/2013 11:11:08 AM
  • IMITALIAN2
    I too agree, it would be nice if there was trcker on how much sugar is in our food we eat . i went on a low sugar and carb diet 3 years ago, and lost 23 pound in 4 months. i gained 10 of those back within the last year and a half, but since ive been doing spark people i lost 4 but ive been at a stand still for a month now. maybe i need to go back on the low carb and sugar program again. its brutal.
    - 5/30/2013 6:23:01 PM
  • *GASP* You mean there's sugar in cake, cookies, soda, & candy?! I had no idea! I thought I was eating a healthy diet having those items make up 95% of what I eat! I wish someone had told me sooner!

    Ok, seriously, the title says hidden sugars. Everyone knows these things are high in sugar & not good for you. Why on Earth would they be in an article on 'hidden' sugars? Some people still have no idea how much sugar is in their ketchup, barbecue sauce, salad dressing, and "healthy" cereals, but instead of discussing those items, you choose to inform us that sugary junk food has sugar? I am very disappointed in this article. - 5/30/2013 5:39:13 PM
  • I try to stay away from sugar. I will put sugar in my coffee. If I have a crave for sugar I chew a piece of sugar free gum. - 4/27/2013 10:10:20 AM
  • BAM510
    I was very surprised you could not track sugar consumption on Sparkpeople. The Healthy Heart program I took told us up front to start tracking our sugar right away. At first I was totally shocked but now watch it very closely. Thanks for the article. - 4/25/2013 6:33:52 PM
  • These examples aren't very "hidden" to me. What I have recently found surprising are foods like ketchup, salad dressings, peanut butter, and even spaghetti sauce (really!) that are filled with sugar! I'd like more advice how to avoid truly hidden sugar. Currently, I look at labels. I started buying Trader Joe's spaghetti sauce because they don't add any sugar (or other chemicals/preserv
    atives). You could also make your own. I make my own salad dressings using Greek yogurt, buttermilk, and ranch dressing spices, or oil and vinegar and spices. The one thing I'm struggling to give up - Nutella!!! I love it, but the first ingredient is sugar!! I've seen some recipes to make your own. I'll try it once I run out of my jar. - 9/14/2012 3:50:14 PM
  • ALSTROMERIA11
    Like others have said, I don't think there's "hidden" sugar in the cakes, cookies, and candies shown in the chart. People may not be aware of how much sugar each contains but they know that they have sugar. An article like this could be much more helpful if it targeted foods that are considered healthy such as yogurts and whole grain cereals. They contain naturally occurring sugars but often have added sugars also.

    I'd like to see the SP Nutrition Tracker, or at least the daily reports, show how much sugar we are consuming. Since Sugars is a component in each nutrition information page I don't understand why its not available in the list of nutrients to track. - 9/5/2012 6:10:05 PM
  • WOW! I was expecting to read about food that have "hidden" sugar in them since the title of this article is The Hunt for Hidden Sugar. The author of this article seems to imply that we do not know that cakes and cookies are laden with sugar to begin with. Sugar is a primary ingredient in such items and the sugar is not hidden in them. Very disappointed with this article. - 9/5/2012 7:35:01 AM
  • Looking at the 1 fig newton, that seems out of whack. A single serving of regular fig newtons has 12 grams of sugar, less than 3 teaspoons. This serving size is 31 grams, which is more than one newton, probably around 2.5 newtons. This means one fig newton has a little more than one teaspoon of sugar. I am not saying they are good for you, just that this article is misleading here. See: http://www.nabisc
    oworld.com/Br
    ands/ProductI
    nformation.as
    px?BrandKey=n
    ewtons&Site=1&Product=4400002244 - 6/15/2012 7:47:14 AM

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