Health Team

Sugar is seductive for Americans

Posted October 12, 2009 1:10 p.m. EDT
Updated October 12, 2009 6:55 p.m. EDT

— America's sweet tooth is a little too sensitive.

The average American consumes 22 teaspoons a day – about three times the recommended limit.

Rex Healthcare registered dietitian Natalie Newell said cutting back on sugar is the first thing she coaches her clients to do.

Many people don't read food labels and don't realize how much sugar they're eating, she said.

"It is important to look at where your sugar is coming from. Is it processed, or is it naturally occurring sugar like milk products that have lactose or fructose that's found in fruit?" Newell said.

Follow these limits:

  • Women should get only 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. That's about 100 calories.
  • Men should get only 9 teaspoons of sugar a day.

It's easy to go overboard, especially when you're drinking your calories.

A 12-ounce soda has about 8 teaspoons of sugar. Gatorade has less, but even it can quickly push you over the limit.

"Really, someone doesn't need Gatorade unless they're exercising more than 60 to 90 minutes. Water is definitely appropriate," Newell said.

If you must drink juice, look for ones that say "no sugar added." Then, you're getting only naturally occurring sugar from the fruit.

Dairy products have natural sugar, but some yogurts have added sugary fruit jams. Get the plain kind, instead, and add fruit such as blueberries or strawberries.

Use the same criteria for picking out cereal: Avoid the sugary kinds, and add your own fruit.

Newell warned consumers not to fall for healthy claims on the front of packaging. Read the label to help rein in your sweet tooth.

Look at the carbohydrate content. If sugar is more than half of the total carbohydrates, put the product back on the shelf.