Sugar is the nutrition super-villain of the day, now that we’ve finally gotten over our fear of fat. Getting too much of the sweet stuff is linked to a higher risk of more than just cavities. Overdoing it on sugar can lead to taking in too many empty calories, which is linked to a higher risk of being overweight or obese as well as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and cancer. Whether you have a sweet tooth or not, added sugars are found in everything from bread to salad dressings. Are you eating too much sugar?
Disclosure: this post is sponsored by KIND® Snacks. As always, all opinions are 100% my own, and I only recommend brands I believe in and enjoy myself.
A recent survey from Leger and KIND® Snacks of nearly 1000 Canadian women revealed that 77% feel sugar is “very” or “somewhat” important when they’re looking for snacks for themselves, and 89% consider sugar to be very important when buying snacks for their children. But there are so many snack options out there, that finding the lower sugar snacks can be a real challenge.
Parents are often surprised to learn how much sugar is found in snacks that appear to be healthy such as granola and energy bars. Many nutrition bars are packed with more than 20 grams of sugar, making them more like candy bars than snack bars. Understanding what to look for on nutrition labels is a key skill that will help you pick up healthier, low sugar snacks.
Tips to choose lower sugar snacks
1) Know that less is more
The ingredients list is in order by weight from the largest amount to the smallest amount in your food or drink. So if different types of sugar show up within the first few ingredients, that’s a sure sign that food or drink is high in added sugars.
For now, you might see different types of sugar “sprinkled” throughout the ingredients list. Luckily, Health Canada’s new nutrition labels will have all types of sugar listed together in brackets after the word “sugar”. Finally, you don’t need to memorize all the different names for sugar! But until then…
2) Get to know the different names for added sugars
- Ose: Take a look at the Ingredients List on your snack. Any word that ends in “-ose” such as maltose, glucose or fructose is an added sugar. If that word shows up early in the ingredients list, choose a different snack. I call this saying adios to “-ose”!
- Dextrin: Maltodextrin and dextrin are starches that your body processes the same way as simple sugar/table sugar.
- Syrups: Whether it’s maple syrup, agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup or brown rice syrup, syrup is sugar. Yes, some types of sugar are more “natural” than others and may have small amounts of nutrients and be lower on the glycemic index. But when you’re trying to limit added sugars, any type of sugar counts.
- Juice concentrates: Concentrated apple juice and other juices are sometimes used to sweeten up snacks. Again, these may be more natural, but they still count as added sugars.
3) Choose whole food sources of sugar
Does your snack have dried fruit or otherwise contain fruit and vegetables? That a great way to sweeten your snack naturally. Most of the sugar in your diet should come from whole foods such as these.
4) Plan for snack attacks
The key to choosing lower sugar options is simple: be prepared. I always carry lower sugar snack options in my purse, glove compartment, carry on luggage, and my desk drawer is stashed with healthy options.
If you decide to “wing it” when it comes to deciding what to snack on, you’ll be more tempted to go for something that’s higher in sugar… especially when you don’t have many choices available. Do you really want the vending machine to decide your snack for you? That’s a slippery slope towards eating too much sugar!
When it comes to healthy snacking, pick something that has 5 grams of added sugar or less and has some protein and fiber to help you feel full longer. All of these features will help you be more energized and focused during and after your snack attack!
How much sugar should you have in a day?
It’s a common question when it comes to nutrition: Are you eating too much sugar? How much is too much? And does it make sense to cut all carbs and sugars out of your diet?
Cut all carbs and you’ll be missing out on some of the most powerful cancer-fighting nutrients in our diets. Read more about why whole grains and white sugar don’t belong in the same nutritional category.
Health Canada recommends you consume no more than 100 grams of sugar each day from both added sugars and naturally occurring sugars. As explained above, the biggest win is to cut down on the added sugars so you’re cutting down on calories without also cutting down on nutrients.
Some of the best ways to lower your intake of added sugars is to cut down on sugar-sweetened beverages such as soft drinks, vitamin water and energy drinks. If you’re not a big water fan, try making some water infused with fruit, cucumbers or herbs to get more flavor into it. Try my Spa Water recipes for delicious ways to flavor your water naturally – without added sugars or artificial sweeteners!
Should I cut down on fruit to eat less sugar?
Trust me, fruit isn’t responsible for our sugar problem… it’s not a major contributor to the sugar in our diets, and it comes wrapped up in a beautiful package of fiber, antioxidants, phytochemicals and more. Most Canadians and Americans aren’t eating enough fruit, so don’t blame fruit for the obesity epidemic.
Added sugars vs. naturally occurring sugars
If you’re eating too much sugar, target the added sugars in your diet rather than the sugars that are naturally found in nutritious foods such as plain yogurt, vegetables and fruit.
Most of the sugar in our diets comes from these added sugars that often don’t need to be there. Our palates adapt to what we’re used to, so the more sugar that gets added into the food supply, the more we crave it and think we need it to make food “taste good”. Trust me, try to reduce your added sugars for at least 1 week and you won’t miss it. Say goodbye to some of those empty calories, and you’ll see benefits for your waistline and your health.
If cutting down on sugar seems overwhelming, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered!
Step 2: Give this delicious and nutritious low sugar meal plan a try!
Low Sugar Meal Plan
Less than 100 Grams of Sugar
- 1 cup of green tea or black coffee
Sugar: 17 grams
- 1 cup carrot sticks and 1 cup celery sticks
Sugar: 5 grams for the chickpeas and 8 grams for the vegetables (13 grams total)
- 1 large apple
Sugar: 6 grams for the salad and 23 grams for the apple (29 grams total)
Sugar: 5 grams
Sugar: 6 grams
2 squares (40 grams) of 85% dark chocolate
Sugar: 6 grams
Total Sugar for the day: 76 grams
So there you have it. Cutting down on added sugars in your diet doesn’t have to be difficult or mean your meals and snacks will be bland. Totally the opposite!
Are You Eating Too Much Sugar?
How much sugar do you think you’re taking in most days?
If you need more guidance and support to help you cut down on sugar, sign up for my 1 Week Sugar Detox Meal Plan!