Halloween is filled with costumes, haunted houses, trick or treating—and candy! Whether you prefer chocolate or candy corn, the sales of candy during the week of Halloween are reported to be greater than candy sales during the weeks before Easter and Valentine’s Day. That’s a lot of sugar!
Unfortunately, many of us consume more sugar every day than we may think. In fact, Americans consume about 270 calories from added sugars daily, or more than 13 percent of their calories, with an even higher percentage for children and adolescents. The major sources of added sugars in our diets are sugar-sweetened beverages—like soft drinks, fruit drinks and energy drinks—and snacks and sweets.
Why the concern? Added sugars are a source of “empty” calories that can leave less room for healthy, nutritious foods—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, lean meat, poultry and fish—making it difficult to meet nutrient needs without eating too many calories. And eating too much added sugar can have harmful health effects. Studies have shown a link between diets high in added sugars and heart disease, obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.
To help us achieve a healthy diet, public health groups recommend cutting back on added sugars. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend limiting added sugars to no more than 10 percent of calories per day (200 calories for a 2,000 calorie/day diet), and the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that adults limit added sugars to no more than 100 calories per day, about 6 teaspoons of sugar for women, and no more than 150 calories per day, about 9 teaspoons, for men. The AHA also recently issued guidelines for limiting the amount of added sugars in children’s diets to no more than 6 teaspoons per day and no more than 8 ounces of sugar-sweetened beverages a week.
Note: One teaspoon of granulated sugar equals 4 grams of sugar. As an example, one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains about 160 calories and 40.5 grams of sugar, the equivalent of 10 teaspoons of sugar.
Here are three Quality of Life Hacks that can help take the fright out of added sugars in your diet any time of year.
- Rethink your drink. Switch from sugary beverages to water or sparkling water. For a refreshing, natural flavor boost, try adding a slice of lemon, lime, orange or cucumber to the water.
- Read the labels. Added sugars are listed in the packaged food label ingredient list, and have many different names, including cane sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup and honey, to name a few. The Nutrition Facts label also lists the amount of Sugars in grams per serving, which includes both natural sugars (like those found in milk and fruit) as well as added sugars. Beginning July 2018, food manufacturers will list the amount of Added Sugars along with % Daily Value (DV), making it easier to follow the recommendations.
- Enjoy nature’s sweet treats. Fruit is often called nature’s candy—it’s naturally sweet and rich in nutrients, including fiber. So instead of cake, ice cream, candy or cookies for dessert or when you want a snack, enjoy a piece of fresh fruit. For convenience, keep a bowl of fresh fruit on the kitchen counter or on your desk at work; cut fruits into mini, candy-size pieces and store individual bags of fruit salad in the refrigerator; or wash and freeze grapes or berries and enjoy them instead of reaching for hard candy. Visit Fruits & Veggies — More Matters® for other ideas on how to include more fruits in your diet.