During a recent family road trip, we stopped at a rest stop to grab a snack. It seemed like our only choices were designer Frappuccinos, sodas, pastries, granola bars, and candy. All these choices had one key thing in common: they’re all high in added sugar. Even granola bars, which are supposed to be a healthier choice, contain a lot of added sugar.
Added sugar continues to get a great deal of attention in the media and even in movies and documentaries. Netflix’s “Sugar Coated” calls sugar the “new tobacco,” because America’s taste for sugar is playing a role in causing serious health conditions like Type 2 diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. The American Heart Association recommends the following for added sugars:
- Men limit added sugar to 9 teaspoons per day
- Women limit added sugar to 6 teaspoons a day
- Children limit added sugar to 3-6 teaspoons per day (amount depends on age and caloric needs)
By the way, there is a difference between added sugar and naturally occurring sugars. Added sugars are put into a food or beverage during processing and naturally occurring sugars are found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables, and some dairy products, like plain milk and yogurt.
Unfortunately, Americans, consume way too much added sugar. According to the Pew Research Center, the average American consumes almost 77-pounds of added sugar in one year, which breaks down to 3-cups per week or 26.7-teaspoons per day of refined sugar and corn-derived sweeteners, like high fructose corn syrup. For men, that’s more than triple the recommended levels, and quadruple for women and children!!
How can this be possible? If you drink a 16-ounce bottle of soda, you’re consuming 45-grams of sugar. Eating a 2-ounce pack of bite size candy, like Skittles? That’s 47-grams of sugar. Both are equivalent to about 11-teaspoons of added sugar, more than the AHA’s recommendation for any group.
Here’s some good news: everyone seems to be listening. The food industry is reducing sugar in their products. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be making it easier to find added sugars in food products. Beginning in 2019, added sugars will be included on the Nutrition Facts Label.
And American consumers are getting savvier. Added sugar consumption is declining (from 90-pounds per year in 1999), primarily due to people cutting out soda and drinking more bottled water over the past few years. Shoppers are also getting better at identifying different forms of added sugar on the labels. Remember, sugars can be “hidden.” If the ingredient rhymes with “gross”, such as glucose, sucrose, dextrose, and fructose, it’s an added sugar.
So getting back to our rest stop. After a closer look, we found some healthier snacks. Instead of:
- Designer coffee or soda, we chose regular and flavored, carbonated waters.
- Pastries and granola bars, we chose pretzels and air-popped popcorn.
- Candy, we chose bagged peanuts.
But, for future road trips, I think we will just pack a bag of snacks from home.