Picture 37 teaspoons of sugar. It seems like a lot, right? Especially when you consider most Americans gobble up that much of the sweet stuff every day. But the more we learn about how a high-sugar diet impacts our overall health, the more experts encourage us to cut back—way back. Aim for no more than 8 to 10 teaspoons daily, and watch out for these 5 common places where hidden sugars may be tagging along:
- Breakfast on the Go: Sweetened cereals and pre-packaged breakfast foods such as muffins, granola bars, breakfast cookies, and even flavored oatmeal can pack some pretty significant sugar amounts. It may take a few more minutes to make, but that protein and veggie omelet is a lot healthier for your body in the long run.
- Coffee Break: Early commute? Afternoon pick-me-up? Most of us think nothing of ordering a quick caramel macchiato or a flavored holiday latte on the go, but you might have a change of heart when you realize just one sweetened coffee drink can pack up to 50 grams of sugar (yup, that’s about 12 teaspoons).
- Your Post-Workout Routine: You are not doing your body any favors by chugging that sugary sports drink (we’re talking up to 10 teaspoons) or gobbling a sugar-loaded protein bar post workout. Stick with purified (unfiltered) water instead, and look for protein bars and even shake mixes with no added sugars.
- The Salad Bar: Salad is good for you, right? Sure, until you drench in it dressing (which can sap up to 2 teaspoons of your daily sugar allotment), add a scoop of pasta salad and top it with croutons and dried cranberries or other dried fruits, which are often loaded with hidden sugars. Your best bet is to stick with plenty of fresh greens, raw veggies, healthy fats, and protein. Instead of bottled dressing, try olive oil and vinegar.
- Spaghetti Night: That starchy white pasta is just the tip of the iceberg. Many jar sauces pack up to 5 teaspoons of sugar per serving! Opt for bean-based pastas instead that are lower in carbohydrates, or use spaghetti squash; its string-like consistency makes it a great pasta substitute. And instead of jar sauce, try pairing it with plain crushed tomatoes, olive oil, and garlic.
The bottom line is this: the human body does not need nearly as much sugar as it gets from the Standard American Diet, and cutting back is a simple way to support a healthy heart and waistline. Always check nutrition labels for the sugar content in packaged foods, and remember that starch (e.g. white rice and pasta, crackers, etc.) breaks down into sugar in the digestive tract.