Do you have any idea how much sugar you eat in a day? Or how much your kids consume?
As I write in this week’s "Eat, Drink and Be Healthy" column, sugar isn’t inherently evil. But it adds nothing but empty calories to our diets, and may contribute mightily to this country’s obesity problem. Being overweight is a major risk factor for cardiovascular ills, diabetes and cancer.
Our bodies need sugar to fuel our cells’ activities. But most of our sugar should be of the naturally occurring variety such as the kind found in fruits and whole grains.
But Americans get most of their sugar from processed foods and sweetened beverages. And sugar pops up in places where you might not expect. I just walked around the grocery store and found that each of these foods contains 3 grams of sugar per serving: Multigrain Wheat Thins, Wishbone Balsamic Vinaigrette, and Arnold Whole Grain Health Nut Bread. Though you can’t tell from the Nutrition Facts panels alone whether those grams of sugar are naturally occurring or added, the ingredients lists reveal that sugar, in one form or another, is added to all three.
Sugar also lurks in yogurts, especially in those made to appeal to kids. YoPlait has been busily promoting its YoPlait Kids yogurts “with 25% less sugar than the leading kids yogurt.” That 25 percent claim perplexes me: A 113-gram serving of YoPlait Kids has 13 grams of sugar, but that’s about the same amount in the other kids’ yogurts I saw. In fact, YoPlait’s own TRIX yogurt has 14 grams of sugar per 113-gram serving. (Dannon’s Drinkable Swingin’ Strawberry Banana has 14 grams per 110-gram serving, and Chobani’s Honey-nana has 13 grams per 100-gram serving, Stonyfield YoKids Strawberry has 13 grams of sugar per 113-gram serving.) Whichever kind you choose to feed your kid, it comes with a fair amount of sugar, some of which may be naturally occurring in the milk used to make the yogurt. But much of it is added to make that yogurt sweeter-tasting.
I don’t mean to single those foods out. I list them to demonstrate that even when we’re trying to eat healthfully, we’re likely to be eating more sugar than we think.