Sweet Addiction: Could Sugar Be Sabotaging Your Diet?

How to break the sugar habit

It amazes me that sugar doesn’t have quite the bad reputation it deserves. My clients come to me with all sorts of dietary concerns, but they often overlook the big elephant in the room. And that big elephant is sugar. While most of us know that sugar isn’t good for us, I don’t think that we realize just how bad it is and how detrimental it can be to our bodies and diet and fitness goals.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, sugar should be curbed for the following reasons:
I realized just how bad sugar was about 15 years ago. (I had just become a nutritionist.) I was addicted to frozen yogurt. It was the perfect low-calorie, “fat-free” treat. I would indulge in a moderate-sized cup every evening. Then, as I read up on sugar, and read the nutrition label on my favorite “fat-free” frozen yogurt, I realized that this guiltless treat might be a lot guiltier than I had imagined. So, I gave up my frozen yogurt and replaced it with plain yogurt topped with fruit, and I dropped a few pounds without even trying. I also woke up feeling better the next day and had noticeably less puffiness and bloating in my face and body. Now that’s just my story, but I could go on and on about stories of friends and clients who gave up sugar and were amazed by the results.
Your sugar allowance
So how much sugar can you eat in a given day? Most scientists, doctors and nutritionists agree that women should aim for 100 calories (6½ teaspoons or 25 grams of sugar) per day, while men can consume 150 calories of sugar (9½ teaspoons or 38 grams). In addition, we should aim to avoid all sugar-sweetened beverages and even limit fruit juice to 1 cup per day. The only sugar to “not worry about” is the sugar found in whole fresh fruit, milk and plain yogurt (yes, even fruit yogurts have added sugar). Keep in mind that these numbers are just goals: even if you just reduce your sugar intake to 30-35 grams for women and 40-45 grams for men, you are moving in the right direction.
Sugar sleuth
Most of you probably realize that cakes, cookies and candy carry hefty doses of sugar, but you may not know that there are many other foods filled to the brim with sugar. In order to become an educated sugar consumer, you should pay close attention to your food labels. When reading the food label, take a look underneath the “total carbohydrates” to find out how many grams of sugar are contained in one serving. If the food contains little or no milk or fruit (which have naturally occurring sugars), then you will know the number of “added grams of sugar” that are contained. Cross-reference this with your daily allowance — about 25 grams for women and about 38 grams for men — to decide if this food fits into your allowance.
The lowdown on your favorite foods
In order to figure out how many teaspoons of sugar are in your favorite foods, simply divide the number of grams on the nutrition label by 4. So if a food had 16 grams of sugar that would equal 4 teaspoons of added sugar.
Breakfast foods
¾ cup Honey Nut Cheerios
2½ tsp
1 cup Fruit Loops
3 tsp
1 cup of Corn Chex
<1 tsp
¾ cup Frosted Flakes
3+ tsp
1 cup Kashi GoLean Crunch
3½ tsp
¾ cup Cracklin’ Oat Bran
4 tsp
1¼ cup Rice Krispies
1 tsp
1 cup Quaker Oatmeal squares
2½ tsp
1 packet Quaker Instant Oatmeal: Cinnamon & Spice
3½ tsp
1 packet Swiss Miss Hot Cocoa
4 tsp
Kashi GoLean Cookies and Cream Bar
9 tsp
Kashi TLC Trail Mix Bar
1½ tsp
Nature’s Valley Crunchy Granola Bar
2½ tsp
½ cup Edy’s Slow Churned Light Ice Cream, Cookie Dough
3½ tsp
Regular Cup: TCBY Old Fashioned Frozen Yogurt
6 tsp
Dairy Queen Heath Blizzard
26 tsp
Pre-Packaged Small Rice Krispie Treat
1¾ tsp
½ cup Trader Joe’s Lemon Sorbet
5 tsp
3 Oreo cookies
3½ tsp
20-ounce Sprite
16 tsp
Starbucks Grande Vanilla Latte
4 tsp
20-ounce Minute Maid Lemon-aid
17 tsp
16.9-ounce Nestea Iced Tea
12 tsp
20-ounce Lemon-Lime Gatorade
8½ tsp
Sugar aliases
When reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists, be on the lookout for sugar aliases. There are many different ways that sugar can go undercover. Don’t be duped! Be on the lookout for these terms:
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Dextrose
  • High fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Table sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Baker’s sugar
  • Powdered sugar
  • Agave
  • Nectar
  • Fruit juice concentrate
I hope that you are convinced. I truly believe that it is the best diet modification that you can make. So go for it: Start counting your sugar grams!

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nicolevt's picture
User offline. Last seen 5 years 20 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 03/11/2011

So is Agave not a better alternative? We switched from white sugar, which we only use for cooking anyhow, to unrefined raw sugar from our local food market, then Agave. Now that is a problem too? Or is the point that there is still the need to use sparingly?

Valerie Gleaton
Valerie Gleaton's picture
User offline. Last seen 2 years 3 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 01/18/2010

Thanks for your question! Most experts recommend that you to use any sweeteners sparingly, but agave is likely a better choice than white sugar. It’s as caloric as sugar, but it's also sweeter, so you can use less of it. It also has a lower glycemic index than table sugar. More info on agave and other natural sweeteners here: http://blog.gaiam.com/blog/sweetening-the-deal-the-new-natural-sugar-alt...

Valerie Gleaton
Assistant Editor, Gaiam Life

dylanmosley's picture
User offline. Last seen 4 years 42 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 10/06/2011

There are different types of addiction. It may be legal or it may also be prohibited by the law. I think I'm one of the sweet addicts. I have heard of this certain type of vaccine. A vaccine that fights pre-established chemical dependency might be accessible in the near future, reports the New York Times. Chemist Dr. Kim Janda of Scripps Research Institute might have found an ingenious way of breaking the routine of addiction to such substances as nicotine, heroin, cocaine and more. Despite intensive efforts to eradicate it, addiction to both legal and illicit drugs continues to be a major worldwide medical and social problem.

Ronaldo's picture
User offline. Last seen 3 years 25 weeks ago. Offline
Joined: 02/01/2013

Well according to me sugar plays an important role in our daily life and effects on our diet. It is good to reduce sugar in our diet for maintaining weight. Anyway good post and very informative.

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