Primary Care in Rochester and Kasson

Is sugar sweet or scary?

10/7/2021 by Sarah Dramstad


When you think of sugar, you might think of sweets and treats, and sugary beverages like soda and energy drinks. However, sugar can be added to sauces, condiments — like ketchup, salad dressings, crackers, soups, commercially processed breads, and even "reduced-fat" versions of foods. Added sugars are often used to enhance the taste or texture of food. 

But not all sugar is bad, as your body prefers sugar as its main energy source. 

It's important to distinguish added sugars with naturally occurring sugars. On a Nutrition Facts label, check out the added sugars listed under the total sugars. The total sugars include natural and added sugars. 

Naturally occurring sugars are found in: 

  • Dairy products, such as cow's milk, yogurts and some cheeses. 
  • Fruits. 
  • Vegetables. 
  • Whole grains. 

If you can, stick with the foods listed above that contain naturally occurring sugars, as they often provide other nutrients like protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. 

Here's what you can do to limit how much added sugar is in your diet:

  • Choose water or plain and unflavored low-fat milk, or milk alternative beverages first. 
  • Dilute 100% fruit juice with water. 
  • Pick plain unsweetened yogurt and add fresh or frozen fruit on top. 
  • Swap out sweetened applesauce for unsweetened applesauce. 
  • Instead of flavored oatmeal packets, add your own cinnamon or fruit to plain oatmeal. 
  • Have fun by baking your own bread or mixing your own salad dressings with spices and herbs. 
  • Throw in trail mix or dried fruit instead of candy for a sweet and savory treat. 
  • Mix in stickers, pencils or glow sticks to pass out for Halloween. You won't graze on those candies if they're not sitting around the house. 

The American Heart Association recommends added sugar to be no more than 150 calories per day for men, or about 9 teaspoons or 36 grams, and 100 calories per day for women, or about 5 teaspoons or 24 grams.

Don't worry, you can still enjoy those Halloween treats. Just don't trick yourself into eating a whole bucket at once.

Sarah Dramstad is a dietetic intern at Mayo Clinic studying to be a dietitian. She is a Vermont native and completed her bachelor's degree in dietetics at the University of New Hampshire. She enjoys working in inpatient and outpatient settings and working with diverse populations.