How much sugar should I eat each day?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that adults limit added sugars to less than 10% of their daily calories. Each teaspoon of sugar contains around 4 grams or 16 Calories.
For an individual eating 2,000 Calories per day, this would mean no more than 200 Calories should come from added sugars. 200 Calories is around 50 grams/12.5 tsp of sugar.
For an individual eating 1,500 Calories per day, this would mean no more than 150 Calories. This is around 37 grams/9 tsp.
What would this look like in a day?
Below are two examples of a day of eating. The meals are similar but the meal plan on the left includes significantly fewer added sugars than the meal plan on the right.
|Meal Plan 1||Meal Plan 2|
– 1 cup Oatmeal cooked from plain oats with 1 tsp brown sugar, 1 Tbsp chopped walnuts and ¼ cup frozen blueberries added. (4 g added)
– 12 oz coffee with 1 Tbsp half and half
4 grams total added sugars
– 2 packets maple and brown sugar-flavored instant oatmeal (12 g added)
– 12 oz coffee with 2 Tbsp French Vanilla creamer (10 g added)
20 grams total added sugars
– Sandwich (2 slices Dave’s Killer whole grain bread, 1 slice cheddar cheese, Turkey Breast, 1 tsp mayo/mustard, sliced tomato and lettuce) 5 g added
– Baby carrots with 2 Tbsp hummus
5 grams total added sugars
– Sandwich (2 slices Dave’s killer whole grain bread, turkey Breast, 1 slice cheddar cheese, 1 tsp mayo/mustard, sliced tomato and lettuce) 5 g added
– BBQ Lays potato chips (1 g added)
– Coke, 12 oz can (39 g added)
45 grams total added sugars
-Baked chicken breast (seasoned with lemon pepper) Asparagus
-Rice/quinoa mixture Iced tea (unsweetened)
0 grams total added sugars
-Baked chicken breast with 2 Tbsp Kraft BBQ sauce (13 g added)
-Green salad with 2 Tbsp raspberry vinaigrette dressing (6 g added)
-Iced tea sweetened with 1 Tbsp sugar (12 g added)
31 grams total added sugars
|Snack: ¼ cup mixed nuts plus 1 cup grapes (0 g added)|
Snack: Yoplait original strawberry yogurt (13 g added) plus 1/3 cup Nature’s Path Honey Almond Granola (6 g added)
19 grams total added sugars
|Total Added Sugar for the Day: 9 grams added sugars||Total Added Sugar for the Day: 115 grams added sugars|
What is an Added Sugar?
Sugar in general is the simplest form of carbohydrate. Carbohydrates in all forms (more complex and as simple sugars) are used by the body as an energy source. The brain in particular requires sugar for energy. Sugars are naturally present in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products.
Added sugars are those sugars that are added to a food during processing or added by individuals before eating. Added sugars that are added to a food during processing are included in the ingredient list of that food as well as reflected on the label in grams as added sugars. See below for more info on label reading. Foods that have sugars added during processing include sodas and other sweetened beverages, flavored yogurts, cold cereals, desserts and snacks, condiments such as BBQ sauce and ketchup, and many others.
When added to food before eating, each tsp would add an additional 4 grams of sugar to that food. This includes when individuals add sugar or honey to coffee or tea, sugar added to cold or hot cereal, syrup on pancakes, and any other time sources of sugar are added by individuals.
Sources of added sugars include white sugar, brown sugar, cane juice, and cane syrup, maple syrup, honey, corn sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, as well as fruit juice concentrate when used to enhance the sweetness of another food.
Reading a Food Label for Sugar
Nutrition facts label changes were made in 2016 but manufacturers had until 2021 to make those changes and update their labels. The labels you see in the grocery store today should reflect these updates. One of the changes that were made was including a line for added sugars vs. total sugars. The total sugars listed on a label include any of those naturally occurring in that food plus any sugars added. The added sugars listed on the label are those that have been added during the manufacturing process.
By Heather Blazier, RD