Are you Sugar Savvy?

This time of year, it seems, sugar abounds—from lingering Halloween candy to delicious Thanksgiving Day desserts, followed by a plethora of holiday treats and sweets. As a registered dietitian and a mom of two sugar-loving boys, I believe all foods fit in moderation. I do, however, know the importance of limiting our sugar intake in order to make sure our family isn’t missing out on the daily nutrients we need. After all, according to the World Health Organization, the average American consumes 156 pounds of sugar each year! These empty calories have been linked to increased risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

By becoming more sugar savvy, we can make sense of the sweet stuff and not feel guilty about partaking in a sweet treat (or two) occasionally. Take the quiz below to test your sugar knowledge.

True or False –

  • The average American consumes three pounds of sugar each week. True. The next time you are in the grocery store, pick up a three-pound bag of sugar—that’s a lot of sugar for one week. Satisfy your sweet tooth with foods that contain natural sugars like fruits, vegetables and low-fat milk. By following the MyPlate recommendations, we can increase our intake of vitamins and minerals, while decreasing calories and added sugars.
  • There are two types of sugar in our diet. True. Naturally occurring sugars are found in foods like fruit (fructose) and milk (lactose) while added sugars are added to foods and beverages during processing or preparation. Dairy foods contain the naturally occurring sugar lactose and are the leading source of calcium in the American diet. Those who are sensitive to lactose can enjoy all the health benefits of dairy by choosing lactose-free dairy foods.
  • A little sugar can help enhance the diet quality of children. True. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ new policy statement, sugar in small amounts can be a powerful tool to make food more palatable and boost the overall nutrition quality of a child’s diet. The Academy points to flavored milk that is served in many schools as an example of a balanced way to limit sugar, while providing a nutrient-rich beverage for bone health and growth.

Ready for more discovery? Check out our resource on the flavored milk in schools.

Laura Buxenbaum, MPH, RD, LDN

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