Written by: Dietetic Intern, Jamie Freier
Halloween is just around the corner and with this spooky holiday comes plenty of tricks and plenty of treats! As spooky as ghosts and goblins are, there is perhaps none more frightening than the sneaky sugar monsters. But not all sugars are created equally and no fear is necessary when you are enjoying whole fruits, vegetables, and unflavored dairy products. The reason for this is because they have plenty of the beneficial fiber necessary to keep those nasty sugar monsters in line. That being said, the main offender behind the dangerous sugar attacks are those uncalled for added sugars! Added sugars are snuck into a variety of specific foods (see the list below) with the most notorious culprits being sugar sweetened beverages.
- Fruit Juices
- Grain-Based Desserts
- Frozen Desserts
- Cold Cereals
So, why do we care so much about these seemingly harmless sugar monsters? The answer is this, after eating foods containing large amounts of added sugars, those extra calories begin to weigh on you and can take the place of other more nutrient dense foods. Replacing vital nutrients with added sugar is a no win situation and could eventually lead to chronic diseases. Not only can sugar induce mild weight gain or even push you to the point of becoming overweight, the scary part is that the over consumption of added sugars can also increase your risk for obesity, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and a variety of cardiovascular diseases. These risks are the biggest reason why we need to beware of the sugar monsters.
Unfortunately, these sugar monsters are so clever that even when you look for them on food labels they are hard to spot. But here’s the trick! In order to keep a keen eye out for these creepers, you need to dig deeply into the ingredients list. This list is key for discovering the variety of undercover names used for sugar. The most common names for sugar are:
- Anhydrous dextrose
- Any kind of Syrup (eg. malt, corn, maple, pancake)
- Confectioner’s powdered sugar
- Nectars (eg. peach nectar, pear nectar)
Of course, this is not a complete list as those sneaky sugar monsters keep finding new names. But the good news is a Federal Agency is onto them, and the FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration) is in the process of publicly pointing out exactly where those added sugars are hiding. New food labels are scheduled to come out by July of 2018 for large companies, and July 2019 for small companies; but the deadline has been pushed back a few years. Fortunately, some of the new labels are already out and the added sugars on those can easily be spotted under the Total Carbohydrates portion of the label.
At the end of the day it is up to you to keep yourself safe from those dangerous sugar monsters. It is not an impossible task, all you have to do is keep a look out and keep track of what you are eating. Stick to eating less than 10% of your total Calories per day from added sugars which amounts to approximately 63g or 1/3 cup or 5 Tablespoons a day for males, and 50g or ¼ cup or 4 Tablespoons per day for females (amounts may vary depending on actual caloric intake). Remember that natural sugars from fruits, vegetables, and unflavored dairy products do not count as added sugars. But be careful! You can still shock your system if you switch your routine too quickly, so make gradual progress. We have no doubt that you will be well aware of the tricks behind the treats this Halloween by focusing on treating your sweet tooth with the following:
- Whole Fruits
- Dried Fruits
- Home-made Smoothies or Whole Fruit Smoothies
- 100% Fruit Juice
- Variety of Substitute Sugars
- Fitch C, Keim K. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners. JAND. 2012;112:739-758. doi:10.1016/j.jand.2012.03.009.
- FastStats – Leading Causes of Death. https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/leading-causes-of-death.htm. Accessed October 2, 2017.
- Delay of Nutrition Facts Label a Blow to Public Health | Center for Science in the Public Interest. https://cspinet.org/news/delay-nutrition-facts-label-blow-public-health-20170929#.WdKkub98ngA.email. Accessed October 2, 2017.
- Eating Right with Less Added Sugars How to Limit Sources of Added Sugars. http://www.eatrightpro.org/~/media/eatright files/nationalnutritionmonth/handoutsandtipsheets/nutritiontipsheets/eat right with less added sugars.ashx. Accessed October 2, 2017.