Reducing Added Sugars in the Diet

The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans provided by the USDA came out recently. The purpose of these guidelines is to promote health, prevent disease and focus on healthy eating through all stages of life.  

Since 1980, it has been recommended to limit added sugars for optimal health, and these new guidelines are no different. Reducing added sugars in the diet can help to manage weight and help to prevent chronic illness.  

The current recommendation is to limit foods and beverages higher in added sugars: 

  • Age 2 and older: have less than 10% of calories from added sugars
  • Younger than age 2: avoid food and beverages with added sugars 

As an example, if you were to consume 2,000 calories daily as an adult, the recommendation would be to have no more than 200 calories per day of added sugar, or about 16 ounces of regular soda.    

Keep in mind, most adults require less than 2,000 calories per day. 

So how do you know what foods and beverages have added sugars? The best way to educate yourself is to start reading your Nutrition Facts labels. This label includes Total Sugars and Added Sugars. 

Total sugars include naturally occurring sugars found in fruits or milk, as well as added sugar. 

Added sugars are those added during processing, such as sucrose, table sugar, syrups, honey, and concentrated fruit or vegetable juices.   

When buying foods at the grocery store, always compare nutrition labels to find items with low or no added sugars.   

Please also keep in mind that eating natural occurring sugars, from an apple for instance, is not the same as drinking a soda. The apple provides you with vitamins, minerals and fiber compared to the empty calories (and added sugar) of a soda.  

If you want to reduce your total added sugars overall, increase the whole foods in your diet, such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and low-fat dairy. And, in turn, reduce the processed foods in your diet, such as packaged cakes, cookies, crackers, chips, granola bars and other snack-type foods.  

Bridgette Bostic, R.D.N., is the community nutrition educator in the Tevis Center for Wellness.  


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