Added sugars are sugars that are not found naturally in a food and are added during food processing, preparation, or even at the table before eating. It is known that extra added sugar in the diet can contribute to health conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease. What many people don’t know about, however, are the small changes we can make to greatly decrease the amount of added sugar we eat or drink.

Read the Food Label. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 suggests we consume less than 10 percent of our daily calories from added sugars, but most of us are eating much more than that. If you’re eating from a package, take a look at the amount of sugar in the product. The food label is a resource that allows us to make informed decisions about what we eat. If a product contains a lot of added sugar, opt for another brand with less sugar or choose another food entirely. This will not only cut out some of the added sugar, but also cut a few of those extra calories as well.

Understand the Food Label Changes. Did you know that the FDA is making changes to the Nutrition Facts label for foods? In addition to other changes, food manufacturers will now be required to state the amount of added sugars (in grams) that are present in packaged foods. These changes will be implemented within the next year and may already be found on the labels of some foods at your grocery store. This change will allow us to keep track of the added sugars we consume every day, and teach us about the sugars in foods we are already buying so we can make changes if needed.

Ingredient Lists. In addition to looking at the food label, it is also useful to look at the ingredient list on packaged foods. This list contains the ingredients in order of descending weight. So, if sugar is one of the first ingredients in the product, it likely contains a good amount of it. Unfortunately, there are over 50 names for added sugar and they aren’t always easy to identify in the ingredient list. Don’t worry — do your best to avoid the unnecessary added sugars and know that it is OK to eat a small amount daily!

Opt for Natural Sugars. Are you looking to satisfy your sweet tooth? Instead of picking up that baked good or candy bar, choose a snack with a natural source of sugar, such as fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products, or even whole grains. These will help with blood sugar regulation and provide the protein and fiber that makes us feel satisfied for longer.

Chelsie Howe is a certified wellness coach at UnityPoint Health–Trinity.

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