Tag Archives: added sugar

Added Sugars and Nutrition Labels

How much sugar should we eat? Is high fructose corn syrup bad for me? What sweeteners should I use in my home? These are questions I frequently get asked. A dietitian friend of mine, Melanie Betz (@the.kidney.dietitian) did a great post on instagram recently about sugar.

First off. Sugar is sugar is sugar. I don’t care if it is white sugar, honey, brown sugar, high fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, or whatever other sugar you have seen. These are all sugar. They all are broken down into sugars that are used by our bodies. Having too much of ANY of these isn’t a good thing. There is no evidence in human studies to date that shows a strong difference between caloric sweeteners.

What about non-calorie sweeteners? People are often concerned about these. In moderate amounts, these are generally considered safe. However, it likely isn’t good to rely on these as a stop gap to solve your eating pattern issues. If you are eating too many sweet treats or drinks, just switching to a sugar free version will not fix the overriding problem. The overriding problem is you are consuming these foods that do not provide necessary nutrients. Switching from regular Coca-Cola to Diet Coke saves you 140 calories per can, yes. But did you gain any nutrition? No. Plus you’ve consumed lots of other additives that can have health effects – phosphorus on your bones and kidneys for example.

So how much sugar should you eat in a day. The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to 10% or less of calories per day. For the generic 1800-2000 calorie diet, that translates to 45-50 grams of added sugar per day. For reference, one 12 oz can of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association is even more strict. They recommend 100 calories per day of added sugar for women and 150 for men. That translates to 25 and 38 grams respectively.

But how do I look at added sugars? The Dietary Guidelines points out that what we are looking at is an overall eating pattern. MOST people consume too many added sugars in sweet beverages and desserts. However, not all sugar is evil. Sometimes it is added to make healthy things more palatable.

I think the classic example to look at is cereal. Here are pictures of 3 cereal labels I found in my cupboard. Let’s take a look and compare.

Cereal Comparison

So let’s look at the carbohydrate section.  Both Raisin Bran and Frosted Mini Wheats have more total carbs than Honey Nut Cheerios.  For total sugars, Raisin Bran has the most at 17 grams.  Until a few years ago, this is all a label would say, total sugar.  Why is Raisin Bran, which you think is healthy, so high in sugar you say?  Two reasons.  First, it has raisins (and bananas in this box), which NATURALLY has sugar in it.  Second, you do need some sugar to make the bran palatable for most people.

Now let’s look at the added sugars.  Raisin Bran is actually the lowest at 11 grams, compared to 12 grams in both of the others.  This is a classic example of why I’m so incredibly glad “added sugars” has been added to nutrition labels.

But wait?  Mini Wheats and Cheerios are the same in added sugars?  Let’s delve one step further then.  In this case I would go look at the fiber.  Mini Wheats’ 8 grams of fiber definitely beats out the 3 grams in Honey Nut Cheerios.  (Another place you could look would be protein, but that is a discussion for a different day).

I hope you found this helpful as you look at added sugars and nutrition labels!

Disclaimer:  I have no vested interest for or against any products mentioned in this post.  Similar comparisons could be made between any regular vs diet soft drink.  These three cereals happened to be in my cupboard that I purchased at the most recent sale at the grocery store.

Leave a comment

Filed under Nutrition

Apricot Pecan Bites

Since February is snack food month, I thought it would be fun to share some of our favorite snacks. My kids love little bite sized snacks. Even better if they are sweet. But I don’t want them eating a ton of extra sugar. I do want snacks to have protein and fiber.

Enter these little apricot pecan bites. Sweetened almost entirely from fruit (there’s a little added sugar in the nut butter), these are sweet enough for my kids. They also fill you up quickly. We found this recipe at our local children’s museum. So, while kids need a bit of supervision with a food processor blade, this is definitely a snack they can help you make. Enjoy!

Apricot Pecan Bites (Makes about 24 bites)

Apricot Pecan Bites

1 cup dried apricots
2 cups chopped pecans
1 cup shredded coconut (preferably unsweetened)
½ cup dates
½ cup dried cherries
juice of 1 orange
6 tablespoons almond butter

1. Place all of the ingredients except half of the cocunut into a food processor. Blend until smooth.
2. Carefully scoop out about tablespoon size portions and roll into a ball. If it is too sticky, try sticking it in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up first.
3. Roll balls in remaining coconut. Store in refrigerator.

Nutrition Information (amount per bite)

Calories: 141
Protein: 2 g
Fat: 10 g
Saturated fat: 2 g
Cholesterol: 0 g
Carbohydrates: 13 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sodium: 20 mg

Source: our local children’s museum

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes

Brown Rice Syrup

I’m back! At least partly. My computer issues are 75% resolved. Unfortunately, the 25% not resolved is any photos for recipes, so that may be a little bit in coming. But, we are making progress.

Also, on the news front, I know have an Instagram account for the site. My user is foodforthoughtrd. I’ll post there whenever I post here on the site, as well as other things from time to time. Check it out if that is how you monitor social media.

Brown Rice Syrup

Now for today’s topic: brown rice syrup. I’ve seen this popping up on some of my snack food labels more frequently lately. Especially on snacks that like to list that their ingredients are “non-GMO”, etc. I’m assuming this is to alleviate the souls of those who hate the dreaded high fructose corn syrup in their foods. But my question: is this really a better alternative, or just the food industry pandering to people’s fears?

First step, find out facts about brown rice syrup. Brown rice syrup is a “nutritive sweetener” made from using enzymes on the starches in cooked brown rice and then cooking it until it becomes a syrup. Don’t let the term nutritive fool you to think it is nutritious. That just means it has calories, versus a nonnutritive sweetener such as aspartame. It is basically a sweetener made entirely out of glucose. It has some other compounds which are just two or three glucose molecules put together.

It may have some trace minerals in it, including arsenic. This can be a concern for it being toxic. I could not find good data on the arsenic levels of brown rice syrup, to be honest. So, you may want to be cautious.

How does it compare to other sweeteners? It is less sweet than regular sugar, which makes it also less sweet than high fructose corn syrup. Most online sources suggested using 1 ¼ cups brown rice syrup in place of 1 cup of sugar. Without using more, brown rice syrup already packs a higher calorie punch at 75 calories per tablespoon versus 42 calories per tablespoon regular sugar. Both seem negative attributes to me.

Brown rice syrup also has a higher glycemic index than regular sugar or high fructose corn syrup. This shouldn’t be surprising, since it is made up mostly of glucose, which is what the glycemic index compares foods to. But for those with diabetes, this is a bit concerning.

What’s the take home? You aren’t getting something better by subbing brown rice sugar for high fructose corn syrup or regular sugar. That doesn’t mean I think you should consume large quantities of either of those sweeteners. Really, the final breakdown is that same as always: eat more whole, unprocessed foods. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, beans, low fat dairy, etc. Eating any added sugar isn’t great. There isn’t a magic sugar that will make it ok.

Let me know if you’ve seen this ingredient lately or if you have any thoughts! And don’t forget to check me out on Instagram!

1 Comment

Filed under Nutrition