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Slash sugar intake by making simple changes

August 20, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
The average American consumes 22 teaspoons of added sugar each day -- about 355 calories' worth. That adds up to 70 pounds of sugar each year. Along with contributing to weight gain, the sweet stuff causes a host of other health problems as well. Remember, there are ways to slash sugar while keeping good taste.

"We're getting way too much added sugars in our diet -- about three to four times the recommended amount," said dietician Patricia Bannan.

The American Heart Association says women should get no more than 6 added teaspoons of sugar a day and men should get no more than 9 teaspoons.

"The problem with too much added sugar in the diet is it can lead to heart disease. It can lead to uncontrolled diabetes. It can lead to obesity and even cancer," said Bannan.

Like salt, sugar is seemingly in most processed foods, but there are choices that are better than others. A typical day of sweetness can be easily reduced with simple swaps.

For example, a cup of shredded wheat in lieu of frosted wheat cereal saves 2 teaspoons. The Fage low-fat honey and yogurt combo, with roughly 7 teaspoons of sugar, can be swapped with plain Greek yogurt topped with blueberries and a dollop of fruit jam containing less than 2 teaspoons.

Energy bars are fun and tasty, but check those labels. A Clif bar has 22 grams, or around 5 teaspoons of sugar, whereas the KIND bar comes in at about 1 teaspoon.

When dessert calls, chocolate cupcakes contain 9 teaspoons, but two dark chocolate truffles are just 2 teaspoons.

Bannan says sugary beverages are the No. 1 culprit of added sugars in our diet. Cola packs about 14 teaspoons in a 16-ounce bottle. You can swap it with flavored water with no sugar at all.

"If you make all of these sugar swaps throughout the day, at the end of the day, you're going to save yourself 30 teaspoons of sugar," said Bannan.

Thirty teaspoons is around 480 empty calories. So it really pays to take a look at those labels. Don't be afraid to do a little math at the market. If you want to know how many teaspoons are in your favorite food, look at the sugar grams and divide by four. That'll give you the teaspoons per the manufacturers' recommended serving size.


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