Sugar isn't so sweet

Aug. 31, 2011 | by Betsy Craig

This morning as I was catching up on some of my favorite food blogs I found myself sucked in by a banner ad at the top of the page. The ad, from General Mills was touting a new program in effect with their breakfast cereals.

The program is a promise to reduce the sugar content of all its cereal brands to 10 grams or less per serving. It's no surprise to see General Mills taking this position; sugar-fueled breakfast cereals get a lot of flack when it comes to campaigns against childhood obesity.

According to the CDC more than 11 percent of the population 20 years of age and older has Diabetes as of 2010. These numbers are increasing, and it is alarming what the outlook is like for children today. All of this makes me wonder how much sugar is a reasonable amount to consume? And how do you reduce sugar content?

Let's take a look

The FDA has no formal daily recommended values for consumption of sugars, but the World Health organization recommends that less than 10 percemt of calories per day come from added sugars. For a 2,000 calorie a day diet, that limits sugars to under 48 grams.

There is a difference between a refined sugar and natural sugars. Sugars are naturally in most of the foods we eat. Fruits, vegetables, grains, and milk all contain naturally occurring sugars.

Refined sugars have been extracted from their natural sources. White sugar, corn syrup, molasses, even "raw" sugar are examples of refined sugar. These sugars are in recipes or processed foods, and the first place to cut back if you are looking to reduce sugar intake.

What's on the label?

When reading a nutrition label, sugars appears under the Total Carbohydrates section, though this count will include naturally occurring sugars. So how can you tell if added sugar is high?

First, look at the sugar line on the package. What is the ratio to the carbohydrates? Is it high? If so, begin to read the ingredient list. If sugar (or a type of refined sugar) is in the first 3 ingredients, it's probably not a low sugar food (unless there are 3 ingredients).

Reducing sugar content in recipes can make a big difference. Here is a quick list of ways to make better sugar choices when cooking in your restaurant or creating new menu items:

  • Try Sucanat, a naturally occurring white refined sugar made from sugar cane that contains vitamins, minerals and trace elements. It is no better calorie or gram wise than sugar, but at least includes some nutritional benefit.
  • Substitute Splenda or other non-caloric sweeteners in recipes instead.Try using fruit juice to sweeten dishes.
  • Simply reduce the sugar content in recipes. Do you really need ¾ of a cup? Why not try just ½. Often recipes call for more sugar than absolutely necessary.
  • Add fruit to your dessert menu.
  • Try maple syrup instead. The total sugar content is lower, though it does still act as sugar in the body.

What about those Kids Meals?

Could you be offering a low-sugar alternative for those that are looking to watch sugars? How about those kids meal? Look toward a trend on the horizon of popsicles for added flavor without huge amounts of sugar for the kids menus. What do you think?

Topics: Health & Nutrition

Betsy Craig / Betsy Craig brings 20 years of food service industry experience to MenuTrinfo, LLC a menu nutritional labeling Company. Her commitment to the betterment of the food industry and her desire to affect the dining public are the driving forces behind her new company Kitchens with Confidence, LLC.
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