How Much Sugar is 5 to 10 Percent of Your Diet?

The guidelines for nutrition seem to shift like the wind. Years ago, before we all knew better, sugar was promoted as a way to lose weight.

Vintage Ad for Sugar

We look at this ad from 1968 now with amusement and a good amount of disbelief. After all, who would ever recommend sugar as a weight loss aid?

Back then, a lot of people did. A lot of people, including doctors also said cigarettes were good for you and you see where that got us.

It has taken years of education and medical knowledge to slow down the smoking rates. And I have a feeling it is going to take years of education to slow down the obesity rates. Sugar is not the only thing that has contributed to obesity. The availability of fast food, the way we live our lives, and the fact that adults and kids spend more time staring at a screen than moving around are all contributors to our current obesity crisis.

The newest recommendations from the UN indicates that we should limit our sugar intake to 5 -10 percent of our overall diet. When I read the article, I got to thinking about how much sugar that is for a typical person. I did a little research, and although the numbers vary from person to person, the average American consumes 136 pounds of sugar each year, which translates to a little more than a third of a pound of sugar each day.

Just for fun, I measure out a third of a pound of sugar on my scale for you to see.

One Third Pound of Sugar

That one-third of a pound of sugar has about 530 calories and about 132 g of sugar. Are you horrified yet?

The current recommendations say that a person should eat between 5 and 10 percent of their total caloric intake from added sugars. (Note that they are not counting naturally occurring sugars in foods such as fruit and dairy products.)

Let’s take a look at that scenario.

Imagine that you are consuming 1,500 calories a day. When you do the math you find that 5 percent of 1,500 is 75 calories and 10 percent is 150 calories. Because sugar has 4 calories per gram, you can easily determine how many grams of sugar you could eat.

5 percent of 1,500 = 75 calories. 75 calories is about 19 grams of sugar, or about 4.75 teaspoons. (There are about 4 grams of sugar in a teaspoon.)

10 percent of 1,500 = 150 calories. 150 calories is about 38 grams of sugar, or a little more than 9 teaspoons.

As a visual comparison, on the left is about 19 grams of sugar and on the right, about 37 grams.

Sugar Comparisons

You can see that’s not much sugar but it is much less than the amount in the first photo! To help you out further, here are a few popular foods with their sugar contents:

  • Milk chocolate bar  – 5.75 teaspoons of sugar
  • Coca cola (one 12 ounce can) – 7 teaspoons of sugar
  • Red Bull (one can) – 7.5 teaspoons of sugar
  • Cheerios – 1.1 teaspoons of sugar
  • Shredded Wheat – 0.1 teaspoons of sugar
  • Muffin (one chocolate chip muffin) – 4.75 teaspoons of sugar
  • Motts Apple Sauce(cinnamon or original) – small serving cup has 22-23 grams sugar or 5+ teaspoons
  • Jell-O Fat Free Pudding Snacks, Chocolate Vanilla Swirls 100-Calorie Packs – 1 cup – 17 grams sugar, or slightly more than 4 teaspoons
  • Little Debbie Swiss Rolls – 2 cakes has 27 grams sugar, or 6.75 teaspoons
  • Quaker Chewy Dipps Chocolate Chip Granola Bars – 1 bar has 13 grams sugar, or 3.25 teaspoons
  • Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Cinnamon Roll – 1 envelope has 13 grams sugar, or 3.25 teaspoons
  • Minute Maid Lemonade –  8 ounces = 29 grams sugar, or 7.25 teaspoons

This is just a small list of foods to give you an idea of how quickly you can consume a lot of sugar.

Some people go completely sugar free when they are trying to lose weight or feed their kids a healthier diet. I’m all for that if that is your choice. Other people, like me, try to find a balance between planned indulgences and a strict diet. Whatever works for you is fine.

I probably ate more sugar than the new recommendations when I was losing weight, but I still lost 158 pounds in 14 months. That being said, I was judicious with sweets and only had them on occasion and only if they were very excellent.

[bctt tweet=”Controlling sugar intake won’t help you lose weight if you are overindulging in other foods.”]

I would encourage you to educate yourself about the amount of added sugars in the foods you most commonly consume. You may be surprised to find that your favorite spaghetti sauce, yogurt, or granola bar has your entire added sugar allotment for the day. One way to control your sugar intake is to make as much of your food as possible. If you are making your own sauces, you do not have to add a single bit of sugar if you do not want to. Ditto for salad dressings, breading for baked chicken, or frozen popsicles.

How do you feel about the new sugar guidelines? Doable or not? Diane 

I hope you will share this post with your Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest followers! Diane

7 thoughts on “How Much Sugar is 5 to 10 Percent of Your Diet?

  1. Samantha says:

    This is an awesome post and one I really needed to see. I can’t believe how little sugar is recommended. I put more than that in my morning coffee!

    I’ve only just started and you are an inspiration.

  2. Martha Peabody says:

    I have been cutting back on sugar but didn’t really think about how much I should/could be eating. The visual pictures are great and I love that vintage scale.

  3. DavidS says:

    It’s a hard thing to control – at least for us. Reading the labels on foods is depressing because everything that is convenient has sugar. I do the cooking at home and my wife and I (and the kids) are all trying to lose weight.

    Thanks for the encouragement and the information.

  4. Fiona says:

    I was just thinking about this over the weekend. We had donuts as a special Saturday treat (I know – I should just skip ’em.) Anyway, later I looked up how much sugar is in a Dunkin Donut jelly donut and it was 15 grams, which is 60 calories from sugar. That’s a lot more than I need or should be having. Much less the calories. Sigh.

  5. Rebecca Marshall says:

    Sugar is my downfall whether it is from chocolate, sugar in tea, or even candy. It’s a hard habit to break. I’d love for you to write more about how you handle this with your family – especially as you have a lot of kids. I’ve only got two but they have a huge sweet tooth.

  6. Deb says:

    I think upcoming nutritional requirements will show added vs. natural sugar in products. I can take a 5.3 ounce carton of plain Greek yogurt and compare to same size vanilla Greek yogurt and figure it out (since typically plain has no added sugars), but it would be really nice to see this by reading the label on each item. Thanks for the article!

  7. Janis says:

    There’s so much sugar in the food all around us that I think it’s probably best to just aim for “zero.” If you do that, you’ll probably hit “very little” and be okay.

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