Health experts recommend that we limit our sugar intake to about 10 percent of our total daily calories, or about six teaspoons of sugar for women and about nine for men. But, in reality, many Americans are eating more the recommended daily limit before they even finish breakfast.
If you traded in your Captain Crunch for oatmeal or yogurt long ago and think you're safe, think again. It's not just donuts, muffins and super sugary cereals that pack a punch. A significant amount of sugar lurks in everything from our so-called healthy breakfast foods to soups to salad dressings to condiments. The sugars or syrups that are added to food products during processing to add flavor are called "added sugars" and they're everywhere. And they add up fast.
To help us spot the sneakiest sources of the sweet stuff, Madelyn Fernstrom, RD, NBC News Health and Nutrition Editor took BETTER on a grocery store tour to track down four high-sugar foods you might want to avoid, plus her healthy swaps to eat and snack even smarter.
Most flavored yogurts have two to four teaspoons of sugar per serving — that's about half of your daily recommended allowance. Fernstrom recommends starting with a plain yogurt and layering on your favorite fruits like berries, banana, or orange segments. If it's still not sweet enough, spoon in a small amount of jam or jelly, but just fruit should do the trick.
While those individual oatmeal packets seem like a great way to keep portion sizes in check, they have about three teaspoons of sugar in each serving — or about 50 extra calories. Fernstrom says to use original rolled or steel cut oats and add just one teaspoon of sugar, along with your favorite fruit, to sweeten it up.
It's almost barbecue season and many of our favorite red or brown sauces are teeming with hidden sugar. America's favorite condiment, ketchup, has one teaspoon of sugar in just one squirt! Look for lower-sugar varieties of your favorite sauces or just switch to mustard, which has no added sugar at all.
4. Pasta Sauce
It may look like mostly tomatoes, but jarred spaghetti sauce can be loaded with sweet stuff — anywhere from a teaspoon to 3 teaspoons per half cup serving, depending on your brand of choice. Read the labels and choose low-sugar varieties, or just make it yourself. The only thing you need is sauteed garlic or onion, a can of pureed tomatoes and your favorite spices.