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Avoid ‘hidden’ sugar!
Monique Koerner
Monique Koerner

Seems like it is everywhere! You have probably heard about the risks of consuming too much sugar but what are some practical tips to reduce added sugars in our diet? Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods/beverages when they are processed or prepared. Added sugar is in 80% of the products at the grocery store. Most of us eat and drink more sugar than we realize. 

Adding sugar to processed foods makes them more appealing and tastier. Sugar gives baked items flavor, texture and color. It helps preserve foods and it fuels fermentation, enabling bread to rise. Sugar also serves as a bulking agent in baked goods and ice cream, and it balances the acidity of foods containing vinegar and tomatoes. Sugar is often added to foods advertised as low-fat because it gives the food more flavor after removing the fat.

So, how much added sugar is too much? The Dietary Guidelines for American recommend you limit added sugars to less than 10% of daily calories. If you eat about 2,000 calories a day, you should limit added sugars to about 12 teaspoons or 48 grams. To put this in perspective, a 12-ounce can of soda has about 10 teaspoons (40 grams) of sugar. 

You will be surprised by products that contain high amounts of added sugar, so the best way to make informed decisions is to read labels. The Nutrition Facts label displays the total amount of all sugars (natural and added) found in a serving of the product. There is also a line for added sugars. Another option is to look at the ingredient list on the package. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so if sugar is one of the first few ingredients the product is likely high in added sugars. 

To reduce added sugars in your diet:

• Start by drinking water and other beverages that don’t contain sugar or artificial sugars. One rule that many find useful is to not drink sugar. Add fresh fruit and herbs to your water for a bit of flavor. 

• When you drink fruit juice, make sure it is 100% juice, and better yet, eat the fruit!

• Choose breakfast cereals with less sugar. 

• Go for fresh or frozen fruit as dessert. 

• Buy canned fruit packed in water or juice, not syrup. 

• Choose nutrient-rich snacks like vegetables, fruits, low-fat cheese, nuts, whole grain crackers, and low-calorie yogurt instead of candy, pastries, and cookies. 

• When you have a dessert high in sugar, share it with others. Sometimes all you need is a bite or two to satisfy a craving. 

• Store-bought marinara sauces are often high in sugar and salt. The best is to make your own from fresh tomatoes.

I hope you find these tips useful as we navigate the next few weeks of celebrations. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

Monique Koerner is the Family and Community Wellness Agent with K-State Research and Extension – Cottonwood District. You may reach her at: 785-628-9430 or