My favorite Valentine’s Day candy is without a doubt the heart shaped Snickers. This particular Snickers tastes 100% better when it is shaped like a heart, than in its traditional bar form. Don’t believe me? Go try one.
Happy Valentine’s Day. And you’re welcome!
Wait, am I reading this right? Is this a dietitian peddling Valentine’s candy? I mean I guess I am, but I’m sincerely telling you that you can take my word for it, or you can try one for yourself. And I’m also telling you that I’m a human and I eat candy too. I will follow that by saying that I try to do so…in moderation. Because that’s what dietitians do. We encourage all foods. (Even Snickers.) In moderation.
That word - moderation - may be boring, but it's a huge component of a healthy diet and a healthy relationship with food. All foods.
When I say all foods. I mean it.
We cannot stay in ketosis for the rest of our lives. We cannot eat like cavemen from now until our nursing home days. (Can you imagine the nursing home diet orders in 2060? I am laughing out loud, just thinking about it.) Low carbs forever? No, thank you. We also cannot grow 100% of our own food, 100% of the time. We cannot avoid all GMOs, gluten, sugar, dairy, grains, and meat and cannot possibly keep up with Every. Single. Thing. that Kim Kardashian or Gwyneth Paltrow or fill in the blank famous person who doesn't have a degree in nutrition says is bad!
Because there aren’t bad foods. Just bad reputations about foods. Food doesn’t have to be put on a good or bad list. You do not get to be the Santa Claus of foods. Broccoli, nice list. Gluten, naughty list. You get the point.
Should we be eating more fruits and vegetables? Yes.
Should we eat less often? Yes.
Should we eat smaller portions? Yes.
Should we eat in moderation? Absolutely yes.
As the science of nutrition evolves, we are continuously learning new things. Researchers are currently looking at the potential health benefits of intermittent fasting and even how the bacteria in our intestines influence our health. It’s fascinating. And also, sometimes confusing. While the science is emerging in some areas. It’s considered more solid in others.
Other areas, including added sugars.
Current research shows, here in the U. S., more than 13% of our daily calories come from added sugars, and it's even more (17% of daily calories) for children, adolescents, and young adults. Yikes. Maybe you’re asking, why is that bad? Well, added sugars are simply a source of calories. That’s it. They don’t add any other nutrients to our diets.
The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published every five years, reviews current nutrition research and provides recommendations for the healthy U.S. population. The most current report recommends we keep added sugars to no more than 10% of calories in our diet.
So, what in the world does that mean? That means you have to do math, I guess. And some people hate math, so I’ll do a little for you.
If you’re eating 2,000 calories per day, 10% of calories from added sugars would be 200 calories from added sugars. Again, what does that mean? It means more math.
Carbohydrates (which is the category sugar falls into) have four calories per gram. So, 200 calories divided by 4 calories per gram is 50 grams of added sugar. That would be your maximum amount of added sugars per day if you were eating 2,000 calories per day. 50 grams of added sugar. But not all of us need 2,000 calories. Making that number likely smaller for a lot of people. 1,800 calories per day would allow 45 grams of added sugars and 1,500 calories a day would be about 38 grams of added sugars.
I would assume it’s safe to say that you don’t think of your food in grams. Who does? Making the new FDA compliant nutrition facts panel your BFF. This new format makes it clear and easy to see how many grams of added sugars are in your favorite foods.
If you look right below total sugars, there is now a line that shows you exactly how much of the sugar is added by the manufacturer - "includes Xg added sugars".
Added sugars, confusingly enough, can be listed on a food label as other things besides sugar. When reading the ingredient statement, here are a few examples of common ingredients to look for: agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar, cane sugar, cane syrup, evaporated cane juice, fructose, sucrose, turbinado sugar, molasses, maltose, malt syrup, invert sugar, honey, corn sweetener, dextrose, maltodextrin, and fruit juice concentrate (depending on how it’s used).
How does the amount of added sugars in your diet stack up?
Limiting added sugars is a fast and easy way to help you make room in your diet for other foods that offer more nutrients. Reading food labels and making simple swaps is an easy place to start.
At the store, compare food labels and choose foods with lower or no added sugars. Try looking at and tackling your added sugars one meal at a time. Is your oatmeal sweetened with sugar? What about your yogurt? Are there lower sugar versions you could try? Or maybe your added sugars are in the liquid form? From coffee creamer to sweet tea and soda, some simple swaps to your beverage choices could be all that you need to cut back your added sugars.
Remember the guidance does allow some added sugars (moderation!). Pairing moderation with mindfulness and listening to your body will take you a long way. It might even take you to Walgreens to buy a heart shaped Snickers this Valentine’s Day.
If you enjoyed the read or have questions, please let me know. I would love to hear from you, and as always, thanks for stopping by.
Happy Valentine's Day.