Sugar Consumption By The Numbers

Sugar Consumption: How Many Cubes Do You Eat?

In 1822, the average American consumed 9 grams of sugar a day – about the amount in one of today’s 12-ounce sodas. Today, the average Joe takes in 153 grams daily. That’s roughly 36 teaspoons!

To put this into perspective, the American Heart Association recommends that men limit sugar consumption to 9 teaspoons a day and women 6. (Even that seems like a lot.) And a report released in 2006 by the World Health Organization (WHO) urges people to limit their daily consumption of added sugars to less than 10 percent of their total energy intake. So if I’m eating an average 2000 calories a day, I should keep my sugar consumption under 12 teaspoons or about 48 grams. (I found the most common conversion factor to be 4.2 grams per teaspoon, but if you want to keep the math simple, just divide grams by 4.)

I looked these numbers up because I never have before, and in my pursuit to eat better, I’ve realized how much processed food I and my family eat. So listen up family: A Carnation Instant Breakfast drink has 19 sugar grams (4.75 teaspoons). One Nature Valley Sweet & Salty Nut Granola Bar has 13 grams (3.25 teaspoons). Apple Jacks? 13.7 grams (3.4 teaspoons). One A&W Cream Soda? 46.5 grams (11.6 teaspoons).

Sugar consumption isn’t the only factor to consider when choosing what to eat, but it helps to know the numbers, particularly during the holidays. We all know refined sugar has no nutritional value and contributes to all sorts of hideous conditions, like diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure, depression, and headaches. Oh, and for the teenagers out there, it also causes acne!

How can you monitor and reduce your sugar consumption?

  1. Do the math. Read the labels on the food you eat in a day. Sum up those sugar grams, divide by 4, and see how many teaspoons you’ve put in your piehole. The People’s Chemist created a “Death By Sugar Calculator” for those who want a visual.
  2. Consider whether your high sugar foods are worth it. Can you switch to another brand with less sugar? Can you make something similar, but healthier, (like granola bars) at home?
  3. Make healthier holiday treats this year to eat at home and share with friends. Spread some real holiday cheer.

How much sugar do you consume in a day?

Image Credit: rockindave1 via flickr/CC

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6 thoughts on “Sugar Consumption By The Numbers”

  1. It seems if people just eliminated soda from their diet that would be a great start to decreasing sugar consumption. One area where I’ve struggled is that sprinkle a spoonful of sugar over my bowl of “non-sugar” cereal every morning.

    I just looked and found out that Wheat Chex has 5 g of sugar per serving and I probably eat two servings each morning (I’ll have to measure it out tomorrow morning). That means I eat 2.4 tsp. of sugar for every bowl without adding in the extra sugar that I dump on top.

    The things you learn when you start paying attention.

    1. I hear ya, Boyd! Since I got pregnant I’ve been tracking certain nutrients (protein, sugar, and salt mostly), and I’ve been shocked at how much sugar I eat, even on days that I don’t eat a lot of sweet treats. The granola I put on my morning oatmeal is a big culprit there. I think part of the trick is re-training your palate. We’re used to sweet food, because so much food is overly-sweetened. Even things you don’t think of as sweet, like bread, have added sugar, because HFCS is such a cheap additive. I have a ways to go in that department, but I’m working on it!

    2. Boyd – thanks for the comment. I had never investigated how much sugar I ate and how much I was supposed to have. I don’t even eat many sweets, but there is so much sugar in a lot of the processed foods we eat, it’s scary! I’m paying attention right along with you…!

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