The average woman eats 31 teaspoons of sugar a day (nearly two-thirds of a cup or 124 grams); most of it comes from added sweeteners, found in everything from flavored yogurt to the maple syrup you pour on your pancakes. Unlike the sugars naturally found in fruit and other foods, like dairy, these sweeteners supply calories but zero vitamins, minerals, or fiber. Nutritionists say you shouldn't get more than 10 percent of your daily calories from added sugar, which translates to no more than about 9 teaspoons (36 grams) a day. To get your intake under control:
- Read labels on your favorite products
When it comes to nutritional info, the sugar naturally present in food is lumped together with added sugars, so you need to read the ingredients list. One reason people consume such a hefty dose of sweeteners is because they don't realize that, in addition to the white stuff, high-fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, honey and fructose are all sources of empty calories. Keep in mind that no one sweetener is healthier than another.
- Don't forget about fat
Sugar often goes hand in hand with fat. Be wary of ice cream, cake, cookies, and candy bars; they all contain lots of sugar and cream or butter. "Sugar makes fat taste really good, so you end up eating even more calories in a single sitting because fat has 9 calories per gram compared to sugar's 4," says John Foreyt, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, behavioral sciences, and medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine.
- Keep an eye on portions
"Sweet foods are part of the supersize trend," says Lisa Young, Ph.D., R.D., adjunct professor of nutrition and food studies at New York University. And sweetened beverages, in particular, are the biggest contributor of added sugar in our diet. Drink just one can of cola a day and you're taking in 39 grams, an amount already over your daily limit.
Pick up Shape's special Make Over Your Body issue for complete details about this 21-day plan. On newsstands now!