Updated: Aug 5, 2021
Welcome back to ✨SUGAR SCHOOL.✨
Sugar School is a 4-week series where I am teaching you exactly how to break up with sugar. In our last lesson we learned the different types of sugar and where you will find them.
Today's lesson is: HOW TO BECOME A SUGAR SLEUTH by decoding the nutrition label, and class is back in session.
If you haven't had a chance yet: CLICK HERE TO JOIN THE CHALLENGE
The RETHINK YOUR DRINK CHALLENGE began August 1 and will end August 31
The challenge workbook/beverage glossary/ list of sugar synonyms/ YOUR BFF for decoding nutrition labels is attached to this blog post. 🙂
Sugar is often hiding or disguised so it is important to be a SUGAR SLEUTH.
As we discussed last week, sugar goes by over 75 different names. If the nutrition label does not list added sugar explicitly, it can be a challenge to figure out how much added sugar a product contains, or if it has any at all.
The first step in becoming a sugar sleuth is turning your item around and looking at the Nutrition Facts label.
To find the total grams of sugar in a product, look at the "Sugars" category found below "Total Carbohydrate". It is important to understand that this includes all sugars in the product, both naturally occurring and added.
If you look at the label on this gallon of milk, you will see that it contains 12 grams of sugar per the nutrition facts label.
This brings me to the second and most important step in becoming a sugar sleuth: Read the ingredients list.
We can see by reading the ingredients list that this item only has 4 ingredients none of which are a form of sugar.
From this we can draw the conclusion that the sugar in the milk is naturally occurring, similar to the sugar that you will find in fruit and does not contain any added sugar. This is an example of something that you would want to consume in moderation, as it does have nutritional benefits despite the naturally occurring sugars.
Now, let’s look at this label for chocolate milk. We can see on the label that the chocolate milk contains 24 grams of sugar, but we want to know if that sugar is added or naturally occurring.
This is where you get to do your detective work. If you take a peep over at the ingredient list, you will see that the second ingredient is sugar and this item does therefore contain added sugar and would not be RETHINK YOUR DRINK CHALLENGE approved.
It can be helpful to keep an index of the different synonyms for sugar handy for when you see ingredients that you do not recognize. Luckily, your detective work should get a little less daunting in the coming months as the FDA requires a new category to be on the nutrition label: ADDED SUGAR.
This is a comparison of the old Nutrition Facts labels and the new labels that you might already be seeing. As you can see the new label lists ADDED sugar. This will take a LOT of the guess work out of having to look at the ingredients and root out where the sugar is coming from.
The new Nutrition Facts label can also be a great guide to help you compare and choose foods that are lower in added sugars.
If the item contains 5% DV or less it is a LOW source of added sugars.
If the item contains 20% DV or more is a HIGH source of added sugars.
The item above would fall into the high source of added sugars category.
The third step in becoming a sugar sleuth is:
Do not forget about serving size!
This liter of Coca-Cola contains 42 grams of added sugar, but that is for one 12 fluid oz. serving as you can see at the top of the label. If you decide to drink more than one serving you will need to multiply the number of servings you have with the grams of added sugar to calculate your total intake.
If you drank this entire bottle that would be 42 grams of sugar x 6 servings in the container = 252 grams of added sugar in the entire bottle, well over the American heart association recommendation of 25 grams for women and 40 grams for men daily.
There is one very important category we have not gone over yet and that is artificial sweeteners. The final step in becoming a sugar sleuth is uncovering the artificial sweeteners. These are the hardest to find because artificial sweeteners do not contain calories and will not be listed under total or added sugars. With these you will have to use your sleuthing skills to decode the label.
Lets look at this ICE drink for example. These are a very popular diet beverage.
The sugar is not listed at all because it technically does contain 0 grams of sugar, but as I look at the ingredients list I see the word “sucralose” which is an artificial sweetener. This item does contain added artificial sweeteners and therefore would not be RETHINK YOUR DRINK CHALLENGE approved.
This is a can of BUBLY a flavored seltzer drink on the market right now.
As you can see this item contains 0 g added sugar. When I look at the ingredients list the only ingredients are carbonated water and natural flavor. This means this item does not contain any added sugar or sweeteners and would be RETHINK YOUR DRINK CHALLENGE approved !
Congrats ! After this lesson, you are officially a professional sugar sleuth!
Here’s your HOMEWORK:
Look at all the food and beverages you commonly eat and drink, especially the pre-packaged items. Decode the labels using the information you just learned and let me know if you were surprised by anything you found.
In our next lesson I will be teaching you how to beat sugar cravings.
Until then, class is dismissed!