Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What's So Wrong with Sugar? Part 1

We all know that sugar is bad for you. But sugar is such a part of our life, that rarely do we actually think about how much sugar is in our diet and why we should care.

My friend Regina did a little research on sugar and I begged her to share her finds with us.

What's So Wrong with Sugar? 
Guest post by Regina

We are in a love relationship with sugar. We celebrate with it (birthday cake and ice cream anyone!!) we reward with it, we bribe with it, we comfort with it- sugar is our best friend that we just can’t get enough of!

What’s the first thing you reach for when you feel depressed or out of sorts with the day? Anything with sugar, of course! Once we get a taste for its sweetness, our bodies crave more and more. Our bodies feel pulled to this invisible power of sugar; we can barely resist its call. But for all the love we have for sugar, it is one of our bodies’ worst enemies. 

You may be thinking, “But I don’t consume that much sugar.” If you were like me, I would often read the labels on the backs of products but it was always in grams and I could not “picture” how much was in a gram. 

One day I decided to check the back of a sugar bag. Sure enough, it told me one serving was a teaspoon and a teaspoon equaled 4 grams. Great! I now had my conversion ratio of 4 grams = 1 tsp. So then I started walking through my kitchen checking food items that I had, and received quite a shock! I checked a bottle of juice. Juice is healthy, right? Well, a lot of 100% juices had anywhere from 28-34 grams of sugar per 8oz serving, which is one cup. So I divided the 28 by 4 to see how many teaspoons it equaled and the answer was, 7! A cup of juice is not much, I can drink that down in a few gulps and that quick, I just added 7 tsp. of sugar to my body.

I checked my yogurt- and gasped! Yogurt is always considered a very healthy snack, but after finding out it had 36 grams of sugar or 9 tsp. in one very small container, I wasn’t so sure. What Mom would dump 9 tsp. of sugar in any child’s 6oz. of yogurt? No wonder yogurt is so yummy and good and children love to eat it!

I began to see how much sugar we really are consuming without even realizing it. I began to wonder how many teaspoons of sugar a child was consuming in a day? So I did some very quick calculations.

Lets say Tommy has a ¾ cup serving of Lucky Charms for breakfast which has 12 grams in one serving so that gives him 3 tsp. of sugar. For lunch he has a juice pack which has around 6 tsp, a container of yogurt which gives him 9 tsp. and a honey bun for dessert which gives him another 4 tsp. (Hostess brand of Honey Buns has 7 tsp. of sugar along with 440 calories!) After school, Tommy comes home hungry for a snack so he eats a fruit roll up which is 3 tsp. of sugar and he drinks a Welch’s grape soda which gives him -hold on to your seat- a whopping 13 tsp. of sugar! One can of Welch’s grape soda has approximately 51 grams of sugar! Or maybe he drank a 16oz, bottle of chocolate milk which would equal the same -surprise!! Now comes dinner time and I think we could safely assume he gets another 15 tsp. through his macaronis, Jell-O salad, and cake.

We add this all together and see that Tommy has consumed 53 tsp of sugar! To make it easier to picture, there are 48 tsp in a cup, so Tommy has had over 1 cup of sugar in one day’s time. I‘ve done other calculations using other foods and drinks etc. and I really think I’m on the conservative side of how much sugar a lot of children are getting in a day, especially children that eat a lot of prepackaged foods and baked goods. (This is not including the sugar Tommy would have gotten naturally through his bread, corn, milk, fruits, pasta and other main foods.)

Take a one cup measure, fill with sugar and dump into a bowl. Would you really let your child sit and eat all that sugar? But yet, we are, every day!

Doing some more quick calculations, if Tommy gets 1cup a day, that means he gets approximately 31cup in a month or 365 cups in a year. Now to convert that into pounds and to make it easier to picture, I checked my sugar bag again and there are 10 cups in the five pound bag. The astonishing answer is, Tommy is eating 180 lb or 36 ½ five pound bags of sugar every year!

Ketchup is one of the surprising foods where sugar is hidden and we think it should be more an “okay” food. I happened to check the bottle one day after my children consumed more ketchup than hot dogs and realized that one serving is 2 Tb. and out of those 2 Tb - 1 Tb. of it is sugar. BBQ sauce is just as bad, with Sweet Baby Rays ( I know, don’t hit me!) the worst!

Coke has 10 tsp of sugar in one can. McDonald's 32oz. sweet tea has 9 ½ tsp. A serving of Raisin Bran cereal has 4 ½ tsp of sugar. A serving of fruit loops has 3 ½. Okay, so you’re thinking we’ll eat oatmeal packs, that should be healthy! Well, each small oatmeal pack has around 3 tsp. of sugar to the small amount of oatmeal that is in the pack. Three Chips Ahoy cookies has 8 tsp. of sugar and a pop tart has 5 tsp.

Well then, surly chocolate milk should be okay! It’s milk and that is healthy for you! One cup of packaged chocolate milk contains 28 grams of sugar which equals 7 tsp. A lot of chocolate milk bottles have two servings in one bottle but the nutrient label only lists what you are getting for one serving. So if you drink the whole bottle, which most of us would, you have to remember to double the amount listed on the nutrition label. One plus with chocolate milk is that your child is getting the benefits of the calcium and vitamins in the milk versus empty nutrients of sodas but it is a very small plus. I found it interesting that even some public schools have stopped serving commercial made chocolate milk and juices to the students because of all the sugars.

Be very careful with juices. Many claim to be juice but by reading closely you’ll see small wording stating that it only contains a small percentage of real juice and the rest is sugar flavored water. The other day, I grabbed a bottle of “juice” sold right amongst the other juices and the bottle said 100% vitamin C, etc. When I got home and really looked at the bottle I saw in very small letters that it only contained 10% juice and the first ingredient on the list was high fructose corn syrup. And then they are trying to brag it had 100% vitamin C and the store was selling it as juice? How can it be allowed?!!

Article will be continued tomorrow...


  1. What an eye-opening post. I try to cut down on my sugar in take, but I never looked at the sugar content of some of the items that you mentioned.

  2. Gina, thanks for convincing Regina to share this. I'm thoroughly enjoying it. I also get frustrated with how sugar laden everything is. It actually kind of makes me mad that companies are allowed to sweeten everything so much.

    And ditto to what she said about fruit juices. Most "juices" aren't even that much real juice. If I'm going to spend the money on juice then please at least give me something that is as good for me as possible and make it 100% juice!

    This is some of the reason I try to make as much of our own food as I can. I'm curious how homemade cookies etc. compare with bought.

    Anyway...thanks again. Looking forward to part 2!

  3. Timely article. I'm trying to find anyone who uses xylitol instead. Do you are Regina know anything about that?

    1. Have used xylitol in past. This was when I was a coffee or tea drinker or needed some type of sugar substitute. Taste was good and substitution was equivalent. It is possible to over use it. Read side effects, no delicate way to say it. Just goes to show you shouldn't consume too much of any sugar/substitute.

  4. I love this kind of reading! After working with children for so long, I like to update nutritional information every now and again. Some of this I knew (my dad was diabetic) but there was alot I wouldn't have thought about. Definitely looking forward to tomorrow's article!


    (btw, congratulations on the dehydrator!)

  5. Good article. We deal with this issue daily as my oldest daughter is reactive hypoglycemic (pancreas dumps too much insulin in reaction to sugar) and on a diabetic diet. She is not allowed to have more than 8grams of sugar every 2 hours and must have at least 4grams of protein with the sugar so that it releases slower in the blood stream. She even reacts to fructose. This is an important topic for parents.

  6. I am so glad to see this subject discussed. It has been silent too long. Refined and processed sugars are deadly. After a host of health issues, I took sugars out of my diet 5 months ago. I can't believe how different I feel. More energy, more emotionally stable, calmer, lost 35 lbs. The change is phenomenal. I have no desire to return to the unhealthy lifestyle.
    I am using natural alternatives like agave nectar, sucanat, maple syrup and xylitol. Because my taste for sweetness has changed, I have dramatically reduced the volume of intake. My family has been very supportive of my diet change, as they have seen first hand the difference that it has made.
    As far as throwing out all my favorite dessert recipes, I haven't done that. I just substitute the sugars, When a recipe calls for white sugar, I use xylitol; brown sugar, I use sucanat; corn syrup i use agave nectar and/or maple syrup. It has been a journey of trial and error, but the longer it goes, the better it is going. I try to make all our food from scratch, the less you buy processed, the healthier your diet will be. I make my own ketchup, pizza sauce, salsa, and this year I made my own "Sweet Baby Ray's" BBQ sauce with sucanat. It is delicious!!
    I encourage anyone who is serious about sugar to consider this post. It is worth the discipline of lifestyle change. You will be amazed how much better you will feel.

  7. This brings back memories of the book "Death by Sugar" - which I read in the hospital after giving birth to Gwen. *L* Made for some interesting comments from the nurses and midwife.

    Which, it's rather sad that very few people in the health care industry will be so honest about the food we're eating.

    I think that it's true that the food industry, the drug industry, and the health care industry have done people a disservice. And we, as consumers, have allowed it to happen.

  8. Thanks for all your comments and ideas.

    Marilyn -
    I'd love to hear more about your story!


  9. Gina,

    I've posted an activity we did at our house to find out about sugars and complex sugars.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  10. Just finding this today. WOW!!! What a complete shock! Going back to read the rest of the series. Thanks so much for sharing this valuable information.


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