Dietary Guidelines: Keep on Cutting Added Sugars

The Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee was released last week. Among the recommendations is to limit intake of added sugars to 6% of daily calories. This is a decrease from the 10% recommended in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

Considering that an estimated 63 percent of Americans aren’t meeting the 10% goal, we have our work cut out for us! Sugar sweetened beverages are a good place to start.

The Scientific Report says that about 1/3 to 1/2 of the added sugars we consume comes from sugary drinks. Here’s a look at the percent of added sugar intake from beverages (not including milk or 100% fruits juice) for different population groups:

  • Young children: 32 percent
  • Adolescents: 49 percent
  • Adults (age 20-64): 58 percent
    • Pregnant women: 48 percent
    • Lactating women: 31 percent
  • Older adults (age 65+): 35 percent

We have lots of materials to help you teach about added sugars, sugary drinks, and better beverage choices, including:

  • Are You Drinking Candy materials — to show just how much sugar is in common drinks like soda, sweet tea, and sports drinks.
  • Sugar Math PowerPoint show — to teach clients and students how to get from “10% or 6% of daily calories” to the grams of sugar shown on the Nutrition Facts panel.
  • Food Label materials — to find grams of added sugar on the Nutrition Facts panel and make sense of the % Daily Value.

Here are five points to share about cutting down on sugar sweetened beverages:

  1. Break down the 6% recommendation so folks can understand it. Using a 2000 calorie diet as an example, you’re looking at 30 grams of added sugar, which is equal to 7.5 teaspoons of sugar.
  2. Show them where to find added sugars on the food label. The number is given in grams and % Daily Value.
  3. Identify their sugary beverage of choice. The Advisory Committee found that these drinks provide the most added sugar to our diet: soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports and energy drinks, smoothies, coffee and tea with added sugar.
  4. Keep track of the sugary beverages you’re drinking, then make a plan to cut the number of ounces down gradually. Alternatively, some people might just want to make a clean break all at once.
  5. Brainstorm low- or no-sugar options to replace their favorite sugary drink.

Remember, the 6% added sugar recommendation is in the recently released Scientific Report, which was submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services last week. Now these two agencies will come up with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans — the recommendations on what the average American should eat and drink to promote health and prevent chronic disease.

We’ll see if the 6% added sugar limit makes it into the 2020 Dietary Guidelines that will be published by the end of the year.

 

 

Stick to the Message on Added Sugar

As we await the release of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines, this is a good time to review key parts of the 2015 guidelines that aren’t likely to change much. One of these topics is added sugar.

Specific sugar intake recommendations were included in the Dietary Guidelines for the first time in 2015 (whereas in years earlier they only recommended avoiding consuming too much sugar or moderate intake of sugar). The message: consume no more than 10% of daily calories from added sugar.

Sugar continues to be a hot issue. When the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee last met on March 12-13 (source), subcommittees presented their DRAFT conclusion statements. Here are a few related to added sugars:

  • Mean intakes of added sugar have significantly decreased over time, but remain high across age, sex, race-ethnic and income.
  • There is a notable increase in the intake of added sugars when 1-year-olds are compared with babies less than 12 months of age.
  • Nearly 70% of added sugars come from five food categories: sweetened beverages, desserts & sweet snacks, coffee & tea (with their additions), candy & sugars, and breakfast cereals & bars.
  • A large percentage of daily sugar intake comes from beverage consumption: 30% for young children, 50% for adolescents, and 60% for adults.
  • The top beverage sources of added sugars: regular soft drinks, fruit drinks, sports/energy drinks, smoothies, and coffee and tea with added sugars.

So what messages about sugar do we need to keep sharing?

  1. Clear up sugar confusion. Consumers may not get it — ‘Doesn’t milk have sugar?! Fruit has sugar!’ But when it comes to sugar, ‘added’ is the key word. Don’t worry about the naturally occurring sugar in REAL food when there’s so much added sugar in PROCESSED food.
  2. The new Nutrition Facts label is key! We no longer have to arm our clients with long lists of ingredients that actually mean sugar. Added sugar is now on the label – we just need to remind folks to look for it. See our New Food Label materials for ideas on how to do this.
  3. To understand the food label, you have to understand Sugar Math. Teach clients and students how to get from “10% of daily calories” to the grams of sugar shown on the new Nutrition Facts panel.
  4. Beverages matter. Choosing water and sugar-free drinks can make a big difference in your sugar intake. We have lots of materials on this — a favorite being Are You Drinking Candy?
  5. Switch to fruit for dessert. This is a great way to satisfy a sweet tooth without a lot of sugar. We even have a Fruit Tooth Dessert Cookbook!
  6. Start early for a lifelong low sugar habit. We want to be raising sugar-free kids who eat real food. Parents, grandparents, and childcare providers need our help. Check out our 0 to 5 Baby and Toddler Nutrition PowerPoint show.
  7. There’s no room for added sugar with MyPlate! Use resources from ChooseMyPlate.gov or see all the materials we have.

 

Choose Water

When it’s hot and humid, it’s time to remind people to drink plenty of water. Our Choose Water bookmarks and wristbands are perfect for this! Put them in a basket on your desk so whoever comes by can take the message home with them.

Here are a few more fun ways to nudge people towards water:

Around the water cooler

 

  • Put some of our Choose Water wristbands or bookmarks nearby.
  • Set out a bowl of lemon and lime slices for people to add to their water.
  • Write some of our water facts (below) on sticky notes and put one or two up every day for a week.

In the break room

  • Write “free – drink me!” on brightly colored paper and rubber-band it around an unopened bottle of water. Put a few of these in the break room refrigerator.
  • Be sneaky – write some of our water facts (below) on sticky notes and put them on the soda machine or near the coffee pot.
  • Serve an afternoon break with fresh fruit and water.

And here are some water facts to get you started:

  • Why do I need to drink water?
    • Water regulates your body temperature.
    • Water lubricates and cushions your joints.
    • Water protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues.
    • Water aids in digestion and getting waste out of your body.
  • When do I need to drink more water?
    • When it’s hot and humid.
    • Anytime you’re physically active.
    • When you have a fever.
    • When you’re sick with diarrhea or vomiting.
  • General success tips:
    • Drink a cup of water every morning, before coffee or tea.
    • Never pass a water fountain without stopping to take a drink.
    • Carry a water bottle with you every day.
    • Order water at restaurants instead of soda.
    • Flavor it up – add slices of lemon or lime, and other fruit.
    • When you reach for a diet soda, have a cup of water first.