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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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?
- 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!
- 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.
- There’s no room for added sugar with MyPlate! Use resources from ChooseMyPlate.gov or see all the materials we have.