Sugar and the New Nutrition Facts Labels
January 21, 2019
June 28, 2016
The first changes on the Nutrition Facts in more than 20 years took effect in the summer of 2018. One of the changes I am most excited to see, is the addition of the amount of “added sugars” a food product contains. I think this piece of information will be a huge eye-opener to many consumers.
Assessing Sugar on the Old Labels
On the old labels, it is difficult to tell just how much sugar is added to products. Some foods—like desserts, sugary beverages, and some kid-friendly cereals—are obvious culprits. Most people know they contain lots of sugar and choose whether or not to consume them.
The big problem is that sugar has become pretty ubiquitous in our food supply. Even supposed “health foods” like yogurts, cereals labeled with terms like “Healthy Heart,” salad dressings, and granola bars can be loaded with added sweeteners in many forms. In the past, added sugars and those naturally occurring from fruit, grains and dairy aren’t separated on the Nutrition Facts label.
Many people are confused when organizations like the American Heart Association recommend consuming less than 6 teaspoons of added sugar a day for females and less than 9 teaspoons for males. The label change makes it clear and might help some people make some more informed choices.
There is no doubt that excess sugar contributes to obesity and chronic disease and there are truly no downsides to reducing one’s intake. While the label changes will help, there are many ways to make better dietary choices and reduce sugar in your diet dietary choices.
5 Ways to Reduce Sugar in Your Diet
- Ideally, we should choose more foods that don’t even have a Nutrition Facts label. Choose more fresh foods rather than processed foods. Spend more time in the produce section and less time in the packaged food aisles and you will naturally consume less sugar. Snack on veggies most often.
- Make your own salad dressing. It requires only a few simple ingredients, while most store-bought versions contain 20 or more ingredients, and usually contain added sugar and excess salt. *See below for one of my favorites: Greek dressing.
- Swap out your sugary breakfast cereal for an egg omelet or quiche made with lots of veggies like mushrooms, spinach, peppers and/or tomatoes. It will be much more filling and will have less sugar and more protein. Other options include a “green” smoothie made with frozen berries and greens (skip the juice and use water as the liquid) or homemade steel-cut oats, sweetened with a small amount of fresh fruit and topped with nuts.
- Skip the sweetened yogurt and opt for plain. You can add fresh or frozen berries for flavor. Even if you have to add a little honey at first, the benefit of sweetening it yourself is that you can gradually reduce the amount until you like the taste of it plain.
- Don’t substitute sugar with artificial sweeteners—they are often thousands of times sweeter than table sugar—and choose fewer sweet foods overall. We have become so accustomed to eating hyper-sweetened foods that we forget some foods, like carrots and bell peppers, can actually taste sweet! Generally, the more sweet foods you eat, the more you crave them. Cut out sugar for a period of time and retrain your taste buds to like the taste of vegetables, herbs and other savory foods!
Greek Salad Dressing
Place all ingredients in a Mason jar and shake well! Store in the fridge and the flavor gets even better overnight!
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 Tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Juice of half a lemon
- 1 tsp. dried basil or Oregano
- 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- Freshly cracked black pepper
- 1 large garlic clove, finely grated
Janelle Glick, MA, RD, LDN
Janelle Glick, MA, RD, LDN, is a wellness dietitian with Lancaster General Health Corporate Wellness.
Education: Janelle Glick holds a B.S. in Nutrition and Dietetics from Messiah College and a M.A. in Nutrition Education from Immaculata University. Her special areas of interest include weight management and health coaching.