Shocking Sugar Finds ~ Part I

Why don’t we look at sugar?

When it comes to the American diet and dieting, we have become very focused on the latest fads and fixes we have been advised by media, doctors, big corporations,etc.  Some of this advice has included counting or watching:

  • Calories (which prompted the artificial sweeteners like Aspartame to give us Zero calorie diet drinks);
  • Fat (which in the 90s prompted tons of non fat and low fat products to the market);
  • Carbs (which prompted the Atkins and South Beach phenomenon);
  • Organic (which prompted the organic movement).

But very rarely does sugar get center stage.

It’s very hard to find an accurate, reliable count of exactly HOW much sugar we are consuming and I don’t want to spread propaganda either.  The most accurate sites I found estimated it to be between 90-120 lbs a year, with sodas and sports drinks leading the pack.

Yes, that’s POUNDS!  As in 18 -24 Five lb bags PER PERSON, PER YEAR.

Recommended Daily Allowance (in teaspoons)

The American Heart Association recommends the following daily intake of added sugar does not exceed:

3 teaspoons for children
6 teaspoons for women
9 teaspoons for men

Grams vs Teaspoons

Don’t you find it a bit maddening that the AHA gives us this information in teaspoons, only the labels list sugar in GRAMS!

It’s bad enough that we need an interpreter to figure out the ingredients on the labels, but now we have to do calculations on top of it.  Keep in mind, most of the consumers shopping usually have kids in tow (who need a nap) or who are in a rush right after work trying to find dinner.  So how far up the priority list do you think label reading is??

So what exactly is a gram of sugar and why can’t they just list teaspoons and how many grams should we be getting anyway?

Well the answer is simple (as long as you have a SmartPhone).

Basically 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon of sugar.  So what you have to do is divide the total sugar you see on the label by 4.   For example, if you have a bottle of Gatorade  in your hand that says 12 grams of sugar, divide that by 4 and it will equal 3 teaspoons of sugar.  But remember ~ this is only 1 serving!  You will need to multiply that for each serving you have.

Confusing?  perfect, that’s just what manufacturers want!

But don’t worry, we are armed with this sugar conversion chart.  There is a printable link underneath it, just print it out and take it with you. 

sugar chart

Printable Sugar Conversion Chart

So to bring this full circle, if we quickly do the math, and reverse it, that means in GRAMS, we should not be exceeding:

Recommended Daily Allowance (in grams)

12 grams for children
24 grams for women
36 grams for men

Now that we know what we should be getting (grams and teaspoons) on a daily basis, I wanted to showcase a few products I see all the time that I think have an enormous amount of sugar.

I did this experiment with the WHOLE product in mind, not serving size.  I don’t want anyone to feel I’ve mislead them and say “well no one eats an entire jar of jelly in one sitting”.  This was just meant to bring to light how much sugar is in the product itself.

So… here they are!

5 Products with more sugar than you think:


1.  Pure Leaf Iced Tea

Tea is such a wonderful thing but then it gets ruined by adding all this sugar.  And what gets me really mad is the wonderful use of the LARGE word PURE on the label.  It sure is pure …. pure SUGAR!  The average woman’s recommendation for added sugars is 6 tsp or less and this one bottle of iced tea already has almost DOUBLE the daily allowance.


 2.  Naked Juice’s Mighty Mango

My kids LOVE these juice smoothies and beg me for them all the time.   It is very enticing to see the side label where they list how many apples and pears and mangos went into each and every bottle.  But the sugars are outrageous.  If that doesn’t get your insulin level up, I don’t know what will.


3.  Bush’s Grillin’ Baked Beans

I think what surprised me most about this one was the size of the can and that the manufacturer thinks that can serves 5 people!  This isn’t one of the big baked bean cans, it’s only 22 ounces.  So that comes out to less than 1/2 cup per serving.  Have you ever eaten less then a half cup of beans at a picnic?  sugar experiment baked beans

4.  Heinz Ketchup

I know no one eats an entire bottle of ketchup, the point I wanted to make was the amount of sugar that actually goes into the bottle.  When we think about 1 or 2 grams of sugar we dismiss it, but seeing just how much sugar is in this bottle is quite shocking, don’t you agree?  Plus the fact, AGAIN, is the ridiculous portion size.  This bottle has 33 servings, really?031pic2

5.  Private Selection Strawberry Jam

Just looking at this picture makes me choke.  There are 45 teaspoons of sugar in this little jar of jelly!  45 !!!!


Where to Find Added Sugars:

Now some of these products, like the jelly and the smoothie, have fruit in them which will have naturally occurring sugars.  But the problem is current nutrition labels don’t separate naturally occurring sugars from added sugars.  It just states the TOTAL sugars.  So in other words, it lists BOTH added and naturally occurring sugars in the product.

So how do you know if sugar has been ADDED to a product?  You need to read the ingredient list.  Some names for added sugars include agave syrup, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, sugar anything ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose), high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar, molasses, raw sugar, sugar, and syrup.



Refined sugar is finally getting the attention it deserves as it contributes to all sorts of health issues, some even can become life threatening.  However, the problem isn’t just the sugar itself, but the foods the sugar is IN.

In other words, a diet HIGH in sugary foods usually means it is also a diet LOW in calcium, vitamin A, iron and zinc and fiber.  If you start your day with a processed sugary cereal for breakfast, wash it down with coffee with processed creamer, eat fast food for lunch, and hit the vending machine at 3:00 for a candy bar and soda, you miss so many opportunities to have had real, whole organic food that nourishes the body, not deplete it.

When can sugar be used responsibly?  Maybe a pinch of sugar on top of a grapefruit or a pinch on top of a bowl of strawberries or better yet, just let nature provide it naturally.

Another factor, which REALLY ticks me off, is this gram system.  I put a bottle of juice back for this experiment because I didn’t have the time to multiply 18 x 2.5 and then divide it by 4 to get the teaspoons of sugar.  And that made me really MAD!  The average person cannot equate what 20 grams of sugar really is, what it looks like if you were to pour it from the sugar bag.

Doing this project has forced me to look inside my own cabinets and see that there are still a few too many products with high sugar in them, even though they are organic.  My kids really do love fruit cups and after taking a closer look I think it’s time to put them in the ‘treat’ category like ice cream.  Fresh fruit is always best.

I encourage you to go through your pantry and see if there are places you can cut back on yours and your families intake of sugar as well.







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