A Spoonful of (Added) Sugar

I don’t know about you, but I think about food and nutrition all day long. In part, because it’s my chosen career (I’m a dietitian) and I work at an awesome snack company (KIND Healthy Snacks); but, also because it’s a matter that affects us all.

To start, this was quite the year of dietary recommendations. The 2015–2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans were published which review current eating patterns and recommendations on what we should eat more or less of according to current nutrition science, with an emphasis on added sugars. The Food & Drug Administration also released mandatory updates to the nutrition facts label — the black-and-white grid found on all packaged foods — to display updated information. One significant change is the addition of added sugars, which among other changes will take effect starting in 2018. Are you seeing the pattern?

So, let’s address the elephant in all of our kitchens…sugar. It’s the simplest type of carbohydrate and can be divided into two categories: naturally-occurring sugars and added sugars. Naturally-occurring sugars are those found naturally in a number of food items like fruits and dairy. Added sugars come in varied forms and are added to foods during preparation for functional reasons, like helping to optimize texture and improve taste. While too much of anything is often a bad thing, added sugars have clearly been a culprit as of late.

It’s recommended that Americans limit their intake of added sugar to no more than 10% of their calories, which is 50 grams or 12 teaspoons per day. But, in reality, individuals consume on average over 13% of their calories from added sugar, which equates to 67 grams, or 16 teaspoons! That means you’re eating an additional 4 sugar cubes throughout your day, every day…no thanks. The real issue is that most of us are unaware we’re consuming this much added sugar, and uncertain where they are coming from. Some foods are more obvious offenders like desserts and sugar-sweetened beverages, but there are every day foods like fruit-flavored yogurts, salad dressings, pasta and barbecue sauces that contain added sugars, too.

There’s good news amongst these sugar-laden realities. As recently announced by both food industry pioneers and governmental agencies, there are initiatives underway to make it easier for you to choose the foods you can feel good about eating.

I’m proud to work at KIND, a company that has always been mindful of the sugar in its snacks. Today, we publicly shared the added sugar content across our entire snack portfolio along with a set of guiding principles, called KIND Promises, which have guided our approach to innovation since day one. We hope by delivering on our commitment to transparency and providing more information about our snacks and their nutritionals, our fans can be more informed when deciding what to put in their bodies.

But, there’s no need to wait for these changes to be implemented — you can take control of your health today. Start by reading nutrition facts and ingredient lists and avoiding foods that list an added sugar as the first ingredient. In time, you’ll become more aware and better able to determine what food choices are best for you to achieve a healthy lifestyle. It’s up to each and every one of us to help guide us to better health in the future.

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