Why “Added Sugar” Matters

August 19, 2014   20 Comments

The FDA wants to change the nutrition facts label to include “added sugars” versus the way it is now.

Why Added Sugar Matters

On the label now you see the total grams of sugar in a product listed - which may seem like enough information for most of us – but it isn’t enough according to the FDA.

For the average American, 16 percent of their total daily calories come from added sugars. The major sources are soda, energy and sports drinks, grain-based desserts, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, dairy-based desserts and candy. (FDA)

Some foods, such as ice cream, have naturally occurring sugar in them and then manufacturers add more. How much more? We don’t know.

I think it would be helpful to understand how much sugar has been added to a product. This would help me to evaluate the relative healthy of many foods including flavored yogurts, cookies, granola bars, and cereals.

After reading so many labels, I can guess how many grams of sugar have been added and how many occur naturally but I am in the minority.

Fig Newtons are a perfect example of a cookie that I could better evaluate with an “added sugar” section. Frankly, I don’t think a cookie made with figs needs much sugar to be added (if any). If there was another brand that didn’t use added sugar, I would buy it.

When it comes to juices, I would think that you would include “fruit juice concentrate” as a form of sugar. Many juices have higher concentrations of juice added to make them sweeter than a regular glass of juice. I would kill to see how these “concentrates” adds to the sugar content to juice.

Granola bars? This would be huge! Raisins are in granola bars and have a bunch of naturally occurring sugar – but how many grams on top of the raisins are manufacturers adding? I want to know!

There is also the stigma of the world “added”. Perhaps if Americans understand that “added” is not good for you and you have to be careful when there are 5 or more ADDED grams of sugar per serving – they might cut back.

or maybe I am dreaming that labels will make a difference....better than nothing?

What do you think of the inclusion of added sugars on the nutrition facts label?

Other posts you might like:

New Nutrition Label

Nutrition Labels Are Getting A Makeover

How often do you think you need a makeover? How about every 20 years?


When You Read An Ingredients List Do You Feel Like A Moron?

After spending 9 LONG years in higher education, you would think that Snack Girl would understand the basic chemistry of food. Alas, she is lost when looking at some food packages....

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Really glad to see this. We need to know what is in the food we eat.

Should have been done years ago.

They were concentrating on fat instead of the more important sugar content.

Does any one know if there's a trader Joes in Portland me or Salem nh. Visiting from Canada in September.

Really great idea. The added sugar amount would often be a decuding factor as to whether I'd buy a product or not. It is very important information. I'd like to see this real soon.

Trader Joe's
87 Marginal Way, Portland, ME 04101
(207) 699-3799

Unfortunately, none in Salem NH yet, but there is an active consumer movement to bring one there

Here is the closest, about 10 miles away
262 Daniel Webster Hwy
Nashua, NH
(603) 888-5460
Welcome! We love Canadians !

So excited for this to be coming to labels. i try very hard to carfully select the 'snacks' that I allow in my house, but that added information would help.

Re: Trader Joe's-- There is also a Trader Joe's in Newington (Portsmouth), NH. Assuming that you are driving, it is basically on your way from Portland to Salem.

My question is apple sauce in particular, when I see the grams of sugar "unsweetened" has 8 grams per serving - is this the naturally occurring from the apples? I would like to see something that seps naturally occur from added sugars.

The more info the better! Thanks, Snack-Girl!

I signed an online petition in support of this move and think it is part of our nation becoming more aware of what we are eating.

This is brilliant. I try to avoid giving my kids as much sugar as possible so it's great that they are going to make labeling easier to decipher that.

I wish they would do this but also add "recommended sugar" or something. It can be hard to figure out if something has too much sugar based on the grams (unless it's obvious, like with cakes or sugar cereal).

I am a little confused and forgive my ignorance, because I know I should know this: Please explain the difference in effect to our health between "naturally occurring" sugars vs. "Added" sugars? I try to avoid both (being a wls post-op, of course)

Yes, more information is better. I think you should consider the product when making statements about "added sugar".As a chef I realize that you cannot make a Fig Newton without added sugar. The filling would probably be fine without it but try to make the outer crust without any sweetener. Yuk! Let's face it; some foods should just be eliminated from our diets. Period. Stop trying to make unhealthy choices into healthy ones.

The U.S. is a nation loaded with overweight diabetics, with preventable fatty liver disease on the rise (leading to cirrhosis, liver cancer, & liver failure). My husband has medication-caused diabetes and struggles to understand inadequate sugar & carb info on nutrition labels. For those, such as he, trying to curb carb intake, full disclosure is a matter of health.

Similarly (not sure whether you've blogged on this, Snack Girl), I question the government's latest move to change portion sizes on nutrition labels to more accurately reflect how much people actually eat - the classic example being who eats only a half-cup serving of ice cream?! If my tax dollars are going to fund social engineering (to control people's eating behavior), it makes more sense to invest in educating the public to understand healthy portions to eat LESS, rather than skewing the nutrition label to indulge our gluttonous appetites. Thoughts on this, anyone?!

In response to C, I kind of see changing the nutrition label to include the "actual" portion size that most Americans eat the other way around. Again using ice cream, I think most of us know the recommended serving size is 1/2 cup for about 100-120 cals for most regular ice cream. However, I think if I were to see on the label that eating 1 cup would equal about 200-240 cals per serving for me that would probably make me cut back. I know that this is all based on individual perception and different things work for different people and even though I know the difference, somehow just seeing 200-240 cals makes me want to excercise portion control whereas somehow the 100-120 cals doesn't. I know it is all mental...LOL.

Thanks for the Trader Joes info. I always hear Snack girl talk about it so I want to see what it's about. Thanks ladies.

@C As we are diabetic, I understand your concern. There is a way to circumvent the problem of added sugar and simple carbs. Don't buy processed food. There is a lot more than just sugar or carbs to be concerned with in many processed foods.

We limit our foods to fresh meat, eggs, whole fresh fruits and veggies, real butter, coconut oil (solid type), yogurt or kefir and low carb breads made at home or purchased. I make our own kefir and yogurt and culture it until the lactose (sugar) is depleted. We have had to change our lifestyle but it has been rewarding and have blood sugar under control.

We can't eliminate carbs completely because they give our muscles energy but when we combine them with proteins and fats, we slow the digestion and this makes the carbs even safer.

Talk to your doctor about supplementing ionic magnesium. Diabetics are mostly deficient and magnesium is responsible for metabolizing glucose.

Love the idea of including a section of how much is actually added sugar versus naturally occurring. This would be helpful for all foods, including organic - even organic foods have added sugar (organic cane syrup, maple syrup, etc). It's not just processed foods that need our attention.

I live in England and we have European Union food labelling regulations I think it would be beneficial if we had the "added sugar" value included in our nutrition labels. What we do have is "Typical Values per 100 grams" which allows people to make informed choices, portion sizes confuse rather than inform,exactly what the processed food industry wants.

Added sugar should be listed. I've checked out name brand soy and almond milk and found that some that say unsweetened are sweetened with evaporated cane sugar. How can they say they're unsweetened?

I would love to see "added sugar" on the labels. A while ago my dad (who is obsessed with eating organic), bought boxes and boxes and bags upon bags of organic raisin and organic craisins from costco. It's costco, you can imagine the size of those boxes and bags. I was really disturbed/shocked when i looked at the nutrition label at the sheer amount of sugar in both the raisin and craisin. But there was one difference between the two that additionally shocked me, and made me call him immediately and tell him to stop buying craisins. Both the raisin and craisins have the same amount of sugar content (in terms of grams), but the raisin's ingredient list was just "organic raisin" while the craisin ingred list was "organic cranberry, organic sugar." I had no clue why they even add sugar, because while the cranberry is probably not as sweet as raisins, it also isn't supposed to be - with the added sugar, it kinda just taste like raisin with a slightly bleh-ier texture (from the cranberry skin).

It was difficult to explain to my dad what's wrong with the craisin and I was so upset (because he bought 5 gigantic bags of the craisin) that I think I ended up ranting at him. If there's an added sugar column/section, it would've been dramatically easier to explain to him what the problem is, and how to avoid the same kind of things in the future. The problem with him is that he is easily bought into the overall advertisement/labeling, but doesn't really read the ingredient list or nutrition label. :\

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