Sugar Swap

The World Health Organization recommends we limit our added sugar intake to no more than 6 tsp (24 grams) of sugar per day. Added sugar is when we add any form of sugar to a product or food that does not naturally contain it. This does NOT include white milk or whole fruits because these items contain natural sugars.

“Added” sugars on the ingredients list may appear as: sugar, cane sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, honey, dextrose, fructose, sucrose, maltose, nectars, etc. For a more comprehensive list…

Artificial sweeteners (sugar substitutes) aren’t any better for us either, so keep a look out for the following… Acesulfame, Aspartame (NutraSweet), Neotame, Saccharin (Sweet’N Low), and Sucralose (Splenda). Although these sweeteners are sugar free and calorie free, but some research shows it’s consumption is related to weight gain.

When I first pondered this, I thought ‘I don’t eat pure sugar by the spoonful, there’s no way I consume more than the recommended amount’. Little did I know, sugar is hidden in many products… almost ALL processed products. I was baffled to see my whole wheat bread, whole grain pasta, and even my can of cashews had added sugar.

Maybe “hidden” was the wrong word. Although I didn’t expect my whole grains and salty food products to contain sugar, it is clearly written on the ingredients list, so I have learned my lesson to always read food labels. Check out my next blog to learn how to correctly read and interpret a Nutrition Facts Label.

Holiday times are usually known for indulging into sweet treats and special dishes, but what if those special times start turning into everyday habits?

  • One can of Pepsi contains 28 grams of sugar, already over the 24 gram limit!
  • 2.25 oz serving pack of Fruit Snacks contains 18 grams of sugar: although it is made from fruit concentrate, the 2nd and 3rd ingredients are corn syrup and sugar.
  • Yogurt is a yummy nutritious snack, but yogurt brands can be culprits for lots of added sugar or sugar substitutes.
    • Try purchasing plain yogurt and add your own vanilla flavoring and fresh fruit for a tasty flavor!

This fall I helped with a couple of programs emphasizing healthy snacks with less added sugar. In Elgin, we talked about limiting our sugar intake and made some fun Halloween treats made from Bananas and Oranges.


Banana “ghosts” with eyes made from mini dark chocolate chips.


In Decorah, Food & Fitness and ISU Extension and Outreach partnered with the Winneshiek County Conservation Board to put on a Sweet Swap where kids and families brought their leftover Halloween candy to trade for tickets to take part in fun activities in the park. The kids here also made banana ghosts and pumpkins made from clementines and celery. It was a fun way to delve into the holiday theme while still making more nutritious choices.

As we move into the holiday season, try to keep thought about consumption of added sugars. I’m not saying don’t eat a slice of pie or that iced sugar cookie, but try to keep things in perspective and consume all things in moderation. Maybe set a goal of one treat per day over the holidays. We know the treats will be around, so being mindful and setting goals is a great way to prevent yourself from overdoing it. Plus, there are ways to use your natural sweets (whole fruits) and make a fun these Strawberry-Banana Santas 😉


Happy Holidays!


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