Sugar: How Much Should We Eat?

Probably less than you're currently eating. That's because it's hidden everywhere and adds up very quickly. Here's the scoop:

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends no more than 8 teaspoons per day of added sugar based on a 2,000 calories/day diet.  That's 32 grams if you're reading labels, and about 6% of your total calories for the day. Sounds like a lot, but believe me... it's not.

32 total grams sugar/ 4 grams per teaspoon = < 8 teaspoons added sugar/day

Not all sugar is created equal. Here's the whole story on the good and the bad.

GOOD Sugars

These are the sugars that you don't need to worry about. They occur naturally in foods and also supply key nutrients. It's all good!

  • Low-fat milk (skim milk, soymilk, 1% low-fat milk)
  • Fresh and frozen fruits (apple, blueberries, orange, pineapple, strawberries, banana, cantaloupe, etc.)
  • Most Vegetables (carrots, tomato, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, cucumber, etc.)

BAD Sugars

These are the sugars that you'll need to limit!

The following foods are typically loaded with sugar - I've only provided a small sampling, but you'll get the picture.



teaspoons of sugar

(1 teaspoon = 4 grams sugar) 

Everyday Products

Fruit Loops, 1 cup
Low fat, fruit-flavored yogurt, 6 oz.
Ketchup, 2 TB         
Pancake syrup, 1?4 cup

3.75 teaspoons          
7 teaspoons
2 teaspoons
8 teaspoons

Foods that sound healthy, but are loaded with sugar!

Granola, 2/3 cup
Dried Fruit, 1 cup

4 teaspoons
21 teaspoons


Orange Juice/Apple Juice, 8 oz.
Soda (Coke, Sprite, etc.), 20 oz.
Snapple, Lemon Iced Tea, 16 oz.


5.5 teaspoons
16 teaspoons
11.5 teaspoons

Balance/Power Bar   
Frozen Yogurt, 1 cup
Restaurant Chocolate Cake, 1 slice
McDonald's Vanilla Shake, 21 oz.


4.75 teaspoons
8.5 teaspoons
13 teaspoons
24 teaspoons


Movie Theatre Combo

Twizzlers (movie size) 6 oz.
Soda movie Large, 44 oz.



17 teaspoons +
37 teaspoons


TOTAL = 54 teaspoons!!!


How It's Done...

I realize it's overwhelming to hear what you have to avoid. But please take at look at this sample day, it's reasonable and incorporates an appropriate amount of sugar (less than 8 unnecessary teaspoons for the day).



  • Egg white omelet with chopped tomatoes
  • whole wheat toast
  • ½ grapefruit
  • Coffee with 1 teaspoon sugar


Vegetable or lentil soup with mixed salad topped with grilled chicken strips and feta cheese (oil and vinegar dressing)


  • Handful of almonds
  • Apple
  • Baby carrots


  • Turkey Burger on wheat bun
  • 2 TBs ketchup (2 teaspoons sugar)
  • Sautéed Broccoli in olive oil and garlic

Sweet Snacks (choose only one):

  • 4 Hershey Kisses (3 teaspoons sugar)
  • ½ cup frozen yogurt = (4 teaspoons sugar)  
  • 2 standard cookies (Oreos or Chips Ahoy) + glass of skim milk = (2 teaspoons sugar)


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