Eating Right with Added Sugar

strawberry next to a tablespoon of sugar

What does the term “Added Sugars” mean? Added sugars are sweeteners and syrups that are added to processed or prepared foods, like frozen foods, cereals, snacks, sweets, and soft drinks.  This differs from natural sugars, which are found naturally in foods, such as fresh fruits and dairy products.  What are some easy ways that you can reduce your added sugar intake?


The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting calories from added sugars to no more than 10% of daily consumed calories.  The leading source of added sugars in American diet comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks, desserts, canned and jarred produce, and even in some granola bars and cereals.  Because added sugars offer no nutritional value other than calories, consuming too much added sugar can contribute to eating more calories than a person needs.

In comparison, natural sugars are found in foods such as fresh fruit and dairy products, like milk, which are also packed with healthy nutrients to help our bodies.  It is important to maintain a healthy balance between sugars and other food groups, as well as, consume added sugars in moderation.


Here are some tips to help you reduce your added sugar intake, yet still enjoy the foods and drinks you love!

  • Choose heart-healthy foods!  Encourage your children and yourself to have positive associations with fresh fruits and vegetables! By choosing fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins, you are consuming whole foods that have not been processed or refined and are generally free of additives, such as additional sugar.
  • Find replacements! Some easy changes can be choosing water and milk over non-100% fruit drinks and sodas, or swapping sweetened cereal for unsweetened cereal with fruit.  If possible, try using naturally sweet fruits when baking or cooking! Cooking and baking from scratch also allows you to be in control of the ingredients you use and how much sugar you are consuming.
  • Watch your portions!  Instead of cutting added sugars completely out of your diet, focus on having smaller portions or consuming sugary foods and beverages less often.  For example, if you do have a soda, consider drinking a smaller portion – purchase a smaller can or bottle or pour a smaller amount into a glass - to cut down on the added sugar. 


For more information, read the Center for Nutrition in Schools’ Nutrition & Health Information Sheet about sugar.

For more tips on how to cut down on added sugars, be sure to check out this resource from the Office of Disease Prevention and Health!