Food diary: How much a day’s worth of sugar adds up to

Associate editor Dominique Lamberton tracked everything she ate for a day and had dietitian Desiree Nielsen analyze it. Here’s how 33 teaspoons of added sugar snuck into her meals.

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Illustration, Ohara Hale.

Illustration, Ohara Hale.

Breakfast
Coffee with milk and sugar. Small glass of orange juice. Vanilla yogurt with banana slices and store-bought granola.

Estimated intake  = 13 tsp added sugar.

The assessment: “This breakfast offers a lot of quick sugars without a lot of fibre, protein or healthy fats to mitigate blood sugar rise. You’ll have a quick spike, followed by a really rapid drop. Even though you consumed quite a bit of energy, you’re going to feel hungry pretty quickly.”

Make it better: Nix the juice, says Nielsen, and have a piece of fruit instead. Swap the vanilla yogurt for the plain Greek variety (more protein, less sugar) and choose a high-fibre cereal or low-sugar muesli instead of the granola.

Morning snack
1/4 cup of whole raw almonds.

Estimated intake = 0 added sugar.

The assessment: “Almonds have almost no sugar and provide 4.5 g of fibre, almost 8 g of protein and 18 g of healthy fats — those sugar cravings will be gone the rest of the morning.”


How much sugar does the average person really eat?


Lunch
Mixed salad greens with sliced chicken breast, crumbled goat cheese, dried cranberries and store-bought poppy seed dressing.

Estimated intake = 8 tsp added sugar.

The assessment: “There isn’t a lot of fibre here. You will get a bit of moderation in blood sugars from the protein and from the fats in the dressing.”

Make it better: Add some chopped veggies or some chickpeas to up the fibre and protein. Go for a full-fat dressing, like olive oil and lemon. And many dried fruits have added sugars, so keep the cranberries to 1 tbsp or swap them for fresh fruit.

Afternoon snack
Medium non-fat vanilla latte and store-bought blueberry muffin.

Estimated intake = 9 tsp added sugar.

The assessment: “After the blood sugars spike, you’re going to feel even more tired and probably crankier than before the snack.”

Make it better: Try a nut-based bar that’s low in sugar but high in protein and healthy fats. Better yet, says Nielsen, go for veggies and hummus. And if you like your coffee sweet, “go down a step to a half-sweet latte. When that tastes normal, go to an unsweetened latte.”


Recipe: No-sugar fresh strawberry spread


Dinner
Spaghetti bolognese with tomato sauce from a jar.

Estimated intake = 3 tsp added sugar.

The assessment: “If you cook pasta al dente, it’s actually a really moderate glycemic food. You’ve also got protein and fat from the ground beef. There can be a lot of added sugar in jarred tomato sauce — a few teaspoons in a 1/2-cup serving — but it’s not going to have that much of an impact, because there’s a lot more going on in this meal.”

Make it better: Choose tomato sauce without added sugar, and add extra veggies to the sauce.

Evening snack
Small bowl of mixed berries.

Estimated intake = 0 added sugar.

The assessment: “Berries are low in sugar but very fibrous. They will give you a really small, slow bump in blood sugars.”

More:
Is it time to break up with sugar?
The 7-day meal plan to help kick your sugar habit
What you need to know about 9 types of sugar