Sugar is hidden in many food products. Sugars also are found naturally in dairy and fruits but the amount is in much smaller doses and come with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. The Food and Drug Administration is recommending that no more than 10 percent of our daily calories come from added sugar. For an 1,800-calories diet that is 45 grams or 11 teaspoons of sugar. A teaspoon is equal to about 4 grams of sugar. The American Heart Association suggests an even lower limit: 24 grams (6 teaspoons) for women and 36 grams for men (9 teaspoons.) To put things in perspective, a 12-ounce can of regular Coke contains 39 grams of total sugar (9 + 1/3 teaspoons) and an 8-ounce apple juice has 24 to 28 grams of sugar (6 to 7 teaspoons of sugar.)

A school aged child’s daily calories may range from 1,200 to 1,800 calories depending on his body size and activity level, so his daily recommended dose of sugar may be as low as 8 teaspoons. The importance of hidden sugars is that it has been noted that obese children who reduced just their sugar from 28 percent to 10 percent of their total calories for just nine days did not have a reduction in weight but did have lowering of cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, fasting blood sugar and insulin levels. (Dr. Robert Lustig, Obesity, a Research Journal, Oct. 2015)
Determining the sugar content is very hard to calculate because at present the sugars are listed as added and natural sugars together under total sugars. A few things can help you determine whether there are added sugars.

• Look for code words for sugar. These ingredients in with “ose” such as fructose, maltose, sucrose.

• Sugars have many names. Many are well known such as cane sugar, corn syrup, maple syrup, caramel. Healthier-sounding names such as brown-rice syrup or honey aren’t any better for you than other types.

• Scan the entire nutrition list. The list is composed of the most weight/percentage near the top of the list but each type of sugar can be listed separately giving the impression the food has less sugar.

• Always check the ingredients list on canned, dried and frozen fruits for different types of sugars. Mott’s Original Applesauce has 22 grams of sugars per 1/2 cup and Mott’s Natural Applesauce has 11 grams of sugars per 1/2 cup.

• When possible, compare “plain” versions of foods such as yogurt or oatmeal with the same brand’s sweetened version. A tip is to buy the plain version and sweeten with fresh fruits.

Sally Robinson is a clinical professor of pediatrics at UTMB Children’s Hospital. This column isn’t intended to replace the advice of your child’s physician.