The Hidden Sugar in Our Day

One hundred thirty pounds…that’s roughly how much a newborn giraffe weighs, but it’s also the amount of sugar the average American consumes per year (based on USDA per capita reports).

No wonder the new Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended no more than 10% of our total calorie intake come from added sugars. (That’s less than 200 calories, or 50 grams, of sugar per day for someone eating 2,000 calories, by the way.)

Baby Giraffe

Most of us are far over consuming the sweet treat! And why does that matter? Well, outside of the fact that most of us know we don’t feel our physical best when consuming lots of high-sugar foods, a diet high in refined sugar is linked to most diseases of the developed world (i.e. diabetes, obesity, heart disease). So let’s take a look at some of the places we may be getting our sugar doses during the day.


1.     On-the-Go – It’s easy to rack up the sugar early in the day. Your morning Starbucks trip to get a grande Caffè Mocha results in a whopping 35 grams of sugar. Now, some of this is natural sugar from the milk, however you’re still looking at about half of that being from added sugars. And if you add a slice of pumpkin bread or a muffin on the side, here comes another 39 grams! You’ve already exceeded daily recommendations by 8am. Yikes!

Coffee Muffin

2.     At Home – Opting to eat breakfast at home? Great idea! However, that bowl of “healthy” granola can easily pack 10-15 grams of added sugars per serving. And you’ll find 12 grams in your Maple and Brown Sugar Quaker Instant Oatmeal.


1.     Restaurant – Your Chipotle burrito could have around 10 grams of sugar (depending on choices), and 12 more if you opt to make it a salad with the vinaigrette. And should you decide to go all out…21 more grams in their margarita drinks.

Burrito Margarita

2.     From Home – You’ll find a surprising amount of sugar in that can of Campbell’s Harvest Tomato Soup – 16 grams per cup…or 32 grams for the whole can. Then add 9 more grams from the Kraft Catalina dressing on your side salad, and heaven forbid the can of Coke we might have (39 grams).


1.     Restaurant – Let’s go to Applebee’s for a casual dinner, shall we? A half rack of double-glazed ribs with a side of sweet potato fries is a lovely delivery method for 34 grams of sugar (more if you get extra sauce). And you still get 15 grams if you opt for the Cedar Grilled Lemon Chicken instead.

Sauces Condiments

2.     At Home – Even when cooking a healthy dinner at home, the sugar can creep in through condiments and dressings. You’ll get around 6 grams in every tablespoon of barbecue sauce and 4 grams in ketchup. Don’t forget the 27 grams in your scoop of Chunky Monkey ice cream for dessert (wink, wink).


While fresh fruit is a great snack choice that contains natural sugars, the granola/protein bar your carrying around in your purse might closer resemble a candy bar (11 grams in Nature Valley’s Greek Yogurt Protein Bar; 22 grams in the chocolate chip Clif Bar). Choosing yogurt as a healthier choice? Watch out for the flavored kinds – you’ll likely get 10-20 grams of added sugars.

 Granola Bars

If you’ve been doing the math along the way, you see how easy it is to for the sugar to add up, even through sometimes seemingly healthy choices.

Now, attempting to eliminate ALL added sugars could conceivably drive one to consume a whole package of Oreos at the end of the day as a reward.

Rather, we can work towards reduction of added sugars in our diets (how about a rabbit instead of baby giraffe?) by starting with little changes – things like eating at home more, replacing processed foods with fresh, skipping the sugary beverages, and using fruit to satisfy that sweet tooth.

Contributed by Rebekah Blakely, RD (Nutrition Director, Wellfit Malibu)

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