How to Cut Back on High-Sugar Foods

Written By: Gloria Tsang, RD

Title: Founding Registered Dietitian

Alumni: University of British Columbia

Last Updated on:

The American Heart Association recommends a drastic cut in the amount of added sugar we consume, from the current average intake of 22 tsp per day down to 6 tsp for women and 9 tsp for men. Teens’ current sugar intake is even higher, at a shocking 34 tsp, so they have even more cutting back to do! Do you know how much sugar you are consuming everyday? Do you know where sugar is lurking?

Where is Sugar Lurking?

Sugar in Your Food

Dessert is not the only place you’ll find sugar. Sugar lurks most in soda and sweetened beverages.

High-Sugar Drinks:

  • a large Slurpee (40 oz): 21 tsp of sugar
  • a bottle of regular soda (20 oz): 13 tsp
  • a bottle of regular iced tea (20 oz): 10 tsp
  • a can of regular soda (12 oz): 8 tsp
  • a bottle of Vitaminwater (20 oz): 8 tsp
  • a small iced cappuccino (12 oz) : 8 tsp
  • a tall Frappuccino blended coffee (12 oz): 7.5 tsp
  • a small Slurpee (12 oz): 6.5 tsp

Other High-Sugar Foods:

  • 1 cup of Ben & Jerry’s All Natural Chocolate ice cream: 10 tsp
  • a Kit Kat candy bar: 5 tsp of sugar
  • Yoplait Whips yogurt (4 oz): 5 tsp
  • a Haagen-Dazs ice cream bar with chocolate coating: 4.5 tsp
  • a cup of Kellogg’s Honey Smacks cereal: 4.5 tsp

* The above numbers are rounded. One teaspoon of sugar yields about 4.2 g of sugar.

What Added Sugar Really Means

Added sugar is empty calories – that means it provides no nutrients other than calories. An average 22 tsp of sugar intake means we are all eating about 352 empty calories in sugar every day. No wonder we have a problem of obesity in this country! With a 350-calorie quota, you could have eaten a 6-inch sub sandwich plus fruit!

The Bottom Line

It makes perfect sense to cut down your sugar intake, whether it’s for your heart, blood sugar, or weight. Since we need 6 – 8 glass of liquid a day and drinks are the major source of added sugar, look for low-sugar (or sugar-free) beverage alternatives, like water, homemade iced tea, milk, and brewed tea or coffee. There’s nothing wrong with using sugar to enhance food flavor, as long as it’s in reasonable amount. And it’s fine to add sugar to your tea or coffee – since most people just add 2 to 3 tsp per cup, not 13 tsp like you’ll find in soda! There is also one very compelling reason to cut your sugar intake from 22 tsp to 6 tsp a day – it will help save 270 calories a day, which means losing 14 pounds in just 6 months!


beverages, pop, soda, sugar


What type of ground sugar do you use in cooking most often?

Creative Ideas for Back-to-School Snacks – Podcast

Food Ideas for Your Commute Home

Leave a Comment