nutrition labels

Do You Play Hide and Seek With Sugar In Food?

February 8, 2016

There are food choices we make that obviously contain mostly sugar. With these choices, we are aware that we are eating sugar.  However, there are many food choices we make that have hidden sugar that we may not be aware of. I'm not talking about the natural sugar that is in fruit, but the added sugar to some foods that make them tastier and keep us wanting more.  Some of them are ketchup, salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, crackers, and even marinades for meat.

If the FDA has their way, consumers will no longer have to play a game of "hide and seek" or "peek-a-boo where are you" with sugar in our food.  The FDA is taking action to update the Nutrition Facts label found on most food packages. The proposed update would still reflect the grams of Sugar but include "Added Sugars" grams.

Labels FDA400

Photo credit: U.S. Food and Drug Administration

The Nutrition Facts labels were introduced 20 years ago. The purpose of the Nutrition Facts was to help us, as consumers, make informed food choices based on the info on the labels, and maintain healthy dietary practices.  Things have changed in the past 20 years....more research has occurred and knowledge of health and nutrition from foods has increased.  The FDA's efforts to update the Nutrition Facts labels will be reflected on the labels in a more helpful way to consumers.

FDA Nutrition Facts Labels

Some of the updates are:

  • Require "Added Sugars" grams information.
  • Update daily values for nutrients like sodium, dietary fiber, and Vitamin D.
  • Food manufacturers would be required to state the amount of potassium and Vitamin D.
  • “Total Fat,” “Saturated Fat,” and “Trans Fat” will remain on the label, but the "Calories from Fat" will be removed.
  • Servings will be more prominent on the food labels.
  • The Percent Daily Value is moved to the left of the label.

Federal officials now recommend that consumers limit added sugars to just 10% of their daily calories. Obviously for WLS'ers, intake of added sugar food choices should be limited.  They determined a guideline of a maximum of 50 grams of added sugars should be the upper daily dietary limit for adults and children aged 4 and older.

Organizations Weigh In On Sugar

1.  The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) proposed that food companies would be required to list added sugars on nutrition labels. That left consumers to calculate the information on their own to obtain the percentage of calories. Now, nutritional labels would do the math and show that number.

2.  The World Health Organization endorses the 10% cap on sugars, excluding those in fresh fruits, vegetables, and milk. They strongly encourage us to limit sugars to 5%.  For children ages 1 to 3, the FDA recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugar a day.

3.  The American Heart Association recommends more strict sugar limits. Their guideline is for women to consume an average of 100 calories per day of added sugars; for men, a maximum of 150 calories.

4.  The International Food Information Council Foundation (IFICF), a research organization financed by the food and beverage industry, conducted a survey. In the survey, consumer participants had to interpret food labels with information on added sugars.

5.  The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conducted a survey that found the new labels confused a majority of the 1,088 respondents. According to the IFICF, the labels were confusing to participants regarding the added sugars information. The confusion was that added sugar was in addition to the total sugar information. When education for the food labels was provided to the public, this confusion would be minimal. An interesting result of the survey showed that consumers would be less likely to buy a product if its nutrition panel listed added sugars.


Photo credit for featured image:  U.S. Department of Agriculture
Photo credit for nutrition labels:

cathy wilson


Cathy Wilson, PCC, BCC, had RNY surgery in 2001 and lost 147 pounds. Cathy is a regular contributor to the OH Blog and authored the "Mind Matters" column in ObesityHelp Magazine. Cathy is a licensed pilot and loves flying. She is a member of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery (ASMBS) and the Obesity Action Coalition (OAC).

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