From The Nutritionist

Kate Williams, RD
Nutrition Contributor:
Kate Williams, RD

All Hyped Up? – Sugar Myths Uncovered


The topic of added sugars received a lot of attention over the past few years. Media headlines often focus on the dangers of consuming added sugars and urge people to cut them out entirely. Some of the information in the media is correct, but often the news coverage misses the big picture. Like anything else, foods with added sugars can fit into an overall healthy dietary pattern. Adding moderate amounts of sugars to foods can also help people eat more fruits, vegetables, low fat dairy products, and whole grains.

This month, we explore some of the common myths in the media using the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.


Myth #1: You Should Cut All Added Sugar from Your Diet

Cutting out all added sugar from your diet is unrealistic for most people. Added sugars can be part of a balanced diet when consumed in moderation. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that we limit added sugar to less than 10% of total calories. If you eat a 2,000 calorie diet, this equals about 200 calories or 50g of sugar. Most of the added sugar in our diets comes from sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts and snacks, which do not have much nutritional value. Instead, use added sugars in moderation to make healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and dairy products taste better. For example:

  • Dried cranberries are usually sweetened with sugar to complement their tart taste.
  • Drizzle honey on whole grain toast with nut butter.
  • Teriyaki Salmon over Sesame Broccoli Noodles uses honey as part of a delicious sauce, paired with salmon and spiralized veggies.
  • Glazed Carrots use brown sugar and orange marmalade for a healthy side dish.

Myth #2: Sugar, Alone Causes Obesity

Obesity is a complex health issue caused by many social, lifestyle, and genetic factors. Our health depends on the overall pattern of what we eat, not a single food or nutrient. If we regularly eat more calories than we burn, then we will gain weight, regardless of the calorie source. Diets that promote the removal of a certain food or ingredient (like sugar) are hard to maintain long term and can make people feel deprived. Remember moderation is the key! Enjoy foods with added sugar as a treat or use added sugars to enhance the flavor of nutritious foods. Be sure to keep added sugars within the 10% limit of total calories.


Myth #3: Your Body Knows the Difference Between Added and Naturally Occurring Sugars

Our bodies process sugars the same way, whether they are added or naturally occurring. Some foods, such as unsweetened dairy products, fruits, and veggies have naturally occurring sugars. Foods with naturally occurring sugars provide beneficial nutrients such as fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Other foods contain added sugars in the form of table sugar, honey, high fructose corn syrup, and more. Added sugars typically do not provide nutritional value other than extra calories, but, can fit into a healthy eating pattern when consumed in moderation.


Myth #4: Manufacturers Can Hide the Amount of Sugar in Your Food

Food manufacturers follow strict, federal regulations on how to label foods. All ingredients in a final product have to be listed on an ingredient statement, including sources of added sugar. Familiarize yourself with common names of added sugars. Remember that the higher an ingredient is listed on the ingredient statement, the more of it there is in a product by weight.

The government recently revised the requirements for the nutrition facts panels. Over the next couple of years, companies will update their product nutrition facts panels. Updated labels will tell you how much sugar is added to a product compared to how much sugar is naturally occurring, so you can make informed choices about the foods you eat. Always consider how a food fits in your overall diet and lifestyle.


What You Can Do to Cut Back on Added Sugars:

The average American consumes about 13% of calories from added sugar, or about one tablespoon above the recommended limit. Take a look at your diet to see what small tweaks you can make to cut back. Some suggestions include:

  1. Use 1 less tablespoon of sugar in your coffee or tea.
  2. Beware of mindless munching. Even if you are just grabbing a few pieces of candy every time you walk by the jar, these calories add up quickly. Instead, save the candy for a true “treat” and opt for fruit instead.
  3. Choose water or 100% juice over sugar sweetened beverages more often.
  4. Choose products that are reduced in sugar. Try V8® + Energy instead of a higher sugar energy drink.

Remember that all foods can fit in a healthy eating pattern, including those with added sugar. Choose foods that also provide positive nutrition, in the form of whole grains, fruits, veggies and more!

For more information on sugar in the diet check out these resources:

International Food Information Council: A Guide to Making Sense of Sugars

Choosemyplate.gov: What are Added Sugars?

Everything in moderation!

Kate



Kate's Bio

Kate received her bachelor's degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware and completed her dietetic internship at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center. She has over ten years of experience in a variety of nutrition-related practice areas including clinical nutrition, weight management counseling, health and wellness and nutrition education. Kate has worked as a nutrition consultant to the Campbell Soup Company since 2005.


References

  1. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020
  2. Nutrition and Your Health: Dietary Guidelines for Americans - PART D: SCIENCE BASE Section 5: Carbohydrates


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En Papillote Technique

1. Prepare the parchment paper
Get a large piece of parchment paper, approximately 2.5 times as large as a single portion of food. Cut the paper into a heart shape, lightly brushing one side with oil. This creates a slight barrier to water, preventing the paper from becoming soaked too quickly. Another option, though not as attractive, is to use tin foil instead of parchment paper.

2. Select the ingredients
This is a very quick-cooking approach, so it works best with tender proteins such as fish and shellfish. The accompanying ingredients, like julienned vegetables (matchstick size), must be small enough to cook at the same rate as the fish. In some cases the vegetables can be blanched, or quickly cooked in boiling water, to ensure proper doneness. Fresh herbs will go a long way in providing flavor.

3. Assemble the packet
Lay the oiled, heart-shaped paper on a baking tray, oiled side up. Season your vegetables with salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil, and half of the herbs. Toss them around for an even coat. Place enough for one portion on half of the paper. Bunch them up to create a bed for your fish, leaving about two inches between the food and the edge of the paper. Place the seasoned fish on the vegetables and sprinkle the remaining herbs. Add a splash of the liquid on top of the fish, just enough to add moisture.

4. Seal the packet
To seal, fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables (so it resembles a teardrop). Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge toward the center. Fold over again to create a seal. Continue along the length of the parchment, folding each section twice. When you get to the point of the heart, twist and fold to finish the seal.

5. Bake your dinner
Bake the packet in a 425°F oven for 10-14 minutes, depending on the size of the fish. The packet will puff and brown while in the oven and as the steam builds. When cooked, remove from the oven and carefully place the packet on a plate. With a knife or scissors cut an "X" on the top and fold back the edges for a dramatic presentation and a delicious, healthy meal.

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Spicy Flounder and Clams with Summer Vegetables

Prep Time: Less than 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 10-14 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup carrots, finely cut julienne
  • 1/3 cup sugar snap peas, cross cut thinly
  • 1/3 cup zucchini, yellow, finely cut julienne
  • 6 each cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 Tbsp. shallot, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. parsley, fresh, minced
  • Dash salt
  • Dash black pepper
  • 6 oz. fillet, flounder (2 fillets, 3oz. each)
  • 2 Tbsp. Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice
  • 3/4 lb. clams, in the shell

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.
  2. Combine the carrots, sugar snap peas, zucchini, cherry tomatoes, shallot, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, half of the parsley, salt and pepper in a bowl. Toss well to combine.
  3. Lightly oil two large heart shaped pieces of parchment paper.
  4. With the parchment paper on a sheet tray, place half of the vegetable mixture in the center of one half of each heart leaving about a 2" border.
  5. Lightly season each fillet with salt and pepper. Fold or roll the fillet to create a uniform thickness and place on top of the vegetables.
  6. Top the fish with the remaining herbs and the Low Sodium Spicy Hot V8® 100% Vegetable juice.
  7. Place half of the clams around each portion of vegetables and fish.
  8. Fold the heart over to enclose the fish and vegetables so that it resembles a teardrop.
  9. Starting at the top of the heart, fold about 1/4" of the edge towards the center. Fold over again to create a seal.
  10. Continue with this method along the length of the parchment packet folding each section twice to make an attractive edge.
  11. When you get to the point of the heart twist and fold to finish the seal.
  12. Bake the packets for 10-14 minutes (depending on the thickness of the fish).
  13. Remove from the oven and serve by cutting an "X" in the top and folding back the edges.

Nutrition Information (per serving):

Calories 180, Total Fat 9g, Saturated Fat 1g, Monounsaturated Fat 5g, Polyunsaturated Fat 1g, Cholesterol 50mg, Sodium 450mg, Carbohydrate 10g, Fiber 2g, Sugar 4g, Protein 16g.