Break the Sugar Habit

How to tame a sweet tooth

By Carol Sorgen
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Feature

Reviewed By Michael W. Smith, MD

Don't eat too many sweets, your mother probably told you. Seems that Mom now has the United Nations on her side. According to a recent report by experts from two UN agencies -- the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization -- we're eating way too much sugar.

Just how much sugar do we eat? You might be surprised, says Lisa Ritchie, EdD, RD, LD, assistant professor of family and consumer sciences and director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at Harding University in Searcy, Ark.

"The amount of sugar used in this country is somewhere betweeen 40 and 60 pounds per person per year," she tells WebMD. For the year 2000, says Ritchie, that translated into 21.5 million tons, which included the sugars found in baked goods, yeast breads, cereal products, and the high-fructose corn syrup used to sweeten soft drinks.

That there's sugar in those items shouldn't surprise you. But you may be surprised to learn that there's sugar in ketchup, canned vegetables, luncheon meats, bacon, fast-food hamburgers, even sushi, says Nancy Appleton, PhD, author of Lick the Sugar Habit and Lick the Sugar Habit Sugar Counter.

"Part of the reason for our high intake of sugar is that many foods contain hidden sugars where you'd least expect to find them," Appleton tells WebMD. "And don't be fooled by products that are labeled 'low-fat' or 'diet'," she adds. "Many of these are loaded with sugar to make them taste better."