Nutrition Corner: New USDA guidelines set limits for added sugars

January 13th, 2016 4:12 pm

Just this past week, USDA and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services released the official 2015 Dietary Guidelines. These guidelines are based upon the most current research in nutrition and give guidance to meals that are served in child care centers, schools and active adult centers.

The guidelines also can help us plan healthy meals for ourselves and our families. They are based on studies which have shown to reduce the risk of illness and death due to diet-related chronic diseases.

Over the next few weeks, I will highlight the new guidelines and review what they might mean for you and your family. Next week I will highlight the recommendation for saturated fat and discuss cholesterol.

For the first time ever, there is a recommendation to limit added sugars to a specific level. In the past, the guidelines stated to limit added sugars. But now, it recommends limiting added sugars to 10 percent of total calories. For a 2,000-calorie diet, that means 200 calories or 50 grams of sugar. Many might say that they don’t eat 50 grams of sugar, but one can of soda or ice tea may have as many as 25 grams alone.

On average, Americans now consume almost 270 calories or 13 percent of calories from added sugars. They are particularly high among children, adolescents, and young adults. Amounts consumed are about the same between males and females.

Why limit added sugars? Added sugars are those found in the ingredient list of foods. If they are natural, like lactose, milk sugar, or fructose, fruit sugar they won’t be in the ingredient list as they were not added to the food. Added sugars only add calories and may contribute to obesity if consumed in excess.

Examples of some not so common names for added sugars are anhydrous dextrose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, malt syrup, maltose, maple syrup, and sucrose.

Sports drinks, energy drinks, ice tea, soda, flavored sweetened coffees and flavored waters account for almost half of all added sugars. The other sources of added sugars are snacks and sweets including ice creams, candies, and cookies. Added sugars’ calories can add up without any nutrients to build a healthy diet.

Next time that you reach for something to drink, ask yourself, how much sugar does it contain? Am I within the 50 grams or 200 calories a day? Is my family?

Here is a recipe for homemade hot chocolate. It contains more calcium along with a little sugar for sweetening. Compare it to some commercially-made and served hot chocolates.

Nonfat dry milk powder can be found in the cereal aisle. In addition to enriching hot chocolate, you can add nonfat dry milk powder to regular milk to boost the protein as well as calcium. Enjoy!

Instant cocoa mix

5 1/3 cups nonfat dry milk powder

1 1/2 cups lower-fat powdered non-dairy creamer

1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 cups powdered sugar or 1 ½ cups Splenda® Sugar Blend

For cocoa mix, stir together milk powder, non-dairy creamer, cocoa powder, and sugar or sugar replacement. Cover and store in an airtight container. Makes 8 cups mix (enough for 24 six-ounce servings).

To make: Add 1/3 cup instant cocoa mix to 3/4 cup very hot water; stir to dissolve.

Adapted from

Nutrition Corner Mary R. Ehret Corner Mary R. Ehret

Mary Ehret is the Penn State Extension Nutrition Links Supervisor in Luzerne, Lackawanna, Monroe, Carbon, Sullivan and Bradford counties. Reach her at 570-825-1701 or at