06/07/2017 12:01 EDT | Updated 06/07/2017 12:01 EDT

How Much Sugar Are You Eating? Here's Your Low-Sugar Meal Plan

Sugar is in the nutrition hot seat thanks to links between getting too much and higher risk of chronic diseases such as obesity, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. So with all the media coverage on the health risks of overdoing it on sugar, are we closer to meeting the recommendations for the maximum amount of sugar in a day?


(Photo credit: Tamdotcom via Flickr).

It's tough to achieve a goal when many of us aren't sure what the goal is. Many Canadians aren't aware of how much sugar they should be limiting themselves to in a day. This doesn't mean that Canadians aren't paying attention to sugar content when they're choosing food for themselves and their families.

Despite this desire to reduce sugar in our diets, many people don't know how to choose lower sugar options at the grocery store. The problem? "Low in sugar" only means that the food has less sugar than a comparable food.


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When picking ingredients to make a meal or choosing snacks, most people aren't aware of a "sugar cutoff" they should be looking for. What can be even more confusing is how much sugar is found in seemingly healthy snack foods such as energy bars. People often turn to these options in an effort to make a more nutritious choice, but some of the most popular bars have more than 20 grams of sugar, almost as much as a candy bar!

This isn't surprising, as an analysis of 40,000 packaged foods by the University of Waterloo and Public Health Ontario found that 86 per cent of snacks and sweets contain at least one type of added sugar. That's why reading labels is key to finding lower sugar options.


(Photo credit: Gunilla G via Flickr).

How much sugar should we have in a day?

Health Canada recommends we have less than 100 grams of sugar a day from food and beverages. This includes natural sugar found in nutritious foods such as fruit, milk products and vegetables as well as added sugars and sweeteners.

Does the type of sugar matter?

It's best to get your sugar from foods that offer up other health benefits. Think whole foods that are packed with fibre, vitamins and antioxidants such as fruit or protein and calcium such as milk products.

Added sugars provide "empty calories" meaning they taste sweet but are empty in terms of their nutritional value. Yes, you get calories or energy from them, but that energy is fleeting. And most of us are taking in more calories than we need, with sugar making it easier to overdo it without getting all of the phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals we need for optimum health.

reading nutrition label

(Photo: Fuse via Getty Images)

How do I know if there are added sugars in food or beverages?

Check out the ingredients list. Any word that ends in "-ose" such as glucose or fructose, or anything that includes "dextrin," is a type of added sugar. Also be on the lookout for syrups, even if they're from natural sources such as brown rice syrup.

The ingredients list is in order by weight from the largest amount that's used to the smallest amount. If you see different types of sugar appearing early on in the ingredients list, or if there are several types of them in the list, that's a sign that food or drink is high in added sugars.

Most of the sugar in your food and snacks should come from whole foods such as fruit or vegetables.

What does 100 grams of sugar actually look like?

Let's break it down into a low-sugar meal plan.

Low-sugar meal plan - Less than 100 Grams of Sugar


- 1 cup of green tea or black coffee

- Chocolate Cherry Chia Overnight Oats


(Photo credit: Christy Brissette, 80 Twenty Nutrition).

Sugar: 17 grams

Morning snack

- 1 cup carrot sticks and 1 cup celery sticks

- Coconut Lime Roasted Chickpeas


(Photo credit: Christy Brissette, 80 Twenty Nutrition).

Sugar: 5 grams for the chickpeas and 8 grams for the vegetables (13 grams total)


- 1 large apple

- Tex Mex Taco Salad


(Photo credit: Christy Brissette, 80 Twenty Nutrition).

Sugar: 6 grams for the salad and 23 grams for the apple (29 grams total)

Afternoon snack

- Low-sugar snack bar

Many snack bars and energy bars are loaded with sugar, with the average bar packing in 23 grams of sugar or 5 1/2 teaspoons! Choose a lower sugar option.

Sugar: 5 grams


- Chicken Souvlaki with Greek Quinoa Salad, Caramelized Lemons and Homemade Tzatziki


(Photo credit: Christy Brissette, 80 Twenty Nutrition).

Sugar: 6 grams


- 2 squares (40 grams) of 85 per cent dark chocolate

Sugar: 6 grams

Total Sugar for the day: 76 grams

How much sugar do you think you're taking in most days? Start tracking and join the conversation on Facebook!

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