Woman eating a granola bar

Americans have a love/hate relationship with sugar. We eat a lot of it—an average of about 17 teaspoons on a given day per person, according to data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. But 77 percent of people in a survey from the International Food Information Council said they are trying to limit or avoid sugar.

The sugar in question is added sugars—those that are added to foods, not the sugars found naturally in fruit, milk, yogurt, and some vegetables. Both our consumption levels and the medical evidence suggest good reasons for cutting back on added sugars. In excess, they may increase the risk for obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and other health problems.

But you don’t have to remove every granule of added sugar in order to help your health, says Ellen Klosz, a Consumer Reports’ nutritionist. The recommendations for the maximum daily amount you should have vary depending on which agency you go with, but none say you have to set your goal at zero added sugars.

More on Sweeteners

U.S. Dietary Guidelines and the World Health Organization say added sugar should make up less than 10 percent of your daily calories—that's about 10 teaspoons (40 grams) for someone who eats 1,600 calories per day—with WHO suggesting aiming for less than 5 percent (5 teaspoons or 20 grams) for additional health benefits. The American Heart Association says to limit added sugars to no more than about 6 teaspoons (25 grams) for women and 9 teaspoons (38 grams) for men.

You can put a big dent in your added sugars intake by forgoing one can of soda or coffee drink a day. For instance, a regular Coke has 39 grams of sugars in 12 ounces—all of them added. A medium mocha swirl latte with skim milk from Dunkin’ Donuts has 51 grams (about 15 grams of that are from the natural sugar in the milk). But even small reductions can help, and you can find sweet treats that are relatively low in sugars. Check nutrition labels: similar products often have different amounts of sugars, as the eight example swaps here show.

Instead of
Nature Valley Maple Brown
Sugar Granola Bar
(11 g sugars)
Choose
Kind Bar Nuts + Spices Maple
Glazed Pecan & Sea Salt bar
(5 g sugars)
Instead of
Stonyfield Organic Vanilla
Lowfat Yogurt, 5.3 ounces
(14 g sugars)
Choose
Siggi’s Icelandic Skyr 0%
Vanilla, 5.3 ounces
(9 g sugars)
Instead of
Kozy Shack Tapioca
Pudding, 4 ounces
(16 g sugars)
Choose
Chia Pod Vanilla Bean
Chia Pudding, 6 ounces
(7 g sugars)
Instead of
Tate’s Bake Shop Oatmeal
Raisin Cookies, 2 thin
cookies (11 g sugars)
Choose
Kashi Oatmeal Raisin Flax
Cookie, 1 thick cookie
(7 g sugars)
Instead of
Nutella,
2 tablespoons
(21 g sugars)
Choose
Delighted By Dessert
Hummus, Brownie Batter,
2 tablespoons (4 g sugars)
Instead of
Bob’s Red Mill Classic Lightly
Sweetened Granola, ½ cup
(14 g sugars)
Choose
Back Roads Ancient Grains
Granola, ½ cup
(2 g sugars)
Instead of
Lindt 70% Cocoa Excellence
Bar, 2 squares
(6 g sugars)
Choose
Lindt 85% Cocoa Excellence
Bar, 2 squares
(3 g sugars)
Instead of
Häagen-Dazs Strawberry
Ice Cream, ½ cup
(22 g sugars)
Choose
Outshine Simply Yogurt Bars,
Stawberry, 1 bar
(12 g sugars)