# How many grams of sugar I should stay below each day?

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I need help. I have been trying to eat healthier, but it doesn’t seem to be doing a whole lot. Could you tell me about how many grams of sugar I should stay below each day? Some of the foods I eat say non-fat but have 30 grams of sugar in them and I wonder if that is what is sabotaging my efforts. (Healthy Choice nonfat chocolate yogurt).

And how much bread is too much?

And what about vegetable burgers, are they good for you or not? (I love them–it makes it easier to not eat meat.)

I weigh 190 pounds and I am getting very frightened. I’m working out as much as I can and I am watching everything I eat. Could you write back to me? I am just too unknowledgeable to figure it out myself and could really use some help. I just need some updated advice on nutrition.

I used your Healthy Body Calculator® and it was much more helpful than anything else I’ve been able to find. Please write back and let me know. Thank you very much.

“Sugars” previously listed on food labels included all simple sugars from fruit, milk, and starch as well as sugar added to food. So don’t count all sugars as “bad”. Fruit sugar and milk sugar are found in some very nutritious foods. Added sugars, on the other hand, do not contain protein, vitamins, or minerals and is considered an “empty calorie” because of being empty of nutrients.

Generally, the sugar content of foods you eat should be less than 10% of total calories. If you eat 1200 calories, then you can eat 120 calories from sugar or approximately 30 grams (4 calories per gram of sugar) which is 7 1/2 teaspoons from added sugars (4 grams of sugar per teaspoon). While that sounds like a lot, it is less than the 9 teaspoons of sugar in 12 ounces of carbonated beverages.

Since you used the Healthy Body Calculator®, you know how many calories to eat to reach your weight goal assuming you chose to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week option. It also calculates the grams of sugar you can eat per day.

Unfortunately, there is not a lot of sugar data available and you will still have to rely on food labels that provide sugar data. Especially since sugars may be added by food manufacturers during food processing and these foods would have food labels. Luckily the new food label will list Added Sugars that you can track. I would suggest keeping to less than 4 grams of added sugars per serving of food as that is equal to 1 teaspoon of added sugar. Buying basic foods and cooking from scratch at home will help you control how much added sugar is to  the foods you eat rather than relying on packaged foods.

You are right on about low and non-fat foods. When you remove fat, something has to be added back to imitate the smooth mouthfeel and taste of fat. Typically starches and sugars are used which increases the sugar content in a serving of fat reduced foods. Recent research has shown that people who eat fat reduced foods eat the difference in their calorie needs later in the day. In other words, if you saved 100 calories by eating fat reduced food, you might eat a bigger serving or some other food and even another fat reduced food, later in the day to make up the difference. Your body will do what it can to maintain weight as it thinks a famine is coming when we attempt weight loss. This can be attributed to our “caveman” genes.

The amount of bread you should eat per day depends on how many calories and how many other starchy foods you eat. For instance, if you ate 1500 calories per day, you could eat 6 to 7 starch/bread servings per day. If you ate 1200 calories per day, you could eat 3 to 4 starch/bread servings per day. Serving size used in the diabetic exchanges for meal planning is a good guide.

If you are unsure of how much food to eat, try my HELP Healthy Eating for Life Plan® which will create a personalized eating plan. You can choose what type of milk, meat or not, beans or not, snacks or not to create your custom plan.

Veggie burgers can be an occasional substitute for meat burgers however, they can be higher in fat if oil is added to the pan during cooking. Read the food label for the fat content of one burger, then measure the oil you use to fry the vegetable burger. The oil may be necessary to prevent the vegetable burger from sticking. You could use a spray oil instead to reduce the amount of oil you use. There may not be a whole lot of difference in fat grams in a veggie burger compared to eating lean ground beef (15% fat). The difference would be in the type of fat. Ground beef has saturated fat and the vegetable burger may only have unsaturated fat, but read the food label of the vegetable burger for saturated fat content. The type of fat (margarine or vegetable oil) would also be determined by what you use to fry the veggie burger.

Tho you didn’t ask, I would like to suggest that eating a veggie burger every day for dinner does not provide you with the nutrients found by eating a wider variety of foods.  Often when people decide to become a vegetarian & vegan they rely on veggie burgers or veggie crumbles for every meal.  There are a lot of really good vegetarian cookbooks written by dietitians. Search online for vegetarian cookbook dietitian.

Sounds like you could use a healthy lifestyle coordinator? Why not talk to a Registered Dietitian who could guide you in making meal plans that would include your food likes and dislikes for weight loss. Your exercise program should include 60 minutes of aerobic exercise that breaks a sweat 5 times per week. But make sure you can still carry on a conversation otherwise you will be burning up your blood sugar and not body fat. Exercise increases your metabolic rate up to 15 hours after exercise, helps maintain muscle mass, and provides a feeling of euphoria due to increased endorphins (feel good me chemicals) in your brain.

The most successful weight loss programs include a healthy eating plan, exercise and keeping a record of what you eat.

Joanne Larsen is a licensed, registered dietitian with extensive clinical experience in nutrition therapy in hospitals, clinics, mental health and long term care. She has a bachelor's degree in dietetics with a minor in chemistry and a master's degree in nutrition with a minor in counseling. She is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly American Dietetic Association).