Healthwatch 16: How Much Sugar in your Favorite Treat?

GEISINGER MEDICAL CENTER -- It's the holiday season!  And chances are everywhere you look there are cookies and cakes and pies and maybe even a glass of champagne.

You already know that overindulging in too much sugar, such as in baked goods or sodas or other sweetened beverages, isn't good for you.

But Sarah Dayton wants to remind us all a treat now and then is usually not what will torpedo a healthy eating plan.

Dayton is a registered dietitian at Geisinger Medical Center near Danville. She says the recommended allowance is six teaspoons or less of added sugar per day.

Most Americans eat more like 18 to 25 teaspoons per day, according to the National Institutes of Health.

"Interestingly these polls are done, they actually call people on the phone and ask them about their diet.  So people may actually consume more than that," Dayton explained.

First, she makes clear that sugar isn't bad, it occurs naturally in a lot of products.

"When you think about fruit, it will contain fructose. Dairy will contain lactose. Homemade bread will contain glucose.  Everything is eventually broken down into simple carbohydrates."

The issue is in added sugars.  And there is a lot of added sugar hiding in what you may be eating or drinking every day, thinking you're not doing too much damage.

Just a few of Sarah's examples: A packet of instant oatmeal.  Many people will eat two at a time.  There are your six teaspoons or about 24 grams of sugar.

Add a medium latte from any coffee shop and there are 45 grams of sugar more.

A less sugary breakfast option would be homemade oatmeal and black coffee.

"If you must add a few tablespoons of flavored creamer, it adds more sugar.

Another sneaky sugary food: yogurt. Some of the flavored varieties can have 19 added grams of sugar.  It could be better to start with plain yogurt and add fruit.

If you start reading labels, you'll notice how much sugar is in foods you eat every day, not just those holiday treats.

"You can see things like malt syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, just syrup, maple syrup, brown sugar, powdered sugar, agave, honey, these are all forms of basically just sweetener."

Sweets and treats are everywhere this time of year: cookies, candy, cocktails, the list goes on. There's no reason not to enjoy all of that in moderation.

In fact, one dietitian warns, it's the sneaky sugar sources that could get you in trouble, around the holidays and all year long.