Cookies, candies, soda and juice. We all know these are full of sugar. But how much is too much?

Mahaska Health Registered Dietitian Lea Rice knows that sweet treats are just that, treats, and should be consumed in moderation! However, most of us consume too much too often, which can lead us down a road of health concerns, including cavities, obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Not only that, but sugar hides in many places we often don’t think of, so it’s easy to overload without even realizing it!

Cutting back on sugar isn’t as easy as trading your soda for water or cookies for fruit. Those sneaky empty calories can hide in all sorts of places, including:

  • Sugary drinks, including juice, soda, sweetened coffee, fruit punch and energy drinks
  • Cereal
  • Flavored yogurt
  • Whole-grain cereals and granola
  • Instant oatmeal
  • Frozen foods
  • Granola, protein and cereal bars
  • Pasta sauce
  • Dried, canned fruit and applesauce
  • Baby food
  • Condiments, including ketchup, barbecue sauce and salad dressing

Does anything on that list surprise you? Instead of worrying about cleaning everything out and going sugar-free, look for ways to reduce your added sugar intake. Here are a few tips from Lea:

  • Mix flavored yogurt with unflavored and unsweetened yogurt to cut down on the sugar. Do the same with cereal. As your taste buds adjust, you can continue cutting down on the sugary flavors and opt for a healthier version.
  • Pack in the natural sweeteners! Try fruits and vegetables like bell peppers, carrots and snap peas to meet that sweet craving.
  • Stick to milk and water for satisfying your thirst. Sodas, energy drinks and juices not only are packed full of added sweeteners, they are often contain caffeine and artificial dyes, which are especially bad for children!
  • Cook from scratch! Make your own pasta sauce, condiments and serve homemade baked goods so you can control the ingredients and cut down the sugar without losing great flavor.

When it comes to reducing your family’s sugar intake, making small adjustments can have a huge impact on everyone’s health. Teaching your kids to make alternate sweet choices now will encourage them to continue healthy habits throughout their lives!