Information, Symptoms, Treatments and Resources


Understanding Your Sugar Intake


How much added sugar is too much, and how do you know?

By Kendra Smith


Watching your intake of added sugar is a good idea when it comes to good health. While naturally occurring sugars are found in whole foods, which contain nutritious compounds along with their calories, added sugars contribute only extra calories, without any added health benefits.

That's why the World Health Organization recommends limiting added sugar to 10% or less of your total daily calories; for someone on an average 2,000-calorie diet, that’s no more than 200 calories of added sugar a day. This works out to about 50 grams of sugar, or 12½ teaspoons (and a mere 6 teaspoons if you trim your intake down to 5%). (To learn your daily total calories, download weight-loss app My Diet Diary, available on Android and iOS.)

However, it isn’t always easy to find out how much added sugar is in a product: food packaging isn’t required to distinguish between added sugars and naturally occurring ones. This means checking the ingredients list may be the only way to know if a packaged food contains added sugars.

Watch for these terms: syrup or syrup solids, juice or juice concentrate (as in “evaporated cane juice”), and nectar. Also look for the chemical names for various sugar compounds: sucrose, fructose, dextrose, maltose, and other words ending in “-ose.” When a sugar is close to first on the ingredients list, the product is high in added sugars, which the Sugars amount on the Nutrition Facts panel will confirm, says Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and certified natural chef in Los Angeles. Common places to find added sugars include salad dressings, sauces, condiments, breads, crackers, flavored snack chips, canned soups, flavored yogurt and frozen meals.

Once you’ve confirmed there’s added sugar in a product, use the Sugars amount on the label to get an idea of how much added sugar you’re getting; it could be less than the total Sugars listed, depending on how much naturally occurring sugar is in the product, but if you’re trying to cut back anyway, that’s a good thing, right?

As Begun says, “While a little sugar in one product doesn’t seem like a big deal, a little here and a little there add up quickly.” Here’s how your intake can stack up over a day:


Meal  Food

Total Sugars
(from label)

Calories from Sugar 
(Sugars x 4) 
Breakfast Low-fat vanilla yogurt 
(4-oz. container)
 16 grams   64 calories from sugar
Lunch Salad with 2 Tbsp. 
French dressing
 8 grams   32 calories from sugar
Dinner Pasta with 1/2 cup 
jarred marinara sauce
 7 grams   28 calories from sugar

 31 grams 

no more than 50 grams)

  124 calories from sugar


If you ate all three of these meals in 24 hours, you’d use up more than half of your 200 added sugar calories for the day. And just to make things even more challenging: all it takes is one can of soda of put you way over the top. A 12-ounce cola adds 39 grams of sugar, or 156 calories from sugar, to your total for the day.


Published on April 22, 2016.


Kendra Smith is a wellness and lifestyle writer and editor living in San Francisco.

Reviewed by Shira R. Goldenholz, MD, MPH on April 26, 2016.
Explore More In Our Hep C Learning Center
image description
What Is Hepatitis C?
Learn about this treatable virus.
image description
Diagnosing Hepatitis C
Getting tested for this viral infection.
image description
Just Diagnosed? Here’s What’s Next
3 key steps to getting on treatment.
image description
Understanding Hepatitis C Treatment
4 steps to getting on therapy.
image description
Your Guide to Hep C Treatments
What you need to know about Hep C drugs.
image description
Managing Side Effects of Treatment
How the drugs might affect you.
image description
Making Hep C Treatment a Success
These tips may up your chances of a cure.