Try It Tuesday: Getting Less Than 10 Percent of Daily Calories from Added Sugars

It's been a long time since I’ve kept a food journal. While training to be a registered dietitian, food journaling and dietary assessments are two things I became quite familiar with. But it was usually me asking others what they ate.

This week for our Try It Tuesday series, I looked inward. A little soul-searching to see how my diet stacks up against recommendations from the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). Mostly, I was curious to know if my diet satisfies the most debated DGA recommendation of them all: "consume less than 10% of calories per day from added sugars." 

Unlike my previous Try It Tuesday trial where I tortured myself following the Blood Type Diet, this endeavor was a breeze. I didn't have to alter any of my dietary habits, I simply faithfully recorded everything I ate and drank (amounts included) for one work week. To capture this, I used the food diary app from MyFitnessPal.

Here’s how my diet broke down: 

              

Mon

Tues

Wed

Thurs

Avg.

%kcal

Calories

2121

2015

1687

1774

1899

 

Protein (g) 

81

98

56

107

86

18%

Carbohydrate (g)

219

183

214

175

198

42%

Fiber (g)

8

15

19

23

16

3%

Sugars (g)

74

106

97

82

90

19%

Added Sugars (g)

45

39

54

58

49

10.32%

Fat (g)

98

99

68

69

84

40%

Saturated (g)

17

25

9

20

18

8%

Polyunsaturated (g) 

5

4

2

4

4

2%

Monounsaturated (g)

30

24

15

18

22

10%

Trans (g)

0

0

0

0

0

0%

Cholesterol (mg) 

180

172

98

210

165

 

Sodium (mg)

2494

3092

1663

3036

2571

 

Potassium (mg)

1423

1481

937

1826

1417

 

 

I narrowly missed the DGA added sugars target, coming in just above the 10 percent limit at 10.32 percent. I should mention that because added sugars information is not yet listed on food labels, I did my best to determine this number by closely reading ingredients lists and comparing to plain versions when possible, so this number isn't entirely accurate.

I thought I might come in under the added sugars number given my usual eating style, but was happy to be in the 10 percent ballpark. It's possible, however, that the action of recording my food intake made me more conscious of food and beverage choices, serving sizes and appetite. Research suggests that food journaling may help improve diets and body weight.

The food journal caveat aside, the week was fairly normal food-wise for me, although I would say I usually eat more seafood, fruits and vegetables (tomatoes, avocados and onions specifically). Perhaps the inclusion of those staples would've pushed me under the 10 percent limit. Regardless of what I ate, my strategies remained the same. 

Here's a few tips I lean on to help keep my total diet (added sugars included) in check: 

*note that these are my general philosophies and may not be applicable to you or your diet/lifestyle

  • Be aware of proper portion sizes. You'd be surprised how small they actually are and how little it can take to become satisfied.
  • Pay attention to hunger cues. Differentiate true hunger from mindless snacking and space out eating occasions accordingly.
  • Find items that help satisfy hunger for longer periods of time. For me these are things like avocados, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, nuts, water and coffee.
  • For hydration, primarily seek water and other low and no calorie beverages. I prefer to keep my beverage calories on the low end. 

What did I learn?

My Try It Tuesday experience reminded me of two important things:

First, my image of proper portion sizes received a valuable re-calibration. Not that I was way off on the big ticket calorie items, but I did find it helpful to see calorie contributions from things like condiments, coffee creamers, etc. All calories count and they can add up quick, especially if you're not paying attention.

Second, all DGA recommendations are important. While meeting ALL of them simultaneously can be difficult, striving to meet as many of them as possible can be fun. Although I wasn't able to keep my added sugars intake under the advised 10 percent of total calories, I was close. Achieving this recommendation can be done and it can be part of an enjoyable diet. I’ll just likely be closer to 10 percent than I will be to 0%.

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