There are certain circles that are getting more and more active on the ‘regulate sugar’ front. The Washington Post had a lengthy article this week on the industry and the actions being contemplated to curb the nation’s current overconsumption of sugar.
In addition to improving the standards of food served in schools and increasing fruit and vegetable servings, a portion of the [Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act] that went into effect last month required that all candy, sugary drinks and non-nutritional snacks be removed from school cafeterias and vending machines. “By taking candy out of schools we’re saying candy is not an everyday food, and it’s something you should be eating a lot less of,” Wootan says.
Victories against candy, though, are not really victories at all in the war against obesity. Most people don’t overeat sugar by eating candy. In modern day America you over eat sugar by eating processed foods, since processed foods almost universally contain added sugar. Candy is not the enemy, because candy is a known quantity. Yogurt is the enemy, and foods like it, that have a healthy reputation, but these days contain enormous quantities of added sweeteners, unbeknownst to the consumer.
John Oliver, on his HBO program “This Week Tonight” had quite a bit to say about hidden sugars. One of the points he made was that the labeling of foods puts sugar amounts in a unit that the consumer cannot understand. Grams. Hardly nobody knows that a four grams is a teaspoon. He recommended putting sugar amounts in ‘candy circus peanuts’ which is a unit that is better than the gram, but not as good as the teaspoon…
If you really want to educate the public then just do two things to the ingredient label. Combine all sugar carbs into one ingredient, quantify it in teaspoons, and put on the label what percentage of the recommended daily allowance that is. This is how that label would read for something like a Dannon Low Fat Yogurt. It has 7 grams of sugar, which would be 2 teaspoons of sugar. 7 grams of sugar would be 25% of your recommended daily allowance. The average US citizen is overweight and eats about 110 grams of sugar a day. If you are the average citizen, you consume 22 teaspoons of sugar per day. You consume 400% of the recommended daily allowance of sugar. You do this, because sugar’s quantity in every bite and drink you take is cleverly hidden from you in a fog of mysterious measurements and the failure to put the RDA on the label. It’s intentional, of course.
As long as added sugar is treated this way, candy is nobody’s enemy. You can eat candy if that is the only sugar you eat all day. A Snickers bar has 27 grams (seven teaspoons) of sugar, which is your recommended daily allowance. If you don’t eat added sugar, you can have one of these, or any other candy. You know what you are getting.
Food additives are all a problem. Sugar is just one of them. It just so happens that sugar is also highly addictive and leads to cravings for more and more sugar. The easiest way to cut down on your sugar intake is to stop drinking any sweetened beverage, and to quit eating any processed foods. There, now you are over your sugar problem, and you can now eat the occasional candy.
We all like candy, we all feel that candy has a rightful place in the food pyramid. I don’t think we all feel the same way about sugar in our low fat products. Hidden sugar has no place in our rightful diet. Of course the government could regulate this someday, if they ever regulate anything ever again, maybe they will. I am betting not. In the meantime, stop buying your foods in bags and boxes. Stop drinking artificial ingredients and sugar in every sip you take.