Making Sense of Sugar

Published - Jan 19, 2023

Making Sense of Sugar

By Julie Mahler, MS, RDN, CD, registered dietitian nutritionist at IRG Physical Therapy – Gateway

It can be difficult knowing where to begin when making changes to your sugar intake. Sugar is called by many different names, and added sugar is found in many of our go-to snacks.
IRG's registered dietician nutritionist, Julie Mahler, MS, RDN, CD, pens this featured blog on understanding sugars and provides tips on healthier ways to enjoy sweet foods.


Nutrition research is rarely clear, but experts agree on at least one fact: added sugars are bad for our health. Most of us eat between 60 to 80 grams of added sugar every day, which is 200-300% of the recommended amount. This may not be surprising since manufacturers add it to many processed foods and the taste can become almost addictive. Everywhere you look – grocery stores, restaurants, coffee shops and often your own home – have plenty of inexpensive added sugar options.

The good news is even a small decrease in consuming sweetened foods and beverages can benefit you by decreasing your risk of blood sugar problems and type 2 diabetes, heart disease and weight gain.

What is added sugar?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) defines added sugars as sugars added during the processing of foods (such as sucrose or dextrose), foods packaged as sweeteners (such as table sugar), sugars from syrups and honey, and sugars from concentrated fruit or vegetable juices. They do not include naturally occurring sugars that are found in milk, fruits and vegetables. The amount of added sugar is listed on many nutrition facts labels, and you can use the ingredients list to identify the sources of added sugars.

Low and no-calorie sugar substitutes are used to reduce calories in sweet foods and to help control blood sugar levels. Sugar substitutes are usually much more intensely sweet than sugar and are compounds that cannot be broken down by our digestive systems (or by the bacteria that live in our gut). They provide few to no calories and since they cannot be converted to glucose, they do not boost blood sugar levels.

Added sugars are called by many different names and so are low and no calorie sweeteners. Below are common sources of them:

Try these tips for finding healthier ways to enjoy sweet foods

  • Eat natural sources of sugar such as fruit – fresh, frozen, canned or dried
  • Eat your favorite sweet treat less often
  • Enjoy and savor a smaller than your typical portion
  • Find a sweet treat that is satisfying even when you have a smaller amount
  • Split a dessert when out to eat
  • Keep a food journal to help you see where the added sugars are coming from

If you are looking for guidance on ways to manage sugar intake and eat less added sugars, IRG’s registered dietitian nutritionist, Julie Mahler, MS, RDN, CD, can help. With specialized training in obesity and weight management, Julie can help counsel you for many nutritional needs. Click here to learn more about nutrition services offered at IRG. Call IRG Physical Therapy – Gateway to learn more at 425.686.765 or click here to request an appointment with Julie today.

Learn more about service offerings at IRG here, including physical therapy, hand therapy, massage therapy, performance enhancement, athletic training and more.