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In Our Field: Summer diets high in sugar and calories

August 02, 2001|By Paula René-Fitch, Nutrition, family and consumer

science adviser/University of California, Imperial County Cooperative Extension

Our food and beverage choices are often different in the hot summer months. We require more fluids to satisfy thirst and to keep us well-hydrated, and we tend to consume more frozen snacks and desserts.

Unless you select food products that are sugar-free, your summer diet may be excessive in added sugar and calories. Added sugars are sugars and syrups added to foods in processing or preparation.

There are naturally occurring sugars in foods but the body cannot tell the difference between naturally occurring and added sugars because they are identical chemically. Foods that contain added sugars provide energy but they contribute little in the way of vitamins and minerals.


In the United States, the No. 1 source of added sugars is non-diet soft drinks. Sweets and candies, cakes and cookies, fruit drinks, fruitades, sweetened tea, ice cream, and other frozen desserts and sweets are all sources of added sugars.

Consuming excessive amounts of foods with added sugars may contribute to weight gain or lower the consumption of more nutritious foods. It is better to limit your consumption of these foods and beverages. Try to drink more water in the summer and select those foods that are refreshing and have more nutritional value such as fresh fruits and fruit juices and aguas frescas that do not have added sugar.

There are some foods that have added sugar that offer much-needed nutrients. Chocolate milk, presweetened cereals and canned fruits all contain added sugar but they are rich in vitamins and minerals. Consume these foods in moderation.

Sometimes it is difficult for the consumer to know if a food or beverage contains added sugar. Sugar content can be determined by reading the nutrition facts label and the ingredient list. Consumers need to be aware there are many different types and names of sugar that may be listed. Some of the more common names for added sugars include the following: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, syrup and table sugar. If any of these sugars appears first or second in the ingredient list, you can be sure the food product is high in sugar.

Sugar substitutes may be used in processed foods and as an alternative for table sugar. Sugar substitutes such as saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, and sucralose are low in calories and give foods a sweet taste. It is important to remember just because a product is sugar-free it is not necessarily fat-free or low in calories.

Consumers must read the nutritional facts label to determine the calorie count from other

carbohydrates, protein and fat that may be present.

Tips for healthy eating in the summer and throughout the year include the following: Get most of your calories from grains, fruits and vegetables, low-fat or non-fat dairy product and lean meats or meat substitutes. Drink plenty of water. Try to limit your intake of beverages and foods that are high in added sugars. Take care not to let soft drinks or other sweets crowd out other foods you need to maintain health, such as low-fat milk or other good sources of calcium.

The Cooperative Extension Program serves all residents of the Imperial County.

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