Craving sugar during a pandemic? Here’s how to tame your sweet tooth

CNN  — 

Cakes, cookies, pie.

During a global pandemic or even more moderately stressful life circumstances, we often turn to comforting sugary and carb-rich indulgences that may help to calm us down.

Now for the bad news. New recommendations that will inform soon-to-be-released US dietary guidelines reveal we should further limit the amount of sugar we consume. This guidance will come at a time when many of us may be looking to indulge our sweet tooth more than ever.

No sugarcoating the new recommendations

First, some sugar basics: Not all sugars are created equal and need to be limited to the same degree. Natural sugars are present in nutritious foods like fruit and milk in the form of fructose and lactose. These foods deliver important nutrients — such as fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals — that play a role in a healthy diet.

Added sugars are another story. They are sugars or sweeteners that are added to foods or beverages during processing or preparation. They contribute calories, without any essential nutrients.

The average American gets about 13% of their total calories from added sugars, but new recommendations call for that average to be cut by about half, according to a recently issued report from the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee — a group of experts charged with providing science-based recommendations every five years.

The 2020 committee recommended a limit of no more than 6% of calories coming from added sugars, with ranges from 3% at the lowest calorie levels and up to 8% at the highest calorie levels (which vary based on age, gender, activity level and body weight). The committee also recommended that children younger than age 2 should avoid any foods and beverages with added sugars.

How many treats do you get?

That 6% limit translates to 30 grams of sugar in a 2,000 calorie daily diet — less sugar than what’s in a 12-ounce can of soda. It’s a limit that more closely reflects the American Heart Association’s current recommendation, which was issued in 2009.

The heart association’s recommendation translates to a limit of 6 teaspoons of sugar, or about 25 grams each day for women and children over 2 years of age; and about 9 teaspoons, or about 36 grams for men.