Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sugar & Nutella

I've been interested in sweeteners for a few years now. Today we have such a variety to choose from, and I'm curious about making informed decisions on the "best" ones. By "best" I mean, if you're going to eat something sweet, what's the healthiest, most whole way to do it? Sweeteners like maple syrup have more nutrients than table sugar, but they also have a ton more calories (aroun 100 calories/Tbsp). Agave is better if you need to watch your glycemic index, but you're looking at 60 calories per tablespoon, all of them empty. For comparison, one tablespoon of sugar is 48 calories.

What got me thinking about sugar today is the jar of Nutella sitting in my cupboard. Oh, man, do I love Nutella! It's full of sugar, but I like to indulge now and again. What's interesting is that on the back label it's adverised as part of a "... tasty yet balanced breakfast." Wow! I thought to myself. That sounds like a load of crock. So I went to their website, where I found a registered dietician endorsing it as part of a great breakfast for kids! ". . . a breakfast that consists of a small whole grain bagel with Nutella®, 1/2 cup of sliced strawberries and 1 cup of 1% milk is suitable for school-aged children." I might argue about the bagel, and of course the fruit and milk sounds fine, but I have some serious beef with the Nutella part. Although hazelnuts are not unhealthy, the recommended 2 tablespoon serving of Nutella contains 21 grams of sugar, and almost all of them are added! Sugar is the number one ingredient in Nutella. Hazelnuts come in third, right behind palm oil.

Let's get some perspective on this. According to the American Heart Association, the recommended added sugar limit per day for children is three teaspoons - that's 45 calories or 12 grams! A child has just exceded his or her days worth in one serving of Nutella. Even if you cut the serving size in half, they've met their daily goal.

For reference, the AHA recommendations for men and women are as follows:

Women: 5 teaspoons of sugar / 75 calories / 20 grams

Men: 9 teaspoons of sugar/ 135 calories / 36 grams

Unfortunately, our food labels don't distinguish between natural and added sugars, but if you look at the ingredients list, you'll get an idea because the ingrients are listed in order from highest to lowest percentage. Nutella does contain skim milk, which has natural sugars; however, it's fifth on the list of ingredients, and sugar is the first. You get the idea.

I hope this information helps you in taking charge of maintaining a healthier diet for you and your family. Please post if you have questions, comments, or added information!


American Heart Assocaition recommendations/Rodale: