top of page

Your sweet tooth is costing you more than you think!

STUDENT CONTRIBUTOR: Liza Khalyavka | School of Nutrition, Ryerson University

October 2, 2020

Everyone loves a sweet treat - some more often than others! There is even some evidence of sugary foods (e.g., highly palatable foods) - the ones that melt in your mouth and make you crazy with cravings - can be addictive. Can you relate?

What isn't as well known is that sugar is actually doing a lot more harm to our bodies than we realize. According to Health Canada, an average of 100 grams of sugar per day is the maximum amount that should be consumed within a healthy diet. A recently published SAGE Medicine journal recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons and men about 9 teaspoons of sugar per day. Chef Claire Tansey reminds us when reading nutrition labels, that all sugar types such as natural, added and free sugars should be included in the 100 grams of the daily recommended amount.

How can something that tastes so good, be bad?

First, sugar has a negative effect on cholesterol levels, and increased 'bad' (LDL) cholesterol levels lower the "good" (HDL) cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is responsible for helping to break down and remove plaque build-up in your arteries. It can also lead to increased triglyceride levels - the fat that causes heart disease and stroke.

Second, high sugar intake directly affects blood sugar levels. Most of the time, the sugar that comes from the food you consume is taken up into the cells and used as energy to keep your body moving throughout the day. If we eat more sugar than our muscles use, it gets converted to fat and stored in our cells. High blood sugar levels can lead to chronic conditions like diabetes and heart disease; both of which are very complex, long-term and difficult to treat.

A study done that examined 91 women over the course of 8 years who consumed 1 or more sugary beverages per day and found that they were twice as likely to become obese and/or develop diabetes compared to those who had less than 1 per day.

Next, let's talk teeth. Studies have shown that the bacteria in your teeth love to feed on the sugar that sticks on and between the teeth, producing a type of acid that damages the enamel. Once that enamel is gone, you ain't gettin' it back! Teeth are bone and bone is strong thanks to calcium. One study summarizing 88 other studies found a connection between the consumption of sugar and calcium levels in the body. Food and drinks that are high in sugar provide the body 'empty calories' and negatively affects calcium intake and absorption. If you fill up on pop, you're probably not drinking much milk, right?

Finally, sugar can be highly addictive. Have you ever had a really good piece of cake and told yourself you were only going to have just one slice? Only to find yourself going back for more until you start to feel guilty for eating so much more than planned? We’ve all been there. Our first instinct is to blame our lack of willpower, but there is a growing scientific reasoning behind the strong temptation behind that sugary treat. As soon as that first mouthwatering morsel of cake enters your mouth, a hormonal release of opioids and dopamine happens in our brain, giving you that happy feeling. We chase that feeling, much like addicts chase their next high.

Click the image, above, to explore the sugar content in many common staple foods.

The money's in the sugar!

Manufacturers in today's food industry make it a point to produce and market food that will keep you coming for more. One of the most consumed on-the-go snacks that people love is flavoured (fruit-bottom) yogurt.

If we look at a regular cup of Yoplait with peaches and strawberries, it has a total of 19g of sugar. That is a significant amount, considering it's portion size. Alternatively, Liberte plain Greek yogurt only has 6 grams of sugar per ¾ of a cup. That significant difference is thanks to the addition of added sugars coming from the fruit found in Yoplait yogurt. By comparison, choosing the plain Greek yogurt and adding your own fresh strawberries (100 grams) only contains 4.9 grams of sugar.

Let's look at another favourite... soft drinks. Sprite, for example, has 38 grams of sugar in its standard sized can. That equals almost half the recommended sugar intake for the whole day! A great substitute for this lemon-y drink is an 8.5 ounce can of fruity Perrier water, instead, which has 0 grams of sugar, and only natural flavours.

Wanna kick the cravings?

Here's a 1-day sample meal plan with under 100 grams of sugar...

Serving Size: 2 (4-Inch) Pancakes

Ingredients (per-serving):

1 ½ cups white whole-wheat flour

 ⅓ cup mini chocolate chips

2 teaspoons baking powder

¼ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

1 large egg

1 ½ cups buttermilk

1 cup mashed ripe banana (2-3 medium)

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 tablespoon sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

TOPPING: 1 cup strawberries


  • Step 1: Whisk flour, chocolate chips, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl. Whisk egg, buttermilk, banana, oil, sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients, add the wet ingredients and whisk just until combined. Resist over mixing--it will make the pancakes tough.

  • Step 2: Let the batter sit, without stirring, for 10 to 15 minutes. As the batter rests, the baking powder forms bubbles that create fluffy pancakes and the gluten in the flour relaxes to make them more tender.

  • Step 3: Coat a large nonstick skillet or griddle with cooking spray; heat over medium heat. Without stirring the batter, measure out pancakes using about 1/4 cup batter per pancake and pour into the pan (or onto the griddle). Cook until the edges are dry and you see bubbles on the surface, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until golden brown on the other side, 2 to 4 minutes more. Repeat with the remaining batter, coating the pan with cooking spray and reducing the heat as needed.

Nutrition Facts (per 2 four-inch pancakes):

229.8 calories; protein 6.8g; carbohydrates 36.3g; dietary fibre 3.9g; sugars 12.8g; fat 7.7g; saturated fat 2.3g; cholesterol 28.7mg ; vitamin A 83.8IU; vitamin C 3.3mg; folate 13.5mcg; calcium 146.5mg; iron 4.1mg; magnesium 25.2mg; potassium 269.8mg; sodium 378.5mg; added sugar 6g.

SNACK: Granola with plain Greek yogurt

Serving Size: 1/2 Cup

Ingredients (per serving)

5 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

1 cup unsweetened coconut chips, (see Ingredient Note) or flakes

½ cup sliced almonds

½ cup coarsely chopped pecans

½ cup light brown sugar

⅓ cup unsalted pumpkin seeds

⅓ cup unsalted sunflower seeds

½ cup pure maple syrup

½ cup water

¼ cup canola oil

½ cup dried cranberries

½ cup raisins

¾ cup 5% plain Greek yogurt


  • Step 1: Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

  • Step 2: Combine oats, coconut, almonds, pecans, brown sugar, pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds in a large bowl. Combine syrup, water and oil in a medium bowl or large measuring cup and pour over the oat mixture; stir until well combined. Spread the mixture into a large (12-by-15-inch) roasting pan or large rimmed baking sheet.

  • Step 3: Bake for 45 minutes. Remove from the oven, stir, and continue baking until golden brown and beginning to crisp, about 45 minutes more. Stir in cranberries and raisins. Let cool completely before storing.

Nutrition Facts (per serving):

251.2 calories; protein 5.8g; carbohydrates 31.7g; dietary fibre 3.8g; sugars 14.8g; fat 12.2g; saturated fat 3.1g; vitamin A 1.8IU; vitamin C 0.2mg; folate 7.2mcg; calcium 30.8mg; iron 1.6mg; magnesium 18.7mg; potassium 111.9mg; sodium 3.5mg; added sugar 12g.

Serving Size: About 3 1/4 Cups

Ingredients: (per serving):

2 cups Veggie Crunch Salad

½ cup rinsed canned low-sodium black beans

½ cup diced red bell pepper

2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

2 tablespoons roasted, salted pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette (see associated recipe)


  • Step 1: Pack salad, beans, bell pepper, cilantro and pumpkin seeds in an airtight storage container or large mason jar. Pack vinaigrette separately in a small jar. Just before eating, add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss.

Nutrition Facts (per serving):

404.3 calories; protein 15.7g ; carbohydrates 44.3g; dietary fibre 15.8g ; sugars 10.3g; fat 20.2g ; saturated fat 2.2g; vitamin A 13866.2IU; vitamin C 178.7mg; folate 156.9mcg; calcium 140.5mg; iron 4.6mg; magnesium 186.1mg; potassium 1185.7mg; sodium 418.2mg; thiamin 0.3mg; added sugar 1g.

Serving Size: 1/2 Cup Blueberries, 10 Walnut Halves With 1 Ounce Cheese

Ingredients (per serving)

½ cup blueberries

10 walnut halves

1 ounce Cheddar cheese

1 apple


  • Step 1: Place blueberries, walnuts and cheese on a small plate, or in a sealable container to take on-the-go.

Nutrition Facts (per serving):

287.5 calories; protein 10.1g; carbohydrates 14.3g; dietary fibre 3.1g; sugars 8g; fat 22.7g; saturated fat 6.6g; cholesterol 28.1mg; vitamin A 396.1IU; vitamin C 7.4mg; folate 31.7mcg; calcium 225.3mg; iron 0.8mg; magnesium 43.7mg; potassium 166.7mg; sodium 186.3mg; thiamin 0.1mg.

Serving Size: 4 Oz. Salmon + 1 1/4 Cups Vegetables + 2 Tsp. Sauce

Ingredients (per serving)

3 tablespoons low-fat mayonnaise

1 teaspoon chili powder

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

4 teaspoons olive oil, divided

½ teaspoon salt, divided

¼ teaspoon ground pepper, divided

4 cups broccoli florets (8 oz.; 1 medium crown)

1 ¼ pounds salmon fillet, cut into 4 portions

2 limes, 1 zested and juiced, 1 cut into wedges for serving

¼ cup crumbled feta or cotija cheese

 ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro


  • Step 1: Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with foil and coat with cooking spray.

  • Step 2: Combine mayonnaise and chili powder in a small bowl. Set aside.

  • Step 3: Toss sweet potatoes with 2 tsp. oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper in a medium bowl. Spread on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 15 minutes.

  • Step 4: Meanwhile, toss broccoli with the remaining 2 tsp. oil, 1/4 tsp. salt, and 1/8 tsp. pepper in the same bowl. Remove the baking sheet from oven. Stir the sweet potatoes and move them to the sides of the pan. Arrange salmon in the center of the pan and spread the broccoli on either side, among the sweet potatoes. Spread 2 Tbsp. of the mayonnaise mixture over the salmon. Bake until the sweet potatoes are tender and the salmon flakes easily with a fork, about 15 minutes.

  • Step 5: Meanwhile, add lime zest and lime juice to the remaining 1 Tbsp. mayonnaise; mix well.

  • Step 6: Divide the salmon among 4 plates and top with cheese and cilantro. Divide the sweet potatoes and broccoli among the plates and drizzle with the lime-mayonnaise sauce. Serve with lime wedges and any remaining sauce.

Nutrition Facts (per serving):

504 calories; protein 34g; carbohydrates 34g; dietary fibre 7g; sugars 7g; fat 26g; saturated fat 6g; cholesterol 83mg; vitamin A -1IU; vitamin C -1mg; folate -1mcg; calcium -1mg; iron -1mg; magnesium -1mg; potassium 1211mg 34%; sodium 642mg; thiamin -1mg.

57 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page