Choose fruit for dessert! Making that choice doesn't mean that you have to give up delicious desserts forever -- it just means that you need to get creative. Fruit desserts can be amazing and tasty showstoppers too. Plus, fruit desserts offer way more nutrients and way less added sugar than traditional desserts.
Why would you want to cut back on sugar? Well...
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, “Americans currently consume [...] too many calories from [...] added sugars [...]. These replace nutrient-dense foods and beverages and make it difficult for people to achieve recommended nutrient intake while controlling calorie and sodium intake. A healthy eating pattern limits intake of [...] added sugars” (ix).
There are two kinds of sugars -- those present naturally in foods, like the sugars you would find in a piece of fruit or glass of milk, and those added to foods separately, like the sugars you would find in a donut or a sweetened cup of coffee. The body reacts to these sets of sugars in the same way, but the difference between them lies in how they get to the body. Naturally-occurring sugars are part of foods that often contain many vital nutrients. For example, an apple contains sugar, but it also contains a range of nutrients -- and fiber to boot. Added sugars, on the other hand, are often part of foods that contain very little of nutritional value. Many of these foods are also rather calorie-dense. For example, a 12 ounce serving of Coca-Cola contains 39 grams of sugar and no vitamins at all. Although it seems to be empty of nutrients, that single serving contains 140 calories, most of them from sugar.
According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, added sugars make up an average of 16% of the total calories in American diets. Think about it -- 16% of what Americans are eating are almost totally bereft of nutrients but still packed with calories!
One of the major concerns about “too high” added sugar consumption is that the calories from these foods displace calories from other foods that offer vital nutrients. Basically, if you eat a piece of chocolate cake, you’ll have less room for a healthful salad. By filling up on empty calories, people would have less room for the calories from more nutritious foods. Either they would not get the nutrients they need, but they would still stay within their daily calorie allotment, or they would exceed their daily calorie allotment in order to get the nutrients they need. Either way is not great, and of course there is always the concern that people would eat too many calories in a day and still not meet their own nutrient needs. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans assert, “Solid fats and added sugars are consumed in excessive amounts, and their intake should be limited. Together, they contribute a substantial portion of the calories consumed by Americans—35 percent on average, or nearly 800 calories per day—without contributing importantly to overall nutrient adequacy of the diet.”
So, what should people do about this situation? We recommend finding major sources of added sugars and removing them from the diet, or at least greatly reducing their daily presence. Replace these foods with healthful, nutrient-dense options. What kind of options, you ask? Well, that’s where fruit comes in...
One of the key recommendations of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans is to increase fruit and vegetable intake. The reasons for this recommendation are threefold...
1) Fruits and vegetables are rich in vital nutrients. Many of these nutrients are missing from the typical American diet. According to the guidelines, the underconsumed nutrients that are present in fruits and vegetables include “folate, magnesium, potassium, dietary fiber, and vitamins A, C, and K” (35).
2) Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables can decrease a person’s risk of disease, especially cardiovascular disease and possibly even certain types of cancers.
3) The Dietary Guidelines for Americans assert, “most vegetables and fruits, when prepared without added fats or sugars, are relatively low in calories. Eating them instead of higher calorie foods can help adults and children achieve and maintain a healthy weight”(36). Since over 2/3 of Americans are overweight or obese, using fruits and vegetables to combat obesity and manage weight just makes sense.
Right now, most Americans are not consuming as many fruits as they should. This inadequate intake is reflected by nutrient deficiencies. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that people “Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products” (34).
So, based on the assertions of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, most Americans need to increase their consumption of fruits and decrease their consumption of added sugars.
Want to take action today? Download our free eBook, Fruit Tooth, or check out a few of the recipes below...
- Chocolate Mousse with Berries
- Watermelon Cake
- Chocolate Dipped Strawberries
- Berry Tostada
- Fruit with Peach Dip
- Cherry Apple Skillet Pie
- Blackberries Jubilee
There's always more in the Nutrition Education Store! We've got just the right resources for you!
Stephanie Ronco has been editing for Food and Health Communications since 2011. She graduated from Colorado College magna cum laude with distinction in Comparative Literature. She was elected a member of Phi Beta Kappa in 2008.