Michael Glab MS, RD, LDN
Nutrition Advice For All
Updated: Mar 30, 2020
Whenever I chat with hospital patients, clients at my private practice, friends, family, athletes, healthy people, sick people, rich, middle class or poor, the one piece of advice I give that applies to everyone is this:
“Limit added sugars and limit processed vegetable oils.”
Added sugars include sucrose (table sugar or white sugar), corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, honey, maple syrup and on and on. Highly processed vegetable oils, usually used for frying, include canola, corn, peanut, soybean, sesame, sunflower, safflower and grapeseed oil.
My nutrition philosophy is that any added sugar or vegetable/seed oil requires extensive processing or extraction using chemical solvents then it’s probably not something that we as humans should be putting in our bodies on a daily basis.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting added sugars to 10% of daily caloric intake. For a 2000 calorie per day diet that comes out to 50 grams of added sugar (or 12.5 teaspoons). The American Heart Association recommends even less: 9 teaspoons per day for men and 6 teaspoons per day for women.
Personally, I’d recommend no more than 6 teaspoons per day for men and women! However it's understandable why these recommendations seem so high. For example, the 100% whole wheat bread I use has 3 grams sugar per slice. So for each sandwich I eat that’s 1.5 teaspoons added sugar! It definitely adds up very quick!
Choosemyplate.gov recommends limiting cooking oils to 3 teaspoons per day, which is approximately 120 calories. While this is a decent base guideline, I’d add that the quality of the oil depends just as much as the recommended amount above. Olive oil and avocado oil are great for everyday use as these oil are expeller pressed, which does not require the use of solvents and chemicals. They are also heart healthy oils. Coconut oil is another good choice, however it’s not the best for everyday use due to its high saturated fat content. I recommend consuming all other vegetable and seeds oils very sparingly (1-2 times per month max). On top of this, any trans-fats (listed as partially hydrogenated oil on the ingredients list of foods) should be avoided entirely.
In summary, I recommend limiting added sugars to 6 teaspoons per day or less and to follow the MyPlate recommendation of 3 teaspoons of oil per day, but using olive or avocado oil over all other vegetable and seed oils. Obviously there will be days where you go over or splurge and that's ok! Just remember to follow these sugar and oil recommendations 90% of the time and you’ll be doing great!