By: Jen Ashley
The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports the average American consumes more than 150 pounds of sugar a year. Experts say that means Americans are getting too much sugar every day of the year, not just during the holidays. And the long-term consequences don't taste so sweet.
"In general, excess sugars are stored as fat. That means as Americans are eating sugar, they are gaining weight and becoming more obese," said Dr. Karen McGee, Clinical Assistant Professor and Certified Diabetes Educator at USC.
McGee says a big part of that consumption comes from soft drinks. One 20 oz bottle of Coca Cola, for instance, contains about double the recommended amount of daily sugar intake.
And soda is just one of the more obvious sources of sugar. The sweet ingredient can be found hidden in all kinds of places you may not expect- such as in flavored yogurts, cereals and even in salad dressings. But there are certain clues consumers can look for when determining which snacks to avoid.
"For example, people think smoothies [are healthy]. Like if you buy a bottled smoothie, it's going to be healthier. Oh, beware. If that first ingredient says sugar, there's probably too much sugar in that," said Tina Devlin, Associate Director of Campus Wellness for faculty and staff at USC.
Beyond those personal choices, though, Devlin says a big part of the issue when it comes to American sugar consumption are the policies that are currently in place.
"Do we have policies that are encouraging the consumption of sugary foods or do we have policies in place that are encouraging healthier choices?" said Devlin.
One initiative at USC is to not only offer healthy options in vending machines, but also to label them. Vending machines around campus now have a 'healthy' side that is labeled, which Devlin believes will help students make better choices when it comes to picking healthy snacks.
Devlin also maintains that one of the easiest ways you can cut sugar out of your diet is to avoid soda and other sugary drinks.
So even after you've put away those holiday decorations, keep in mind that added sugars will still be around for the new year.