While there’s a lot of confusion and mixed messages when it comes to nutrition, the consensus is clear as day when it comes to added sugar: Too much is bad news for your health (and waistline). When consumed in excess, added sugars contribute to obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and a host of undesirable outcomes, such as:

  • Acne
  • Wrinkles and other signs of older-looking skin
  • Cellular aging
  • Brain fog
  • Increased risk of dementia
  • Decreased energy levels
  • Poor blood glucose control (e.g., blood sugar swings)
  • Depression
  • Cavities
  • Fatty liver
  • Increased risk of cancer
  • Increased risk of gout
  • Increased risk of kidney disease
  • And more

How much is too much? On average, Americans consume about 67 grams of added sugar daily (that’s about 17 teaspoons per day and nearly 57 pounds per year!). This far exceeds the American Heart Association’s recommendation of 25 – 38 grams per day of added sugars, which are truly empty calories (meaning they provide calories but no nutritive value). Meanwhile the World Health Organization recommends keeping added sugars to less than 5% of total daily calories, which is roughly 25 grams.

But rather than get caught up in the numbers game, here are 12 telltale signs you’re eating too much sugar:

  1. You’re constantly hungry—even shortly after eating.
  2. You crave sweet foods.
  3. You’re often tired—even after a good night’s sleep—and feel sluggish throughout the day.
  4. You notice that your energy levels swing up and down throughout the day (and you often seek sugary foods as a “pick-me-up.”
  5. Your skin is dry, or on the flip side, you keep breaking out.
  6. You struggle with brain fog, especially after eating.
  7. You often find yourself irritable and anxious.
  8. You’ve been packing on some extra pounds.
  9. Your recent dental history has been less than desirable (e.g., cavities).
  10. Foods don’t taste as sweet as they used to, and you find yourself needing more of the sweet stuff to satisfy those sweet-tooth cravings.
  11. Your muscles ache and joints are stiff.
  12. You catch upper respiratory tract infections (e.g., cold, flu) more often.

If any of these signs sound all too familiar, some more tips to help cut back if you think you’re eating too much sugar:

  • Ditch the sodas, fruit juices, sweet teas, etc., and replace them with plain water, fruit-infused water, or unsweetened sparking water.
  • Tempt your taste buds with fresh fruits, especially low-sugar berries, which (besides being delicious and satisfying on their own) can be added to protein-rich smoothies, mixed into plain yogurt, and even added to salads and salad dressings.
  • Use a natural, calorie-free sweetener like stevia, erythritol, xylitol (be careful to keep this away from your pets as it is highly toxic for dogs), monk fruit, or yacon syrup. Start with small amounts as these may cause digestive issues for some.
  • Watch out for artificial sweeteners, however, as they come with a whole other set of issues.
  • Check labels and avoid marinades, ketchups, and sauces with added sugars.
  • Swap out your cereal or granola for plain oatmeal topped with berries.

And of course, always read nutrition labels carefully for hidden sources of added sugars, and beware of the following foods, which are typically loaded with added sugars include:

  • Sodas
  • Energy Drinks
  • Sports Drinks
  • Chocolate Milk
  • Flavored Coffees
  • Iced Tea
  • Vitamin-enhanced Water
  • Candies
  • Chocolate
  • Fruit Drinks and Punch
  • Cakes
  • Pies
  • Cookies
  • Brownies and Blondies
  • Sweet Rolls and Pastries
  • Ice Cream
  • Frozen Yogurt
  • Crackers
  • Yogurt
  • Ketchup
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Spaghetti Sauce
  • Pizza
  • Baked Beans
  • Canned or Pre-made Soup
  • Cereal (including Granola) and Cereal Bars
  • Peanut Butter (and other Nut Butters)
  • Protein Bars
  • Bottled Smoothies

I realize that is a mighty long list… however, the goal is to become aware and cut back where you can