ask our dietitian your question today


How much sugar should I have per day?

–Michael S.



There is no set requirement on sugar intake. On its own, it doesn’t provide any micronutrients so it is not necessary to consume any.

Sugar comes in many ways. Naturally it comes in fruits, milk products and some vegetables. However, very little sugar comes in pure grains, and no sugar comes in 100% fat or protein. If you were to eat a wholesome, minimally processed diet of lean meats, whole grains, fresh produce, low-fat dairy and plant fats, the natural sugar consumed shouldn’t be a concern. The concern can come when you eat bakery products, bars, smoothies, fruited yogurt, entrees with sauce, and condiments — as the sugar consumed can top the charts — even without dessert!

Technically speaking, your added sugar intake should be no more than half of your discretionary calories, according to the American Heart Association. After you’ve met your nutrient goals with healthy foods, the remaining calories can be split between fat, added sugar, and alcohol. The World Health Organization agrees that no more than 5% of your calories should come from added sugars. So if you eat 2500 calories, then 125 could come from added sugar. At four calories per gram, that equates to about 31 grams (or 8 teaspoons), or approximately the amount in one 12 fl oz soda.

Let’s lay it out with a sample 2500 calorie diet of lightly processed foods:


FOOD ITEM                               APPROX. SUGAR CONTENT

1 cup wheat flake cereal        4 grams added

8 fl oz low fat milk                   13 grams natural

1 banana                                    15 grams natural

2 Tbsp flavored creamer       10 grams added

Coffee                                            0                                 

6 tuna salad sub                       8 grams (3 natural)

Iced tea with lemon                  0

Bag of chips                                2 grams added           

Apple                                          18 grams natural

2 Tbsp Peanut butter              3 grams added           

1 cup cooked spaghetti         1 gram natural

½ cup marinara                         8 grams (3 natural)

1 cup small meatballs             0

2 Tbsp Parmesan cheese       0

1 cup green beans                  2 grams natural           

84 grams total sugar:  29 grams added = 116 calories = 4.6% calories

55 grams natural


As you can see, it’s easy to quickly meet the recommended limit for added sugar when you are consuming 2500 calories per day. For a 2000 calorie diet, the chips and creamer would have to be eliminated to stay under the 5% calorie mark. Imagine the sugar content of a typical instant breakfast, drive-through lunch, and frozen food dinner lifestyle!

– Debbie J., MS, RD

Do you have a question about your diet or nutrition?

Ask our dietitian by submitting your question to or simply ask it in the COMMENTS section below. To learn how to follow the “Ask Our Dietitian” Q&A CLICK HERE!

Debbie James is a registered dietitian. Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or recommendations of Fitness International, LLC.



Be the first to know about exclusive

content, deals and promotions

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This