By David Zinczenko, ABC News Nutrition & Wellness Editor
Imagine if every day of the year were Halloween.
Sounds kinda cool at first, right? You get to dress up in cool costumes and tell ghost stories and watch little kids having a great time. But after a while - say, about a week of eating miniature Butterfingers and listening to "Monster Mash" a dozen times a day, you'd get pretty sick of it.
Well, nutritionally at least, every day IS Halloween. Because while we may think of that one or two (or seven) pieces of candy as a once-a-year sugar high, the fact is, we're already overindulging in sugar on a daily basis.
The American Heart Association wants us to have no more than 25 grams, or about 6 sugar packets worth, of sugar a day for women, and no more than 38 grams, or 9 packets worth, for men. That ought to be easy, right? How hard is it to limit yourself - or your children - to 6 sugar packets a day?
A lot harder than you think. For example, let's say your kids want something simple for lunch today, and you're watching their sugar intake. You take two slices of Sara Lee Hearty & Delicious 100% Whole Wheat Bread, spread on a serving of JIF Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread, and then add some Smucker's Low Sugar Strawberry Preserves. Gotta be healthy, right? But you have just made a 100% Whole Wheat Reduced Fat Low Sugar PB&J - with 19 grams of sugar, or nearly 80 percent of what a woman should eat in a day. (The surprising culprits: The bread has 10 grams per serving, and the peanut butter spread has 4.)
The reason is that sugar is everywhere - including places it doesn't belong, like our bread, in our peanut butter, our ketchup, even our salad dressing! Here's how modern food marketers are making every day Halloween.
Let's say you start your day off with a Starbucks Grande 2% Latte (17 g sugar) and a Pumpkin Scone (43 g sugar). That's 60 grams of sugar, or the sugar equivalent of 18 Tootsie Rolls.
Then for lunch you have the Black Forest Ham and Cheddar sandwich (24 grams sugar) and a medium sweet iced tea (64 g sugar) at Au Bon Pain. That's 88 grams of sugar or 13 snack size Mounds bars.
Then for dinner you go to Chili's and have the Hot Spinach & Artichoke Dip appetizer (7 grams sugar), the Caribbean Salad w/ Grilled Chicken (67 grams sugar), and a lemonade (52 grams of sugar). That's 126 grams of sugar or 25 Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups.
Your total grams of sugar for the day? 274 grams of sugar or 46 snack-sized Twizzlers.
David Zinczenko is ABC News Nutrition and Wellness Editor and the author of "Eat It to Beat It!" To discover more hidden sources of sugar, and how to lose weight by skipping other ingredients in our everyday food, check out "Eat It to Beat It!" here.