This delightful letter arrived a few weeks ago:
“Dear Ms. Quinn, I truly enjoy and value your column. I learn so much from your writing, even if I can’t always follow your advice as much as I would like to.
“I am a war baby and blame all my bad eating habits on the war, since there was so much we couldn’t get. When the war ended and sugar became available, the British population (including me!) went crazy, and to this day, I now I eat far too much sugar.
“When I am home in my beloved Wales, many drivers have their glove compartments packed with candy. As they drive, they say, “Would you like a sweet now?” I never say no.
“Other than this, I am 82 years old and very fit for my age. My five brothers still call me Olive Oil (never Olivia). Growing up, they thought I was truly like her — tall, with funny knees, and awkward. I think I still possess those qualities.
“Despite my sugar craving, I am 5’5” tall and weigh 119 pounds most days. I am a swimmer (not fast, though) and love water aerobics.
“This brings me to my question. I drink a lot of tea, about four cups daily. And I have to have it with creamer and sugar. I also eat daily desserts.
“A few health nut friends have told me that the powdered creamer is definitely bad for me, but I dislike milk in tea because it cools it too much.
“Please could you give me your opinion on this? Most sincerely,
Olivia Morgan (A sugar addict)
Dietary experts advise us to “consume an eating pattern low in added sugars.” This generally means we should eat a healthful diet and reserve not more than 10% of our daily calories for added sweets.
At your age, weight and activity level, you could be eating around 1,800 calories a day. If so — assuming the rest of your diet is well balanced — you may have about 180 calories each day to spend on your treasured sweets.
If you “have to have” creamer and sugar with your tea, remember that each teaspoon of sugar is 16 calories. If you use one teaspoon in each of your four cups of tea, that will use 64 calories of your daily sugar allowance. That leaves a little over 100 calories a day for the rest of your sweets if you are not also using a creamer that contains added sugar. Be choosy.
I’d agree there are better choices than many of the powdered creamers made from corn syrup solids and hydrogenated fats. Perhaps warm your milk before adding it to your tea? Heating enhances milk’s natural sweetness, say experts. Or check out some of the real milk and cream products with no added sugar like Mini Moo’s that come in individual portions and do not need to be refrigerated.
That said, you must be doing something right to be such a fit 82 year-old. Perhaps the best way to soothe your sugar addiction is to simply eat your beloved sweets in smaller portions. Thanks for writing.
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.