How to convert grams of sugars into teaspoons

Learn how to accurately interpret the nutrition facts on a food product by converting grams into more familiar household measurements.

Spoon of sugar. Photo via Creative Commons license via Wikimedia user APN MJM
Spoon of sugar. Photo via Creative Commons license via Wikimedia user APN MJM

The Nutrition Facts label on food products lists key nutrients, serving size, and calorie information based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Consumers can easily use the nutrition information to compare different foods and select foods that align with their healthy eating pattern, and stay within their individual daily calorie allowance. Conveniently many food manufacturers list the nutrition facts for a single serving and the entire container, such as for beverages. This additional product specific information is beneficial to guide food decisions.

Carbohydrates, a key nutrient, are listed on the nutrition facts label. Sugars, both naturally occurring sugar and added sugar, are carbohydrates and are listed under total carbohydrates, along with dietary fiber. Naturally occurring sugars include fructose found in fruits as well as lactose found in milk and milk products. Added sugars and syrups are added to a food or beverage during their preparation and processing and these include white sugar, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, fruit nectars, malt syrup, fructose and dextrose.

When you look at the nutrition facts label you will notice the amount of natural and added sugars are listed as grams and for many people this measurement is not familiar, or easy to interpret. Grams are a metric measurement of weight whereas a teaspoon, a more common measurement in America, is a measurement of volume, not weight. Learning how to convert grams into teaspoons can be a helpful tool in determining how much sugar you are consuming throughout the day.  

Look at the nutrition facts label on a package of white sugar or brown sugar, the serving size is one teaspoon. Sliding down the label to the total carbohydrates it reads sugars “4g,” or “4 grams.” This important bit of information is your key to converting grams into teaspoons. Four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon. To be precise, 4.2 grams equals a teaspoon, but the nutrition facts rounds this number down to four grams. 

 Sugars: 4 grams equals 1 teaspoon

Using this equation you can easily look at any food product to see how much sugar it contains. You simply identify the grams of sugar listed, either for one serving or per container, and convert this quantity into teaspoons; simply divide the grams by four. Michigan State University Extension finds that this conversion helps visualize how many teaspoons of sugar are actually being consumed or drank and helps guide overall food choices to reduce excess empty calories.

The chart below compares a 20-ounce sugary beverage to demonstrate how to convert grams into teaspoons. Column 1 shows the sugar content based on drinking 8 ounces, column 2 shows 16 ounces, and column 3 shows 20 ounces, the entire container.

Column 1

Column 2

Column 3

Beverage = 8 ounces (1 cup)

Beverage =16 ounce (2 cups)

Beverage =20 ounces (entire container)

Calories: 110

Calories: 220

Calories: 330

Sugars: 28 grams

Sugars: 56 grams

Sugars: 70 grams

Conversion: 28 grams divided by 4 = 7 teaspoons of sugars

Conversion: 56 grams divided by 4 = 14 teaspoons of sugar

Conversion: 70 grams divided by 4 = 17 ½ teaspoons of sugar                     

If you drank the entire 20-ounce beverage you would have consumed 17 ½ teaspoons of sugar. Visualize filling a teaspoon 17 ½ times with white sugar and pouring it into a glass that is a significant amount of sugar. As the example above shows beverages can be a major source of added sugars; found in high quantities in soda, energy drinks, sports drinks, and sweetened coffee and tea. Consider replacing sweetened foods and beverages with foods that have no, or are low in added sugar; this will lower your calorie intake.

Always be mindful of the amount of sugar, especially added sugars found in packaged foods, you eat and drink throughout the day. The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends limiting calories from added sugar, and shift to foods and beverages that are nutrient-dense. The nutrition facts label is an essential tool to identify the nutrients like carbohydrates particularly added sugars. Use the grams to teaspoon conversion to know for certain how much sugar you are consuming. Grams and teaspoons of sugar may seem small and insignificant but they add up quickly. Arm yourself with the knowledge necessary to maintain your healthy eating goals. 

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