Doughnuts: be sugar smart

Amy Wood - Nutritionist | 03 Jun, 2022

There really is a day for everything - apparently Friday 3rd June is National Doughnut Day! So I thought I'd put doughnuts under the nutrition spotlight.

An important benefit of calorie and nutrient tracking is that you learn about the nutritional benefit of different foods. If your goal is to lose weight, it's not solely about how many calories you eat (although that is crucial), it's also about choosing foods that give your body quality calories. Our message is to strike the right balance: if you eat nutritious foods the majority of the time, you can have more indulgent foods occasionally – the 80:20 rule. Sweet treats don't have to be completely cut out of your diet, but it's important to be aware of exactly what's in the food you are eating, as sugar and fat are nutrients we can easily overconsume, and we know this has a negative effect on our health.

When it comes to foods like doughnuts, alongside high levels of fat, the main nutrient to be aware of is sugar – specifically free sugar. This is the kind added to foods like baked goods, breakfast cereals, sauces, ice cream, yoghurts and soft drinks.

Once eaten, free sugar absorbs rapidly into the bloodstream, causing a sharp spike in blood sugar. The body releases insulin to combat this rise, leading to a subsequent sugar crash and cravings for more sugar. This cycle can make it challenging for those trying to lose weight – more cravings = more unnecessary snacking. And of course, sweet foods like doughnuts trigger the pleasure centres in our brains, which together with a blood sugar dip, can seriously test your willpower to stop at one!

The government recommends that we aim to keep our intake of free sugars to a maximum of 5% of our energy intake. So for most people eating around 2000 calories a day, this equates to 25g of free sugar a day, which tends to be the figure quoted the most. To put this into context, we've picked out 6 doughnuts with a slightly lower sugar content, as well as six of the most sugary options to illustrate how easy it is to exceed that 25g figure in just one small doughnut!

Remember! The percentages listed are based on a 2000-calorie diet. If your calorie target is set even lower, your free sugar allowance will also be lower. For example, a 1400-calorie diet would mean a free sugar limit of 17.5g!


Least sugary

Most sugary

Co-op Bakery Custard Doughnut
177kcals, 6g sugar
24% of daily free sugar intake

Morrisons Bakery Toffee Apple Doughnut
437kcals, 41.2g sugar
165% of daily free sugar intake

McDonald's Sugar Doughnut
195kcals, 6g sugar
24% of daily free sugar intake

Morrisons Bakery Loaded Lemon Doughnut
394kcals, 38.1g sugar
152% of daily free sugar intake

Tesco Jam Doughnut
225kcals, 6.7g sugar
27% of daily free sugar intake

Krispy Kreme Mint Choc Chip Doughnut
340kcals, 32.8g sugar
131% of daily free sugar intake

McDonald's Millionaire’s Doughnut
250kcals, 8.6g sugar
34% of daily free sugar intake

Tim Horton’s Cookie Dough Doughnut
450kcals, 29.6g sugar
118% of daily free sugar intake

Dunkin' Boston Kreme Doughnut
272kcals, 9.6g sugar
38% of daily free sugar intake

Costa Salted Caramel Doughnut
386kcals, 29.3g sugar
117% of daily free sugar intake

Morrisons Bakery Lemon Doughnut
219kcals, 10.3g sugar
41% of daily free sugar intake

Krispy Kreme Cookies and Kreme Doughnut
354kcals, 29.3g sugar
117% of daily free sugar intake

Nutritionist Amy Wood (ANutr), MSci BSc Nutrition has a keen interest in the relationship between diet and health. Having been published in the European Journal of Nutrition, Amy is passionate about making evidence-based nutrition accessible to everyone and helping others to adopt a food-focused approach to taking control of their health.

This site uses cookies to personalise content and ads, provide social media features and analyse our traffic. Find out more about how we use cookies.

Choose which cookies you allow us to use. You can read more about our Cookie Policy in our Privacy Policy.