We have all heard that sugar is not our nutritional friend – adding nutrient-less calories to our diet and adding fuel to our sweet tooth, and some argue that the amount of sugar added to most foods Americans eat is one of the primary reasons for the obesity epidemic.
According to the American Heart Association, Americans down about 22 teaspoons of the sweet stuff every day, and multiplying that to the yearly intake, Women’s Health Magazine tells us if you’re currently taking in more than 120,000 sugar calories each year—as is the average American—then you’re adding 35 pounds of sugar-induced flab to your body annually!
Let’s be honest: if you’re reading this, you’re probably relatively conscious of your sugar intake, monitoring to keep it in moderation (i.e. a brownie or cookie is not going to do damage – but I’ll try not to binge on 8 :)). However, it turns out that for most of us, those sugary desserts are actually not the main source of our sugar intake! That’s right, sugar has been snuck into many seemingly harmless, or even seemingly healthy, foods we may be eating everyday!
Women’s Health Magazine has pulled together the Top 9 Sneaky Sources of Sugar in our Diets, so we can arm ourselves! The moral of the story here is simple: check the nutrition labels – but don’t just look at the calories and fat…if these are low, watch for companies making them taste “good” by adding huge amounts of sugar (or sodium, but that’s a whole other blog!).
#9: Asian Sauces (American versions!): WH tells us the sauce varieties that turn an ordinary meal into a teriyaki, sesame or sweet and sour delight that we pick up at the grocery store are one of the top sources of sneaky sugar! Check the nutrition label for ingredients like corn syrup and high-fructose corn syrup, and watch out for anything that ends in “-ose” (dextrose, maltose). These are all forms of sugar.
Instead of: La Choy Teriyaki Marinade & Sauce (1 Tbsp)
0 g fat
8 g sugars
#8: Fruit Spreads: Ah, the peanut butter and jelly…childhood friend…or foe?? WH tells us “Smucker’s, for instance, packs three different sweeteners into its classic Strawberry jam. Why three? Because if the company used only one, it would have to list “sugar” as the first item on the ingredient statement. By spreading the impact over three sweeteners, it can push fruit to the top of the ingredient list and hide the sweeteners below. It’s a common trick used by food processors to make their products look healthier than they are. Just remember that fruit is its own natural sweetener. Opt for an unadulterated version like Polaner’s All Fruit spreads, which—true to name—contain nothing more than fruit and fruit juice.”
Instead of: Smucker’s Strawberry Jam (1 Tbsp)
0 g fat
12 g sugars
#7: Light Salad Dressings: Talk about sneaky! In an effort to be healthier, one switches from full-fat salad dressing (which can convert even the most innocent salad greens into caloric monsters) to light dressing, feeling so proud of the decision! Turns out, many salad dressing makers take out the fat but then add in sugar to keep it tasting good (remember, if something tastes too good to be healthy….it probably is!)! WH reveals that this Ken’s light salad dressing has as much sugar per serving as ice cream does per scoop! Moral of the story: check your labels!
Instead of: Ken’s Steak House Fat Free Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette (2 Tbsp)
0 g fat
12 g sugars
#6: Spaghetti Sauce: Come on guys, tomatoes are naturally sweet – is it really necessary to sneak sugar into our spaghetti sauce, too? Turns out when you use cheaper ingredients (dehydrated vegetables, cheap vegetable oil), the sauce doesn’t taste as good – so yes, companies feel they need to add sugar to make store-bought spaghetti sauces taste delicious! It’s worth it to spend a little more and read your ingredient label (this Francesco Rinaldi sauce lists sugar as the #2 ingredient) and shoot for pure, wholesome ingredients – and no sugar added.
Instead of: Francesco Rinaldi Traditional Pasta Sauce, Original (1/2 cup)
3 g fat (0 g saturated)
11 g sugars
#5: Oatmeal: Ok, what? We know oatmeal has been linked to lowered cholesterol and a healthy heart – but now we need to watch how much we eat? Yes, if in fact you’re not eating whole oats. Companies love to use the gimmick of the health-aspect to sell the more delicious sugary varieties – you’ll probably eat more of it and start to crave your sugar fix! It’s one thing to add a sprinkle of brown sugar to your oatmeal, but this Quaker Oatmeal actually contains as much sugar as two actual cinnamon rolls, essentially kicking off your day with a dessert!
Instead of: Quaker Oatmeal Express Cinnamon Roll
2.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated)
17 g sugars
#4: “Wheat” Bread: Whole grains: great for you. They keep you full longer, helping you eat less and improve your heart health. However, there’s a distinction you need to make sure you see when buying your whole grain products: that word whole. Companies call things “wheat” all the time, leaving out the “whole” part, which means enriched flour is likely the first ingredient – no whole grains at all – so it’s refined carbs and likely quite a bit of sugar to make it taste better! So your daily sandwich, which wouldn’t typically be filed under your “sweets” category, could actually just be delivering you a few extra servings of refined carbs and sugar, minus the complex-carb, hunger-fighting, heart-helping addition you would get from whole grains.
WH found the best example of this sneaky tactic: the “Honey Wheat” bread Arby’s uses on its Market Fresh sandwiches is not whole wheat (enriched flour is the first ingredient) and contains 15 grams (!) of sugar in every two slices. That’s more sugar than you’ll find in a Hostess Ho Ho!
12 g fat (2 g saturated)
9 g sugars
Instead of: Arby’s Market Fresh Roast Turkey and Swiss Sandwich
28 g fat (7 g saturated)
18 g sugars
#3: Yogurt: This just keeps getting worse! Eat a yogurt, feel like you ate something good for you! Unfortunately, this is not always true, as many yogurt companies add sugar to their “light” fruit-flavored yogurts, giving them as much sugar as candy!
Your best bet? Top plain yogurt with nature’s own sweeteners, like strawberries and blueberries. If you like it in pre-packaged form, here’s your best swap:
Instead of: Yoplait Original 99% Fat Free, Harvest Peach (6 oz, 1 container)
1.5 g fat (1 g saturated)
26 g sugars
#2: Frozen dinners: What you really want to watch out for here are the nutrition labels on “light” dinner options – when they remove the fat/calories, companies often supplement with sugar (and sodium) to keep your taste buds happy. The front of this Lean Cuisine box looks fabulous – pretty low in calories, fat and carbs – but don’t ever forget to turn the box over to check the back. The sugar in this meal per serving takes it into dessert-zone!
Instead of: Lean Cuisine Roasted Turkey Breast
4 g fat (1 g saturated)
27 g sugars
#1: Bottled teas: Once again, companies are capitalizing on the fabulous press tea gets: the disease-fighting antioxidants are a great addition to your daily beverage intake, right? Generally, yes. But unsweetened tea isn’t always the most palatable item, so many tea-makers pump in sugar to make it more delicious…but this Arizona green tea with honey (sounds healthy enough, right?) actually contains more sugar than a Snicker’s bar!
If you can’t get yourself to drink an unsweetened variety, make at home and add your own slight bit of sweetener, or
Instead of: AriZona Green Tea with Ginseng & Honey (16 oz bottle)
0 g fat
34 g sugars
Thanks to Women’s Health Magazine for their research, and to see the full slideshow and commentary on their website, click here!