So you think you’re eating healthy foods, huh? You might be, but added sugars are lurking in the shadows of many of foods claiming to be health foods. The labels are usually very luring, claiming to be fat-free, organic, or gluten free, but what do they have to say about added sugar? We’re here to point out the top 7 health foods to look out for that are loaded with added sugars!
But first, what is added sugar anyway?
Many of you may be asking, “what is added sugar?” Added sugar is sugar or sugar products (i.e syrups) that are added into foods during processing. They are different from the sugars that naturally occur in foods like fruits. However, do keep in mind that natural sugars and added sugars process are both metabolized and contribute towards our total energy intake. The bonus with natural sugars is that they provide vitamins, minerals, and fiber versus added sugars, which will give you the calories with not much else.
Common names for sugar on the ingredient label:
When checking the labels, added sugars can be called a lot of different names. Some of the most common names are: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, malt syrup, maltose, molasses, among others.
How much is too much?
The recommended daily amount of added sugars for women is 25 grams and 37 grams for men. This is about 6-9 teaspoons of sugar. The average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar a day (eek). Too much added sugar increases risk for type II diabetes, weight gain, and other chronic diseases, which is why it’s important we limit our intake. And now…
Yogurt is one of the top contributors of added sugars in foods promoted as healthy. Yogurt is an excellent food to add to our diets for the protein, vitamins, and minerals. Though yogurt has naturally containing sugar from the lactose, it is often flavored with added sugars and fruit preserves. Some yogurts have up to 25 grams of sugar. Be sure to check the labels when purchasing. Avoid yogurts with fruit in the bottom or with added toppings. We recommend plain Greek yogurt. You can add some sweetness and crunch by slicing in your own fruit and topping with nuts and seeds. Check out our Crunchy Fruit and Greek Yogurt Parfait for recipe inspo!
Granola is a sneaky one. Half a cup of granola can have more than 12 grams of sugar. Not to mention, many granolas add dried fruit, chocolate, or other sugar containing ingredients. Make your own batch of granola at home to control the amount of sugar it contains, and store in a mason jar to have on hand. Try our Coconut Chia Granola or our Almond Pumpkin Seed Coconut Granola!
Many of our patients don’t realize that fruit juices are loaded with sugar. That includes cold pressed, all natural, and 100% fruit juice. One serving can have up to 20-30 grams of sugar per bottle. We always tell people that it’s better to eat vs drink the fruit. If you’re craving something refreshing, opt for a well-balanced smoothie like our Creamy Spirulina Green Smoothie that we balance out by adding spinach, blueberries, banana, spirulina, avocado, and almond milk.
Protein bars, nut bars, or granola bars can all be loaded with sugar. Though they can be convenient, some could have as much sugar as a candy bar. For this reason, we don’t recommend many bars. One of our favorite brands, however, is the Kind Bar (specifically from the Nut and Spice line), which contain 5 grams of sugar or less per serving. You can also make your own bars at home like our Reduced Calorie Blueberry Oat Bars or grab a handful of nuts if you’re looking for something quick and filling.
So you’re taking a great step by choosing the salad. But what are you dousing it in? Salad dressings are known for having added fats, but how about the added sugars? Salad dressings can have high fructose corn syrup that can add over 10 grams of sugar per serving. Making your own is almost always your best (and cheapest!) bet. Give our Creamy Mint Infused Avocado Dressing a try! Balsamic vinegar and a bit of olive oil always does the trick too when dressing your greens.
Oatmeal is an excellent source of whole grains and can be a healthier option than many of the cereals on the shelf. But instant oatmeal packets are often flavored with brown sugar or other sweeteners. We suggest (you guessed it) making your own oatmeal. It is more cost effective than buying individual packets and will save you some sugar. Prepare your own in mason jars and enjoy cold (think overnight oats) or add some liquid and heat in the microwave on your way out the door. There are, of course, over 100,000 options for making delicious oatmeal, which is part of the fun. Check out our Spiced Apple Oatmeal Breakfast Bowl for a warm and delicious morning treat.
Nut butters (peanut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, and many more) often contain hidden sources of sugar as well. They are a great protein option and have plenty of healthy fats, but you always want to read the ingredients on the label. “All-natural” brands can even try to enhance the flavor with cane syrup, palm sugar, or dextrose. The best option is to read labels and compare brands while shopping. You can even make your own nut butters at home like we do here.
Now that we’ve given you the scoop on some of the hidden sugar in foods, we want to hear from you! Did any of these sugar laden health foods surprise you? What homemade recipes are your go-to’s for lower sugar versions? Drop us some feedback below!