Sugar is quite the hot topic right now in health and weight loss circles. Sugar addiction is being recognized as a legitimate condition, and tons of people are admitting to suffering from it. With all of this new focus on sugar, it is important to become as informed as possible to help you make the healthiest decisions possible. You can read my related sugar posts here.
When trying to reduce the amount of sugar you are consuming in your diet, it is easy to identify the obvious culprits…soda, candy, cookies, cake, ice cream. But do you know that there is sugar hiding in many foods that you may not even suspect? Some of these foods are even touted as “health” foods. However, if you don’t read labels carefully, you could end up taking in more sugar than you want, or that is healthy.
When you read food labels, you should be looking at how many grams of sugar are in the food, along with the calories, fat, fiber, sodium, and carbs. A healthy food is generally going to have 5 grams of sugar or less, with a few exceptions due to naturally-occurring sugar. Let’s take a look at how much of the sweet stuff is hiding in these five foods. Will you be surprised?
#1 – Yogurt
Yogurt is a go-to snack for many people. It’s portable, it gives you protein and calcium, and it tastes good. However, flavored yogurts contain a crazy high amount of sugar. Have you ever looked? Yes, you will find that even your favorite organic or low-fat flavored yogurt contains anywhere from 19 to 29 grams of sugar. Surprised? Now, some of that sugar is definitely from the milk used to make it, but labels don’t separate naturally-occurring sugars from added sugars. If you look at plain yogurt labels, you will see around 12 grams of sugar, which is all naturally-occurring. So in a flavored yogurt, you are getting anywhere from 7 to 17 grams of added sugar. Too much! Instead, eat plain yogurt with fresh fruit in it.
#2 – Salad Dressing
If you eat salad, you most likely use salad dressing. Bottled salad dressings are a nice convenience because they are grab and go for our busy lives. You probably already know to stay away from heavy creamy dressings, and stick to olive oil based dressings. But let me ask you, are you using fat-free salad dressings? Here is why you should stop. When the fat is removed from dressing, it is replaced with some form of sugar to retain some semblance of good flavor. So do you want your calories coming from sugar or from the healthy fats you will get in a full-fat dressing? This is about quality, not quantity. It’s better to ingest more calories here to get the good fats and avoid the added sugar.
#3 – Bread
Whole grain bread has come a long way from the cardboard-like slices of the past. They are now soft, chewy and full of flavor. Plus you can get it in such a wide variety of flavors and styles. The ingredients list is where you want to look when selecting a healthy bread. After the flour and water, you will most likely see some form of sugar, whether it be sugar, molasses, honey, or something else. Remember, the higher up an ingredient is in the list, the more of it is in there. So next you want to check the nutrition facts to check how many grams of sugar we’re talking about here. Keep it under 5 grams and you should be good. Beware of amazing sounding breads like “honey wheat multigrain.” You are most likely not only going to get more sugar than you want, but refined grains as well.
#4 – Oatmeal
Oatmeal is one of those perfect foods that is so pure and simple, and can do so much good for your body…until food manufacturers muck it up. If you buy oatmeal packets, listen up. Those handy little packets can add up to 9, 12, or even 20 grams of sugar in your breakfast bowl! Start buying plain rolled quick oats in a canister. It will only take you a few seconds to measure out your half cup portion. You still cook it the same way, just as fast. Now, if you need a little sweetness, try adding some fruit. If you still need more sweetness, a little drizzle of honey is going to be better than what is in those packets.
#5 – Granola
Just the word “granola” is associated with being healthy. Yes, it is full of whole grains, fiber, and protein, but do you check the sugar? Many are LOADED with it! I found some with 25 grams per serving. That’s just way too much sugar to be ingesting all at once. Granolas do need sweetening, so it’s okay to have a little bit of sugar in there. Your best bet is to make your own. If you just don’t have time for that, research and read labels carefully. Keep the sugar to 5 grams or less.
If you want to eat less sugar, you need to be informed and you must read all food labels thoroughly. Don’t forget that excess sugar may be hiding in your favorite “healthy” food.