Today, it is assumed that sugars are added to many of our foods to sweeten them and make them taste a little better. Sometimes we even add more sugar ourselves (think about adding sugar to your bowl of cereal, or getting fudge on top of your dish of ice cream). The sweetening of our diet has become something that we hear a lot about as it undoubtedly contributes to excess calories, promotes further intake, and adds on pounds. Despite more and more Americans opting for a “sugar free” lifestyle whereby we actively attempt to choose foods lower in sugar, Americans are still consuming more sugar than we should, 3-4 times more than recommended by the American Heart Association. It is a great idea to try to eat healthier and cutting back on added sugars is one way to achieve that goal. However, it isn’t easy.
The number one enemy of those that are trying to eat a lower sugar diet are the foods that we crave whenever we have a “sweet tooth.” These include foods such as ice cream, cookies and cakes. Also, most of us who are trying to avoid added sugars know to steer clear of sugar- and High Fructose Corn Syrup-sweetened beverages. But beyond these items, it becomes more difficult to discern which food items contain added sugars.
10 places you will find added sugar, where you probably least expected it:
Original Image by Seth Anderson, via Flickr
Cured meats like salami and pepperoni often contain seasonings, and sugar. Watch out for other dried meats and jerkies; they are also usually laced with added sugar.
Sure, we know that you can buy honey-roasted peanuts and other candied nuts that have sugar. But, watch out for what appear to be sugar-free varieties. “Seasoned dry roasted” peanuts and other mixed nuts can have added sugar. Same goes for peanut butter. Most varieties have added sugar, so you have to search for one that is simply just peanuts.
Or really any bread, unless you are baking it yourself, probably contains added sugar. Most likely it is in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Just because it says “multi-grain” on the label doesn’t mean it is healthier than white bread. Both can have added sugars.
Original Image by Global Good Group, via Flickr
Yup. Vitamin Water contains added sugar. I guess “Sugar Water” probably wouldn’t sell as well.
This is especially true for the ones that contain fruit. While yogurt appears to be a healthy snack (fruit and dairy), many yogurts contain a lot of added sugar in the fruit flavoring. You are better off with eating a plain yogurt and adding your own fresh fruit (which also contains sugar in the form of fructose, but at least it isn’t added).
Unfortunately, the “energy” in energy bars often comes from a hefty dose of added sugar.
Original Image by Renee Comet (Photographer) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Sounds like a healthy way to jazz up your greens, right? Not if you are trying to cut back on sugar intake. Many contain added sugars. Be extra wary of ones that are marketed as “fat-free”, as these often replace the flavor lost when they take out the fat with more added sugars.
Original Image by Sarah_Ackerman via Flickr
Canned baked beans have added sugars.
It doesn’t taste sweet, but it is. Condensed or ready-to-eat, both can contain added sugars.
We all know graham crackers contain added sugars, but what about others that aren’t outright sweet? Some seemingly sugar-free crackers, like Ritz Original Crackers, contain added sugar. It’s called glucose syrup. In essence, these are the things that are disguised as healthier alternatives to sugary cookies, but remain just as unhealthy as cookies.
With sugar hiding in so many places, what can you do to cut back on your intake? First and foremost, you need to read and scrutinize the ingredients labels. Just because something isn’t obviously sweet or sugary doesn’t mean it is sugar-less. Also, it is important to understand all of the different names out there for “sugar”, such as glucose syrup, corn syrup and sucrose (just to name a few), so you can recognize it when you see it. It might take a little bit of detective work, but if you really want to reduce your intake of added sugars, you have to know where to find added sugars in your diet so you can replace them with alternatives.