Today nearly 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese.1 This staggering statistic has become common knowledge, and the pressure to clean up our diets and get moving continues to build. Big food companies market many of their products as “natural,” stretching to create healthy alternatives to meet the demands of a population itching to become healthier without sacrificing the foods they love.
Unfortunately, we continue to miss the mark with what is and is not healthy. Many of the foods labeled “natural”, “low fat”, “fat free” or “gluten free” give the illusion of health, but more often than not, are still overly-processed and filled with sugar
In order to combat obesity, tooth decay, and serious chronic diseases, The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends we limit our added sugar intake to less than 25 grams per day.2 This is equivalent to six teaspoons, or two full tablespoons. You may think that’s a lot of sugar but you’ll be shocked to find that your kids may actually be exceeding this recommendation because added sugar are often found where you least expect them!
Here are a seven unexpected places you’ll find hidden sugar:
Condiments, Sauces & Marinades
Most condiments, sauces, and marinades have added sugar, specificallyketchup, BBQ sauce, teriyaki sauce, salad dressing, and pasta sauce. This may be bad news for those of you who put ketchup on everything, or those of you who have to drown veggies in dressing in order for your kids to eat them. For example, just one tablespoon of ketchup can have four grams of sugar! And how many people use just one tablespoon?
Tip: Substitute Dijon mustard, which is asugar-free alternative, or season your foods with fresh herbs to resist the urge to eat these sugar-laden sauces.
One serving of yogurt contains about seven grams of natural milk sugar, called lactose; however, this is one of the biggest culprits for added sugar. One serving of yogurt with fruit can provide nearly 20 grams of sugar. That’s 13 grams of added sugar, over half of WHO’srecommendation.
Tip: Buy plain yogurt with no added sugar and add your own fresh fruit or cinnamon for sweetness.
Nut butters have become very popular. They are great for sandwiches, dipping fruit, or spread on whole grain toast, but be sure to read theingredient label. You may be shocked to find the savory spread often contains added sugar. You can find three grams of added sugar in one serving of peanut butter.
Tip: You can find single ingredient nut butters at most grocery stores.
Dried fruit may seem like a good alternative to candy for your kids, but you may be shocked to find that many dried fruits have added sugar. Don’t get me wrong, dried fruit is still rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, but be watchful of the sugar content. Double check the ingredient list before buying. For example, dried cranberries with added sugar have about 31 grams of sugar per serving, but dried cranberries without added sugar only contain about 6 grams of sugar. That’s 25 grams of added sugar in one serving of dried fruit! One serving of dried fruit with added sugar contains a full day’s worth of sugar following the WHO guidelines.
Tip: Dehydrate your own fruit or search for dried fruit with no sugar added.
Cereal is a major staple in most kids’ diets (and many college students’ as well), but you may want to reconsider your breakfast routine. A ¾ cup serving of some cereals provide a whopping 11 grams of sugar. This will vary depending on the cereal, so check the nutrition facts label.
Tip: Stick to oatmeal and add your own fruit for sweetness.
Granola and Granola Bars
Granola and granola bars are often advertised as a natural and wholesome snack. But what most of us overlook is the excessive amount of added sugar found in these “healthy” snacks. A typical granola bar may contain about 12 grams of sugar; however, some may contain over 20 grams.
Tip: Make your own granola and granola bars at home using the following recipe for Cherry Granola Bars:
1 ½ cup fresh, pitted cherries
2 cup rolled oats
1 cup peanut butter (read the label and make sure it’s sugar-free)
½ cup sunflower seeds
12 pitted dates (make sure there is no added sugar)
Preheat oven to 350F. In food processor, blend peanut butter and dates until a smooth paste forms. Add cherries, oats, and seeds, and pulse until evenly distributed. Press bars onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and flatten to about ¼ inch thickness. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once they have cooled completely, cut into 12 bars.
You may find yourself reaching for a milk alternative with the impression that it is healthier, but be sure to select the unsweetened variation. These flavored milk alternatives could rack up 15 grams of sugar per cup.
Tip: Buy unsweetened variations or make your own almond milk at home using the following recipe:
1 cup almonds
6 cup water
Soak almonds for 24 hours in enough water to cover the almonds. Add soaked almonds to blender with 6 cups of water. Blend until water appears white and milky. Strain almond pulp and enjoy within 5 days. Add cinnamon or vanilla extract to kick up the flavor.
Eating just one serving of each of these foods is a whopping 83 grams of sugar. That’s more than three times the daily recommended amount of added sugar!
Bottom line, there are many surprising places that contain added sugar, so before buying a product, read the ingredient label and search for sugar under one of these various names:3
|● anhydrous dextrose
● brown sugar
● confectioner’s powdered sugar
● corn syrup
● corn syrup solids
● Cane juice
● Crystal dextrose
● Sugar cane juice
|● high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
● invert sugar
● malt syrup
● maple syrup
● Fruit nectar
|● nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar)
● pancake syrup
● raw sugar
● white granulated sugar
● Evaporated corn sweetener
● Liquid fructose