It’s the beginning of the new year and a number of people have set health goals that involve good or clean eating. “Cut down on carbohydrates and reduce sugar” is the first thing you get told when you want to lose weight or adopt a healthy lifestyle. However, how many of us eat foods that ‘seem’ to be healthy only to find that they have the very ingredients that we are trying to stay away from?
Reducing sugar sounds very simple right? You just need to stop buying sweets and sweet food like cakes and cookies, pour less or no sugar in your tea or coffee and stay away from fizzy and sugary drinks etc. Well it’s bit more complicated than that. Did you know that sauces, salad dressings, spices and spreads have hidden sugar that you may not be aware of? Ever noticed how sweet fruit-flavoured yoghurt is? According to The Clean-Eating Diet excessive sugar consumption can lead to weight gain and health problems such as diabetes and heart disease. An article in Popular Science states that based on American guidelines, the recommended daily amount of sugar for women is 25 grams, 38 grams for men and under 25 grams for children. I have compiled a list of top 5 foods that contain sugar, some you may be aware of and some you might not.
A lot of people add yoghurt to their cereal or choose it as a healthy snack during the day, adding it to fruit or enjoying it as it is. I stopped eating fruit-flavoured yoghurt when I realised how sweet it tasted (and I added it to my muesli almost every day). Now how many of us check the nutritional label when buying yoghurt? Flavoured yoghurt contains about 10 grams of sugar per 100 gram serving, which is almost half of the recommended sugar intake for women, in one snack. The alternative to flavoured yoghurt is plain yoghurt, which contains about 5 grams of sugar per 100 gram serving.
Canned fruit is loaded with sugar because of the syrup that is used to preserve the fruit. Dried fruit is “dehydrated” which means its nutritional content (including sugar) is concentrated. It’s easy to get carried away eating dried fruit because it is a healthy snack, but fresh fruit is the best alternative because it has natural juice that keeps you hydrated and it’s generally better to eat fresh fruit.
We assume that kids’ cereals are the ones that are loaded with sugar. That’s obvious because of how colourful they look and how sugary they are. However, there are cereals that really look healthy, but you are not aware of how much sugar they really have. Take muesli for example, a lot of people like to buy the variant that has fruit and nuts and all that ‘good stuff’. An article published on Live Strong advises that we avoid muesli brands that contain added sugar, syrup, honey and sweeteners. Rather add fresh fruit, seeds and nuts to plain muesli (no sugar added options) to avoid the unnecessary sugar.
Sauces and salad dressings
We all enjoy pasta and salad (which is healthy), but have you checked the sugar content in your sauces and salad dressings? Many pasta sauces contain about 6 to 12 grams of sugar per half cup serving, something that may be hard to believe because pasta sauce doesn’t taste sweet right? When it comes to salad dressing, WebMD highlights that sweet salad dressings like raspberry vinaigrette and French to mention a few, have the most sugar. These dressings contain up to 7 grams of sugar in 2 tablespoons, now that’s shocking. Rather opt for home made dressings made with ingredients like vinegar, olive oil, lemon or lime juice or look for dressings with lower sugar content.
Sometimes we turn to energy drinks for a boost, which we think we’ll get from the caffeine, but do you know how much sugar there is in that drink? A 440ml can of Play energy drink has 51.5 grams of sugar, that is about 10 teaspoons of sugar in 1 can. Now that is way above the recommended daily intake of sugar and while it might give you an energy boost, it is definitely detrimental to your health and progress. Consider healthy alternatives of boosting your energy because they will be more sustainable in the long run.
On a final note, just a word of caution, foods that are low fat or fat free usually contain more sugar than full cream options because they need more added sugar to make up for the loss in flavour. Make sure you read the labels on the food packages to ensure that you know just how much sugar is added to the food that you consider as healthy, you might just change your mind and seek alternatives. Tell us about other foods with high sugar content that you were not aware of but are now trying to cut down or cut out altogether.