Take a stroll down any grocery store aisle today and you’ll probably spot a product or two touting that the food inside the package “Contains No High Fructose Corn Syrup,” or you may even see “No Sugar Added!” printed in big, bold print.
If you take a closer look (on the back or side panel of the packaging) you’ll see that the sugar is there. It’s hiding in plain sight. How could this be? For starters, there are numerous ways manufacturers “hide” sugar in the list of ingredients. Look for these words: lactose, maltose, malt syrup, corn sweetener, corn syrup, rice syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, barley malt, galactose, cane juice crystals, carob syrup, dextran, non-diastatic malt, treacle, tapioca syrup, panela, panocha, and maltodextrin (just to name a few).
How much is too much? For reference, the World Health Organization suggests that adults should not consume more than 20-25 grams of sugar per day.3 That’s approximately 6 teaspoons.
When you’re trudging down that grocery store aisle looking for something good and healthful to eat, ignore the marketing hype on the front of the packaging. Teams of clever copywriters and designers are always inventing new ways to distract us with flowery words and half-truths on the front of the package. You may read “Now with More Fiber” or “Good Source of Protein” on the front of the package, but the truth is listed on the nutrition label and in the ingredient list.
Make your own breakfast quickly and easily so you can control exactly how much sugar goes into your meal. Try organic rolled oats sweetened with a little bit of organic honey.
We all know that sweet snacks like cookies and carbonated drinks contain large amounts of sugar, but do you know about the savory foods that are chock full of the sweet stuff?
If you’ve ever indulged in a hot, hearty bowl of tomato soup from a can, you’ve probably ingested a lot more sugar than you know. Do you dip your French fries in ketchup? That’s full of sugar as well. Bought a jar of tomato sauce for a quick meal one evening? Take a look at the label. You may be shocked at just how much sugar is lurking in these everyday items.
Ketchup – 6 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoons
Tomato Soup – 10 grams of sugar per half cup
Tomato Sauce – 9 grams of sugar per half cup1
Just to put that into perspective, 4 grams of granulated sugar is roughly one teaspoon.2 Wow. Think about that the next time you are mindlessly dunking your fries into the ketchup. For a tasty alternative, try dipping your spuds into organic dijon mustard instead.
Sweet and Sour
If you like the taste of tart foods like salad dressing or BBQ sauce, you may be consuming even more sugar than you realize. When an acidic ingredient like vinegar is present, food manufacturers add sugar to help balance out the acid, giving the food a pleasantly tart taste. Take, for example, teriyaki sauce. You may consider using it more sparingly after reading this; just one ounce of teriyaki sauce can contain as much as 5 grams of sugar.1
The same holds true for foods with tomato sauce like pizza, especially the mass-produced kind you find in the frozen food aisle of the grocery store and in school cafeterias across the country.
Just one 4″ x 6″ slice of cafeteria pizza can pack a whopping 8 grams of sugar!
Try making your own quick pizza with a whole wheat pita, some sliced grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese and Italian seasoning for a bit of bold flavor.
Simple Sugar-Busting Hack
In addition to doing a little detective work to find the hidden sugar, we can also make an effort to refrain from adding more to our diets intentionally. If you like to sweeten your coffee with sugar, try swapping it out for a dash of cinnamon instead.
It’s probably not a good idea to start sprinkling cinnamon on everything you eat (we can imagine some less than palatable combinations) but swapping cinnamon for a spoonful of sugar isn’t such a bad idea. We love it on oatmeal, whole wheat toast, and apple slices. At the very least, it may help you curb a sugar sprinkling habit.
Some other simple life hacks to help you kick the sugar habit:
- Choose produce over processed foods
- Select whole and fresh instead of quick and easy (eat the apple instead of drinking a glass of apple juice)
- Compare labels at the store before you buy
- Clean out your pantry by tossing anything you purchased because you thought it was healthy, but now that you know better you see that it is loaded with sugar
- If all else fails, every time you reach for a spoonful of sugar to sweeten your meal, try using only half the amount (after all, sometimes all you need is a little bit of sweetness).