We all know that candy bars, donuts, and cakes are loaded with sugar. Sometimes we dig deep with resolve to say, "No thank you, I'm cutting back." While it's admirable that you are making an attempt to kick sugar out of your life, you may be eating more sugar than you think. Sugar is highly addictive and is added to what you eat by food moguls, not only to make things taste better, but to hook you into shoveling more into your mouth.
Knowledge is the key to empowerment and change. Let's do a reality check and find out the surprising places sugar hides on your pantry shelf.
Use this formula for finding how much sugar is in a food item: 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon. Ideally, the American Heart Association recommends a daily intake of 6 teaspoons of sugar for women and children and 9 teaspoons for men. Measuring and tracking sugars does not work for everyone. What works well for most is to raise your awareness to a conscious level, so that you can change behaviors. Once your mind is shifted to paying attention to what is in foods, then you can have the reasoning behind the resolve to take action-steps in a healthier direction.
1. Nut Butter
Nut butter is a great food for those who are wanting to control their blood sugar. However, even if a jar of peanut butter states it's "all natural" it could have added sugar. After all, sugar is natural, right? Also watch out for the words "honey roasted". The best thing to do is to flip over the jar and look at the ingredients. You are looking for peanuts (or other nuts) and salt, only.
The foundation of so many meals. However, bread is basically refined starch. Your body will quickly break down bread into glucose. Did you know that two pieces of white bread converts to more sugar than a candy bar contains?
3. Instant Oatmeal Packets
Oatmeal, the fiber of life! If you decide to cut corners and opt for the convenience of little packets and hot water, then this short cut could cost you. Each little packet could contain around 3 teaspoons of sugar. And who eats just one packet anyway?
4. Little Yogurt Cups
Yogurt is healthy, right? Don't be misguided in your quest for probiotics. A little 6 ounce flavored yogurt could have as much as 6 teaspoons of sugar. Instead, opt for unsweetened greek yogurt with some sliced, fresh green apple.
The breakfast staple of our little champions. Truly, this is not a good food choice to start your day. Albeit, cereal contains fiber and sprayed on artificial vitamins, in attempt to make this food seem healthy. Total carbohydrates in some cereals could go as high as 14 teaspoons per cup. Unless you measure out your cereal, it's likely that you eat more than one cup in your breakfast bowl. Try eating some protein in the morning and you could avoid mid-morning cravings for more sugar.
6. Granola Bars
In a quest to eat healthier, are you grabbing the granola bars? Even if there are whole grains and fruit in them, they are an upscaled version of cookies. Actually, the average granola bar has 2 teaspoons of sugar, where as a shortbread cookie has about 1 teaspoon of sugar (plus the simple carbohydrates that quickly turn to sugar). Skip the granola bars.... Skip the cookies too!
A great option for kids? You judge. An average carton of apple juice contains 24 grams of sugar. Would you ever spoon 6 teaspoons of sugar into your kid's mouth? If milk is not palatable for your child, opt for water. If this is not good enough for your little flavor seeker, then cut up some fresh fruit and put this at the bottom of a cup of water.
8. Flavored Coffee Drinks
Coffee and sweet drink addicts are in love with all things iced, hot, frapped, latte'd and whipped. Average grams of sugar in each of these? The answer is too wide and varied to list, but crazy high. If you are hooked on coffee, you may wish to try to use liquid stevia as an alternative. The herb Stevia does not elevate your glycemic index.
9. Dried Fruit
In an effort to get healthy fruit into your diet, are you opting for packets of dried fruit? Dried fruit contains about 4 teaspoons of sugar per ONE tiny little ounce. In comparison, a piece of peppermint candy has about 2.5 teaspoons of sugar, not that this makes the candy any healthier.
10. Salad Dressing
Salads are a wonderful, healthy meal. In an effort to lose weight, most of us turn to the refreshing goodness of salad... then dump a whole bunch of dressing on top! One tablespoon of french dressing could have around 1 teaspoon of sugar. A typical salad could have 3 or 4 tablespoons of dressing on it (or more). A lower sugar option is blue cheese or ranch dressing. Better yet, try oil and vinegar. And skip the croutons!
If you were to choose to cut back on any one area, this would be on the top of the list. A typical can of soda is a chemical concoction of 10 teaspoons of sugar in it (or more). Think that drinking diet soda could be a better alternative? Guess again! Research now shows that consuming products with chemical alternative sweeteners can change your gut flora, thus inducing insulin resistance. If it's the fizz you seek, then try seltzer water with a slice of fruit for flavoring.
12. Ketchup or BBQ Sauce
We Americans like our dipping sauces! 1 tablespoon of ketchup is nearly 1 teaspoon of sugar, and double with BBQ sauce. If you are looking for flavor with your meat, try using dry rub spice blend before roasting or grilling.
13. Marinara Sauce
Check the labels on your pasta sauce; they many include sugar. A typical half cup of marinara has roughly 2 teaspoons of sugar. Read the labels and look for sauce that has no sugar added. Pasta converts to sugar, too, during digestion. Try using marinara sauce and melted cheese over a chicken breast instead. Same taste, and you will feel fuller longer.
Another area of hidden added sugar. One cup of applesauce could have a whopping 9 teaspoons of sugar in it! Instead, consider turning to no-sugar-added applesauce, or better yet, fresh apple slices.
15. Non-Dairy Milk
More people are having sensitivities to dairy products. Alternatively, nut milks are great, but watch out for added sugar. The amount of added sugar varies by brand and type of milk. Read labels before you buy!
16. Sports Drinks
Some use sports drinks as an alternative to sodas. Be careful, 32 ounce bottles of sports drinks may have up to 18 teaspoons of sugar.
17. Flavored Potato Chips
As the adage goes, "No one can eat just one." There is a reason for that. Chemical additives and sugar make it impossible to eat just one potato chip. Quite often, once we come out of our hand-to-mouth stupor, we find out that we ate the whole bag! The amount of sugar added can vary, so read labels. But if you really want to go low carb, skip the chips altogether.
18. Teriyaki Beef Jerky
In an effort to ditch the carbs, some try eating beef jerky. While this certainly is a much better alternative to a granola bar, be cautious. One piece of teriyaki flavored jerky could have as much as 1.5 teaspoons of sugar. Who ever eats just one piece? Instead, try regular beef jerky.
19. Canned Soup
Are you crazy busy and just want to open a can of soup for dinner? Watch those labels! A can of soup contains as much as 5 teaspoons of sugar.
20. Gummy Vitamins
Watch that sugar content and read labels! Also check how many servings are recommended. Some gummy vitamins are made from gelatin, sugar, and flavoring. Usually there is about a gram of sugar per gummy vitamin. Multiply grams of sugar per gummy vitamin times how many the manufacturer recommends as a serving. Instead of vitamins, try eating a whole food diet that is naturally loaded with the nutrients you need.
A muffin is a naked cupcake. It's only missing the frosting. Don't tell yourself otherwise. An average blueberry muffin has 9 teaspoons of sugar. A muffin is not a healthier alternative to a donut.
It's time to live a sugar-less lifestyle!
Denise Smith, NTP
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