Sugar is a hot topic in the medical and nutrition research world. Studies shows that excess intake of added sugars in the diet can exacerbate metabolic syndrome, heart disease and diabetes, and that sugar may be as addictive as some drugs. Decreasing your intake of added sugars is a great step to reduce the risk for chronic disease and live a healthier life.
You probably know that sugar is in sweet foods like candy, cake and donuts. But watch out, sugar can be sneaky. Here’s a list of added sugar-containing foods that might surprise you.
1. Reduced Fat Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is a good source of protein and healthy fats, but when companies remove some fat, they add in sugar. Reduced fat peanut butter often has 8-10 grams of added sugar— the same amount in a fun size Snickers® bar! The “reduced fat” is a marketing tool to make you think you’re eating healthier, but choosing natural peanut butter (containing nothing but peanuts and salt) is a more nutritious choice.
2. Tomato-Based Pasta Sauce
Commercially prepared tomato sauces also contain about 8-12 grams of added sugar per serving. This means the same amount of sugar as two rolls of Smarties® are hiding in there! Remember, tomatoes have natural sugar, so the label won’t say 0 for “total carbohydrate,” so look for no sugar added sauces and check the ingredients to see if sugar is listed. (Or try this Greek Lemon Turkey Pasta instead.)
3. Flavored Yogurt
Yogurt is a great choice for breakfast or a snack, but beware; most of the flavored kinds are loaded with sugar. Milk products have a naturally occurring sugar called lactose, but nearly all flavored yogurts have more added sugar in them than natural. For example, a 6 oz regular strawberry flavored yogurt has 18 added grams of sugar! That is the same amount of sugar as 6 oz of Coke! Choose plain yogurt and add fresh or dried fruits, granola or cinnamon for flavor. (Watch this video for more tips on choosing healthy yogurt.)
Rule of thumb: Read the ingredients of the food you’re eating. If sugar or any of the 50+ names for sugar, (corn syrup, maltodextrin, caramel, glucose solids, etc.) is listed in the first five ingredients, that food has more added sugar than you need.
Do your child’s snacks have too much added sugar? Read this column from dietitian Kinsy McNamee to learn more.