So, you’re trying to cut out sugar. You’ve stopped drinking sugary colas and juices, and you’ve cut out all the obvious sources of sugar like ice cream, cookies, and cakes. But what you may not realize is that sugar is in a lot of foods that aren’t desserts or sweet drinks. You may be unknowingly sabotaging your diet with sugars! Maybe it was in the peanut butter sandwich that you had yesterday for lunch. Or the yogurt and granola that you thought was such a healthy snack. It’s important to know what’s in the food you are eating and to know what foods are likely to contain some form of sugar.
Here are 10 foods that commonly have added sugar, often when you least expected it:
1. Cured Meats: Cured meats like salami and pepperoni often contain seasonings and sugar. Watch out for dried meats and jerkies; they are usually laced with added sugar. There have been studies that link the consumption of cured meats to cancer, giving you more of a reason to limit how much smoked or processed meat you eat.
2. Peanuts and Nut Spreads: Honey-roasted peanuts and other candied nuts may not fool us, but did you know that seasoned dry roasted nuts may have added sugar? Additionally, a lot of nut butters have some form of sugar in them. Try to find nuts and butters that are prepared with only nuts or make your own almond nut butter!
3. Bread: Unless you are baking it yourself, your bread probably contains added sugar. Most likely it is in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Even “multi-grain” breads can contain sugar, making them just as bad for you as white bread. Read the label and find breads that are made with 100% whole wheat or whole grain and no added sugars.
4. Bottled Water Drinks: Yup, Vitamin Water contains added sugar. Go for plain water, whether from the tap or bottled. Or go for a fruit infused water to amp up the flavor.
5. Yogurt: While yogurt appears to be a healthy snack, many contain a lot of added sugar, especially the options with fruit flavors. You are better off eating a plain low-sugar yogurt – look at the label and look for yogurts with less than 5 or 6 grams of sugar – and adding your own fresh fruit. Or make your own Coconut Yogurt!
6. Energy Bars, Protein Bars & Granola Bars: Unfortunately, the “energy” in these bars often comes from a hefty dose of added sugar. Try making your own, like these Raspberry Energy Bars, so you can control the contents.
7. Salad dressing: Sounds like a healthy way to add flavor to all those greens you are trying to eat, right? Not if you want to cut back on sugar intake. Many bottled dressings, especially the “fat-free” ones, contain added sugars. Making your own, like this Easy Buttermilk Dressing, doesn’t take much effort and often tastes a lot better than the prepared ones.
8. Baked beans: Beans are a healthy source of fiber and protein. But beware of canned baked beans which can have a ton of added sugar.
9. Canned soups: Condensed or ready-to-eat soups, especially tomato soup, can contain added sugars. Even though it’s a little more work, make a big batch of soup (no sugar needed!) and freeze portions for later. Try this Butternut Squash Soup!
10. Crackers: We all know graham crackers contain added sugars, but what about crackers or other salty snacks that aren’t outright sweet? Lots of crackers and chips contain added sugar that you don’t want to be eating. It’s important to look on the package to see what’s in these salty snacks.
Lessons to be learned: First and foremost, just because it’s not a typical sweet, your snack or prepared food may still have sugar. The best thing you can do to help yourself is read the label! And know what you’re looking for: there are a lot of different names out there for “sugar,” such as glucose syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, starch, and sucrose (just to name a few). It might take a little bit of detective work, but if you really want to reduce your intake of added sugars, you have to know where to find hidden sugars in your diet. Check out our handy food guide for what foods to eat and which to avoid. Once you identify which foods have hidden sugar in any form, you can replace them with healthier alternatives. Now you can really be in charge of what you are eating!
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Note: PLEASE consult with your doctor before making any changes to your diet or medications. The material on this site is provided for educational purposes only, and is not to be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.