I always get excited when some good news comes out in the food industry and today was one of those days. The national restaurant chain, Panera Bread, has decided to display the sugar and calorie count of every beverage they serve. Since the average American consumes approximately 150 pounds of sugar per year, a lot of which is in the form of sugary drinks, hopefully, this will help educate consumers and make them think twice when deciding between soda versus a healthier option, like good ole' water.
A lot of my work with my clients is focused on cleaning up their diets, including minimizing their sugar intake. And most people know the obvious things to cut out, like sweetener in their coffee or cookies. But once you start looking, you’ll find sugar in the most unexpected places. Here are the top 6 foods I recommend clients stay away from when lowering their sugar intake:
1. Fruit Juice
It has fruit in it, so it must be healthy, right? Not exactly. Fruit has natural sugar in it, but when you eat a whole fruit you’re also eating the fiber, which means the sugar will be absorbed slower into the body. But if you remove the fiber, it’s like drinking a giant shot glass of sugar.
Instead: For liquid intake, water is always the best choice. If that sound painfully boring, try seltzer or add a tablespoon of freshly squeezed lemon juice for some flavor
2. Pasta sauce
But pasta sauce is savory – not sweet! I know, it’s crazy, but a lot of mainstream pasta sauce jars have as much sugar per serving as soda. Yikes!
Instead: Make your own tomato sauce! It might take a bit more time, but it will be worth the health benefits. Play around with different recipes in your cookbooks or from a favorite food blogger.
Yogurt has naturally occurring sugar, which comes in lactose. But the problems arise in these two big sugar traps: when they have added fruit flavor (most likely courtesy of high-fructose corn syrup) or when they are reduced fat.
Instead: Stick to full-fat Greek yogurt like the Fage brand. If you want to add a little flavor, try a handful of organic berries.
4. Salad dressing & condiments
Ketchup, barbecue sauce, and bottled salad dressings taste delicious when added to our food. Unfortunately, it could be partly because of the added sugar, probably in the form of high-fructose corn syrup.[G1] [G2] [G3]
Instead: Make your own dressing! Freshly squeezed lemon, olive oil, and apple cider vinegar are a great combo and taste amazing on most salads. For a go-to condiment, substitute the ketchup for plain mustard.
5. Granola Bars
I used to be a sucker for granola bars. I felt like they were a great "healthy" snack to eat when I was in a rush or after a workout. Boy, was I wrong. Corn syrup, brown rice syrup, dextrose, and fructose are just some of the common ingredients you'll find on granola bar labels.
Instead: Make your own snacks as a substitute for this convenient sugary temptation. Try this yummy coconut curry cashew recipe to get you started.
6. Dried fruit
Again, with the fruit! When you suck out all the water, you’re left with a super concentrated form of the original fruit. Plus, you’ll often find added sugars and preservatives.
Instead: If you want some fruit, just eat the whole fruit. When possible, stick to fruit that is naturally lower in sugar like blueberries or raspberries.
This, of course, is not an exhaustive list. Sugar is in lots more unexpected places. Where have you been the most surprised to find loads of sugar??