You'll Be Surprised How Much Sugar These 10 Foods Have
Like many people, I'm an avid food label reader, and I'm always on the lookout for added sugar. I know to look for high-fructose corn syrup along with sugar and honey. But then I discovered via Mayo Clinic that sugar can be disguised as fruit juice concentrates, fruit nectars, malt syrup, molasses, and cane syrup and lots of other less sugary sounding ingredients. Upon closer inspection, I found many healthy-sounding food and beverage products contained hidden sugar. (See also: 10 Fat-Filled Foods You Should Stop Avoiding)
Here's what to look for in the label — and what you should substitute with.
Note: As you're reading, keep in mind that the American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 6 teaspoons (or 30 grams) of added sugar per day and no more than 9 teaspoons (or 45 grams) for men. So, read your labels to detect and avoid hidden sugar.
1. Flavored Yogurt (Even Vanilla!)
I had heard that fruit yogurts have an extra dose of sugar, so I have avoided those for years.
But until recently, I never noticed how much sugar my go to brand — Stonyfield Low-Fat French Vanilla yogurt — contained. It has 29 grams per one-cup serving, more than double the sugar content of the company's plain whole milk version, which has 12 grams per cup.
Substitute: Use plain yogurt instead of flavored ones, even vanilla.
2. Fruit Smoothies
I love fruit smoothies and typically make and consume my own as fuel for long runs or multi-hour bike rides. On a few occasions, I have sampled and loved commercial versions, which often seem healthy considering their names. But many are loaded with concentrated fruit juices.
A medium Peach Perfection smoothie from Jamba Juice has 59 grams of sugar. A 16-ounce serving of the Blueberry Pomegranate Smoothie from McDonald's has 54 grams and the Orange Mango Smoothie from Starbucks has 37 grams of sugar.
Substitute: Make your own smoothies at home using plain yogurt and fresh or frozen fruit (without added sugar), unsweetened almond milk, water, or ice.
3. Dried Cranberries
I used to eat dried cranberries to get a dose of antioxidants along with a boost of energy. But after reading the fine print on the ingredient label, I switched to lower-sugar snacks.
Most dried cranberries contain sugar to make the otherwise bitter fruit palatable; similarly, dried fruit of all kinds tend to have sugar added for tastiness and preservation purposes.
Substitute: Keep fresh or frozen fruit handy so you can avoid the dried stuff.
4. Hazelnut Spreads
Nuts have lots of healthy fats, so nut spreads would seem to be healthy.
Substitute: Stick with all-natural nut butters made without added sugar.
5. Low-Fat and Fat-Free Salad Dressings
Regular salad dressings typically contain one or two grams of sugar per two-tablespoon servings but fat-free or low-fat versions often have much more. To enhance the flavor lost to reduced fat, food manufacturers often add sugar to boost tastiness.
Ken's Fat-Free Sun Dried Tomato Vinaigrette has 12 grams of sugar per serving; Kraft's French Style Creamy Lite, six grams per serving; and Wendy's Low-fat Honey Mustard Salad Dressing, 16 grams per packet.
Substitute: Choose regular salad dressings or make your own to control the ingredients.
6. Tomato-Based Products
Many tomato-based products, such as pasta sauce and even tomato soups, contain extra sugar. Though sweet stuff can counteract the acidity of tomatoes, make sure you aren't consuming too much of the wrong thing.
Prego Heart Smart Traditional Italian Sauce contains 10 grams of sugar per half-cup serving;Classico Traditional Pasta Sauce has 9 grams; and Bertolli Marinara Sauce, 12 grams. Similarly, Campbell's Healthy Request Tomato Soup has 10 grams of sugar in a half-cup serving.
Substitute: Choose brands with the lowest amount of sugar or make your own sauces and soups. (See also: 8 Swanky Sauces That Glamorize Dinner)
7. Baked Beans
Baked beans contain protein and fiber. They are a common, relatively healthy accompaniment to a grilled burger.
But many types of baked beans contain added sugar. Bush's Homestyle Baked Beans contain 12 grams of sugar per half-cup serving and its Country Style version has 16 grams.Van Camp's Original Baked Beans are slightly better, containing 11 grams of sugar per serving.
Substitute: Make your own reduced-sugar version of baked beans or serve black beans instead.
8. Fruity Drinks
Beverages with fruit as an ingredient are naturally sweet but many have fruit concentrates added.
Ocean Spray 100% Juice Cranberry has 36 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving. SunnyD Orange Mango Juice has 28 grams of sugar in a 16-ounce bottle and Snapple Peach Mangosteen has 40 grams of sugar in a similarly-sized bottle.
Substitute: Go for real fruit juices without fruit concentrates or simply drink water when you're thirsty.
Marinades liven otherwise bland food. But many flavorful items, such as teriyaki and barbecue sauces, contain added sugar.
Lawry's Teriyaki Marinade with Pineapple Juice has 7 grams of sugar and Mrs. Dash Sweet Teriyaki Marinade has 8 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Sweet Baby Ray's Barbecue Sauce has 16 grams of sugar and Hunt's Original BBQ Sauce has 11 grams of sugar per two-tablespoon serving.
Substitute: Make your own marinades or just go easy on the sauce's quantities to control your sugar intake.
10. Wholesome Breakfast Foods
I just compared the sugar content of my healthy (sounding) breakfast food with fiber, protein, and whole grains to my son's Cheerios. It turns out that I am taking in about 11 grams of sugar to his one gram in a regular serving.
Substitute: Look for cereals or other breakfast foods without heaps of sugar mixed in with whole grains and protein.
Have you switched brands or made substitutions to reduce your sugar intake? Share your tips in the comments.