When it comes to slicing unhealthy sugars out of your diet, you’re all over it. Candy bars – gone. Mid-day muffin break – nope. And you haven’t touched your own sugar bowl in months.
Unfortunately, your efforts are being sabotaged! How? By common, sometimes supposedly “healthy” foods that are loaded with hidden sugar.
It’s time to take stock of your pantry and fridge to find out if any of these secret sugar bombs are lurking in there. Following are 11 of the worst offenders…
1. Agave nectar:
This one is particularly painful, because agave’s entire marketing campaign is built on it being a healthy, natural alternative to refined sugar. But here’s the thing – the processing that takes place between the agave plant when it’s pulled from the ground and the bottle of agave nectar on your shelf completely undoes any benefits of using the product instead of sugar. When you see agave nectar, think corn syrup and say no.
2. Breakfast cereals:
Breakfast cereals are teeming with sugar. And we’re not just talking about the sweetened kids’ stuff with candy and marshmallows in it, either. Your “healthy” adult cereal could be packed with more sugar than the ones with the cute mascots on the box. Boot the box and have some delicious, and healthy, eggs instead.
3. Canned fruit:
Fruit is a terrific way to feed your sweet tooth without doing a bunch of damage. A modest amount of organic fruit delivers a bunch of good-for-you fiber and vitamins, along with the fructose. But if you’re getting your fruit out of a can, all bets are off. The syrup most canned fruit is packed in adds so much hidden sugar that your “good for you snack” is far from healthy. Leave the cans on the shelf and pick up whole fruit in the produce aisle instead.
You’re forgiven if you thought coleslaw was a healthy choice at the cook-out this past summer. After all, the base of this popular side dish is cabbage. Unfortunately, most coleslaw recipes also call for a lot of added sugar, rather than letting the natural sweetness of the ingredients shine through. Pass by the coleslaw and try some cucumber and tomato slices on the side instead.
5. Dried fruit:
Dried fruit can sabotage you in more ways than one. First, you’re far more likely to eat more dried fruit than you would if you were eating it fresh. The reason why is simple. A bunch of grapes is more filling, satisfying and lower in sugar than the couple of handfuls of raisins you’d likely eat. To make matters worse, many store bought dried fruits have ADDED sugar in them. Opt for the whole fruit and you’ll avoid all that extra sugar.
6. Fruit yogurt:
Why do food manufacturers insist on ruining a perfectly good sweet treat? Fruit is a healthy snack. And plain yogurt is great for you too. But most so-called “fruit” yogurts bear little resemblance to either of those foods. Instead what you get is highly-processed yogurt, laced with fruit-flavored, corn-syrup-based jelly that sends your sugar intake skyrocketing, wiping out anything healthy about fruit or yogurt.
Make your own version instead. Start with plain organic yogurt and add whole chunks of your favorite fresh fruit. Same satisfaction, better taste and way less sugar.
7. Granola bars:
Another marketing win that turned out to be a loss for our health was when food manufacturers managed to convince everyone that granola bars are healthy. The truth is they’re really nothing more than crunchy candy bars.
Sure, they may have some whole grains and nuts, but they also usually contain several different types of sugars, such as high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, syrups and dextrose. And let’s not forget the sugar in the chocolate or “yogurt” coating. Reach for a handful of roasted nuts for the same energy boost instead.
8. Instant oatmeal:
It’s not the oatmeal that’s the enemy here. A bowl of organic, steel cut, whole-grain oatmeal from time to time can be a good way to get some extra fiber while giving yourself the energy you need to get through the day. And because they’re less processed, steel cut oats are naturally lower on the glycemic index than rolled or instant oatmeal.
But something terrible happens when oatmeal is super processed and shoved into those little packets. All that processing makes it higher on the glycemic index to begin with, and then, to make matters worse the food manufacturers dump a ton of sugar and artificial flavors in too. Take the time to prepare steel cut oatmeal and add your own apple slices, a sprinkle of cinnamon and a dash of stevia to sweeten things up without all that extra sugar. You’ll be amazed at how much better it tastes than the instant stuff.
Most of us don’t give much thought to condiments. But that could be a mistake if your go to topper is ketchup, which is typically loaded with added sugar. Yes, it’s true. If you’re a ketchup fan you’ve practically been dumping sugar on your burgers.
And ketchup isn’t the only condiment to look out for either. Pickle relish, mayonnaise and even some mustard can be hiding a bunch of added sugars too. Swap them all out for a deliciously grainy, stone -ground mustard (just be sure to read the label first) or mashed avocado instead.
10. Pasta sauce:
Tomato-based pasta sauce seems like it should be healthy. After all it’s mostly made of vegetables. Tomatoes are relatively high in fructose to begin with, but then food manufacturers often dump added sugars into the mix. In fact, some sauces have as much sugar as a chocolate chip cookie!
Carefully read labels and choose a sauce without added sugar. Or, better yet, make your own using some crushed tomatoes, a little olive oil and fresh herbs.
11. Salad dressing:
Think you’re making a smart choice by having a salad? If you’re using store-bought salad dressing, you may need to think again. The stuff off the grocery store shelf can be loaded with hidden sugars. Luckily, healthy, delicious, dressings with no added sugars are easy to make at home. Vinegar and olive oil alone will do in pinch, but add in some lemon and spices such as garlic for a delicious alternative that will make your taste buds sing, without all the sugar.
You’re improving your health every time you opt out of a sugary snack. Don’t let food companies sabotage your efforts any longer with hidden sugars.
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