7 Foods with Hidden Sugar and How to Avoid Them

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We all know that sugar is highly addictive and not good if you’re goal is to lose weight and get lean. Sugar is also dangerous for our health. The artificial sweetener market seems to focus on alternative sweeteners for weight control or blood sugar issues like diabetes, but rarely is there information about how sugar lowers your immunity and robs your bones of minerals.

And just as important, there is little information on healthy alternatives for sweeteners. In fact, you DO NOT have to turn to artificial sweeteners for sweet tastes. Not only do artificial sweeteners harm your health, they also adverse effects your efforts at staying slim.

To avoid sugar your diet must be 100% comprised of whole foods – lean proteins, healthy fats, fruits, vegetables, and whole grains – and you’re incredibly diligent about reading ingredient labels.

Processed Food Industry Secrets Doesn’t Want You To Know

The food industry knows what makes people buy more of their products. Processed foods are typically loaded with excess sugar, salt, unhealthy fats, preservatives and other additives. These ingredients are added to packaged food products to make them more palatable and to manipulate your taste buds so that you crave more. They’re also a factor in the rising obesity epidemic.

The Good Carbohydrates

This by no means should deter you from eating vibrant vegetables and fruits. On the contrary, these foods – while technically carbohydrate based – are mostly water, vitamins, and minerals with some carbohydrates to hold it all together. Additionally, the nutrients in leafy greens and dark fruits help stabilise your blood sugar levels. Even whole grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes have a place in your diet.

The Bad Carbohydrates

Processed, packaged foods and sugary beverages are the primary culprits in your daily overdose of sugar. The obvious sugar-filled foods are  biscuits, cakes, syrup, ice creams, chocolate, candy, and other sweet treats. But you’d be surprised to find out that a lot of other ”healthy” foods are major sources of sugar too – cereals, protein bars, trail mix, tomato sauce, crackers, sausages, smoked salmon, just to name a few. Sugar is hidden almost everywhere.

The next time you’re at the grocery store, take a look at the nutrition facts on a few packaged foods and you’ll see for yourself just how many unsuspecting foods contain sugar in one form or another.

1. Coffee and Teas

Plain coffee and tea are sugar-fee and relatively healthy to consume – they contain antioxidants, which have been found to help prevent a number of chronic health conditions. Coffee and tea are ubiquitous in our caffeine-driven culture, but they’re rarely served black.

The next time you step into a coffee shop, consider keeping your coffee and tea plain (or add just splash of milk or cream). If you’re looking for a sweet touch, add it yourself.

2. Granola

This seemingly healthy breakfast option often has at least twice as much sugar as normal breakfast cereal. Granola has a healthy facade because it’s usually made with whole oats, nuts, seeds, and other good-for-you ingredients, but it doesn’t deserve the ”healthy” title because it’s usually also loaded with added sugar and artificial ingredients. Additionally, you can expect granolas to be higher in fat overall calories – most of the time, a serving size of granola is about 1/4 cup, which contain 200+calories.

Consider granola a treat, and use just one serving to add some crunch to plain Greek yogurt.

3. Protein and Energy Bars

Protein and energy bars are often deemed ”healthy” snacks, but this label is often undeserved. While these bars might be dense in the protein, vitamins and/or minerals, they can also be packed with enriched white flour, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, honey, and other sweeteners, which negate their benefits. This means that most health food bars are no better than the average candy bar. To top it all off, the majority of them are quiet high in saturated fat while being low in fibre.

On the day-to-day, snack on whole foods like fruits, nuts, and veggies. When you’re in a pinch, or on an outdoor adventure, grab an energy bar that contain simple ingredients and no added sugar.

4. Fresh Juice

Fresh-squeezed juice is a whole lot of fruit without the fibre, which at the end of the day makes it a glass full of sugar, water, and hopefully some preserved active nutrients. While fresh fruit juice and concentrated juices contain about the same amount of sugar, concentrated juices most likely contain added and synthetic sweeteners as well (unless they say ”100% Juice”).

5. Low-Fat Snacks and Ready -Meals

Fat-free desserts, low-fat biscuits, and calorie-counted ”ready meals” – these options are completely counter-productive if your goal is to get lean and healthy. When you see packaged foods that market their low-fat content, you can pretty much guarantee they’re high in sugar. This is a sad but true fact, and people are just starting to learn about the relationship between sugar consumption and body fat percentage. At the same time that ”low-fat” became trendy, the obesity epidemic grew.

6. Sauces, Condiments and Dressings

Look on any bottle of ketchup, vinaigrette dressing, or barbecue sauce and you will be astonished at the sugar content of these ”savory” condiments. One fourth of a bottle of ketchup is sugar, 2tbsp of a standard vinaigrette has at least 4g of sugar and an additional 4g of carbohydrates (also sugar), and 2 tbsp of barbecue sauce has more than 10g of sugar and 22g of carbohydrates. Dozens of other condiments contain high quantities of hidden sugars while also often boasting a high content as well (such as creamy dressings and buttery pastes).

Better options include mustard (check the ingredients for added sugars), vinegars, hot sauce, salsa, herbs, and spices. These are all excellent, sugar-free flavour enhancers that don’t add a ton of extra calories.

7. Alcohol

The calories in alcohol come from sugar, point blank. Although liquors (like gin, rum, whiskey and vodka), wine and beer don’t contain any added sugar, these pure alcohols can contain anywhere from 1-13g of sugar per serving. Then there are the enhanced liquors such as creme de menthe, which has 21g of sugar in just a 1.5oz shot. Then you have mixed cocktails, such a pina coladas (28g of added sugar per serving) and daiquiris (6.7g added sugar per serving).

To say the least, the sugar and calories in alcoholic beverages add up fast. To make matters worse, alcohol interferes with fat digestion. What that means is, alcohol can prevent fat loss. If you choose to drink, the CDC recommends up to 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for woman. But your best bet is to drink rarely, or eliminate alcohol altogether, especially if you have weight and fat loss goals.

If you want to increase your health, improve your body composition, and get lean, you should seriously take a look at your sugar consumption. The more you fill your diet with single-ingredient whole foods, the less of a concern sugar becomes. So, the easiest fix is to reduce your packaged and processed food consumption. You’d be amazed to see how much that change alone will make when it comes to water retention, fat loss, and weight management.

Photo by Lyza Diliff [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons