Integrative Nutrition Blog

5 “Healthy” Foods that Are Actually Loaded With Sugar

July 1, 2016

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If you are mindful about what you eat, you’re likely aware of the major sugar-loaded culprits to avoid, like snack foods, cereals, instant oatmeal, and soft drinks. But unfortunately, there are many more unsuspecting foods that are loaded with the sweet stuff that might slip by even the most discerning eye.

The American Heart Association recommends that women consume no more than 25 grams of sugar a day, and men have no more than 37.5 grams. According to the FDA, 13% of the calories consumed by the average American come from added sugars.

But it can be difficult to limit the amount of sugar we eat when so much of it is carefully hidden under the ruse of other ingredient names, like agave nectar, sucrose, and even beet juice, the New York Times reported. In fact, a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of North Carolina found that 68 percent of all packaged foods and beverages contained added sugar.

IIN’s visiting teachers have taken a stand in what Dr. Robert Lustig calls “the war on sugar,” advocating against the food industry’s overuse of it. Dr. Mark Hyman has even suggested that sugar is a recreational drug with the food industry being the largest supplier. (Learn how to detox from sugar addiction here.)

Fortunately, the FDA has recently approved changes to its nutritional labels that will require companies to be more transparent about the amount of added sugar—under any name—in their products.

In the meantime, here are five “healthy” foods that are actually loaded with sugar—and solutions to make better choices when consuming them:

Yogurt:

We all love probiotics, but before selecting a yogurt, it’s important to read the label. While all yogurts contain a few grams of naturally occurring lactose sugar, certain brands have added in a lot of extra sweetener, rendering the snack no healthier than ice cream. Yoplait Greek Blueberry Yogurt, for example, has a whopping 18 grams of sugar in one 5.3-ounce container. Meanwhile, Chobani faced a class-action lawsuit for its use of “evaporated cane juice” in its products as, the plaintiff claimed, a way to deceive customers.
Solution: Purchase organic plain yogurt and sweeten it lightly on your own with raw honey, homemade jam, or fresh berries.

Tomato/Spaghetti Sauce:

If you’re a die-hard foodie you may already know that many tomato sauces recipes call for a pinch of sugar to balance out the acidity and tartness of the tomatoes. But certain brands of processed sauces go way overboard. Bertolli’s Tomato and Basil Sauce, for instance, has 12 grams of sugar in just ½ cup of sauce.
Solution: Make “Nonna” proud and cook up your own sauce with just enough sweetener to do the trick and only if needed. You can even make a big batch of it and freeze it for future use. If you must buy a sauce at the store, check the sugar content on the label and find a brand with little to no sugar added.

Energy/Protein Bars:

Grabbing a bar on the go before or after a workout is a great way to get a boost of protein and a surge of energy. But the problem with foods like these is that you’re substituting health for convenience. A Crunchy Peanut Butter Clif Bar is loaded with protein (11 grams) but also comes with 20 grams of sugar, in the form of rice syrup (the first ingredient in the list), cane syrup, and more. And a more delicately sized Blueberry Luna Bar rings in at 10 grams of sugar.
Solution: Before a workout, snack on a scoop of almond butter, a banana, and if you need some sugar to keep you moving or try making these bliss snack bars at home!. 

Juices/Smoothies:

Nothing is more refreshing that a protein-packed or electrolyte-rich drink for post-workout recovery (or, the occasional hangover). But the high levels of sugar in most commercially available drinks will have you feeling sluggish and worse overall as soon as the sugar crash begins. Example: A delicious-sounding Protein & Greens Naked Juice seems delightful and harmless, but it contains an astonishing 53 grams of sugar. That’s as much as five Krispy Kreme Original Glazed Donuts. And just 12 ounces of Fruit Punch + Berry Gatorade has 21 grams of sugar.
Solution: Make your own smoothie at home and take full control of how much sugar goes into it. Here are 47 recipes to get you started.

Condiments (ketchup, barbecue sauce, salad dressings):

They say the “devil is in the details,” and that statement certainly rings true when it comes to condiments. Ketchup, like tomato sauce, contains sugar to balance the tomato acidity, but can be a surprising source of added sugar. Heinz Ketchup has 4 grams of sugar (from high fructose corn syrup) per tablespoon. Barbecue sauce is even worse—one popular brand, Sweet Baby Ray’s, contains 16 grams of sugar per two tablespoons. Not all salad dressings are terrible: Annie’s Green Goddess Dressing has only 1 gram per 2 tablespoons. But Ken’s Steak House Creamy Balsamic contains 7 grams for the same serving size.
Solution: Read labels and choose wisely. Or even better: make your own dressing with high-quality extra-virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper. It tastes better, anyway!

What are your tricks and tips to help you limit added sugar? Share in the comments below!

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