Sugar substitutes are becoming commonplace in food products—even nondiet foods. Here’s how to spot them.

Joyce Hendley, M.S.

Sugar substitutes are becoming commonplace in food products-even nondiet foods. Here's how to spot them.

Even if you think you're avoiding artificial sweeteners, you may be eating them. No-calorie sugar substitutes, both natural and artificial ones, are sneaking their way into foods and beverages beyond those labeled "diet" or "lite." Here's a list of 10 surprising places we found them lurking.

1. Granola (monk fruit extract): Lower-sugar versions of a product may signal hidden sweeteners, like in some granolas.

2. English muffins (sucralose): Some English muffins-even the whole-wheat ones-contain sucralose.

3. High-fiber breakfast cereal (sucralose & acesulfame K): Ironically, even within the same brand you'll find some cereals that contain sugar substitutes like these and some that don't.

4. Regular bottled iced tea (acesulfame K & sucralose): Yes, we're talking nondiet iced tea here-often the fruit-flavored ones. The actual diet versions of these teas just have more of these fake sugars. Choose the plain, unsweetened type instead, and toss in a few slices of real fruit to punch up the flavor.

5. Nondiet ginger ale (sucralose): One brand we encountered contained both high-fructose corn syrup and sucralose. A 12-oz. can would deliver artificial sweetener and 4½ teaspoons of actual sugar.

6. Microwave kettle corn (sucralose): It's low-fat and contains zero sugars-but keep looking if you want zero sucralose, too.

7. Light and fat-free Italian dressings (stevia): Here's a case where you might want to go full-fat. Regular dressings tend to use fewer sweeteners of any kind than light or lower-fat types.

8. Frozen honey BBQ chicken breast pieces (sucralose): The honey part sounded wholesome enough, but read farther down the ingredients list and-hello, faux!

9. Toasted coconut almonds (rebiana): The brand we spied contained sugar, brown sugar and stevia. We're all for almonds, but this is sweetness overkill.

10. Fizzy vitamin drink mix packets (stevia leaf extract): Along with a boatload of vitamins, you're also getting this plant-based sugar substitute in many of the flavors of one popular manufacturer's fizzy packets. It's just more proof that you have to read those labels-even on "good-for-you" items!

November/December 2015
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