How to Cut Back on Sneaky Added Sugars

By: Charlotte Fisher, EatingWell.com, July 2017

Sugar

Sugar lives in a lot of foods and goes by many names. Dextrose. Corn syrup. Glucose. Agave nectar. Maltose. Molasses. No matter what it's called on the label, it's sugar. And whether you're eating granulated sugar or agave syrup, it all has virtually the same effect in your body: it's quickly digested and spikes your blood sugar levels. These rapid upswings in blood sugar can cause us to crash—hard—while adding calories at the rate of about 16 calories per teaspoon of sugar and not really any nutrients.

Read More: What a No-Added-Sugar Day Looks Like

Most Americans are getting more sugar than they should, an average of 19.5 teaspoons daily. That's triple the recommended limit of 6 teaspoons of added sugar for women per day, and double the 9-teaspoon limit set for men by the American Heart Association. To put that number in perspective, a typical 12-ounce can of soda has 39 grams of sugar, or about 10 teaspoons of added sugar. Over time, too much sugar can lead to obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

We know some of the obvious sources of added sugars—sweet drinks, candy, cakes, pies, cookies. But there is also sugar lurking in places you may not expect, such as crackers and tomato sauce. Even though the amount of added sugar in these products may be small, it can add up quickly if you aren't careful. And with so many different names for sugar appearing on labels, it can be tough to track exactly how much of the sweet stuff is being added to your food.

Fortunately, the FDA has approved a new nutrition label which, along with other updates, will include added sugars in grams and as a percent of the Daily Value. This new label should be in place by July 2018.

Until then, let us help! Here are some of the most common foods that contain added sugar.

Flavored Yogurt

Yogurt

Blueberry, 5.3 oz.

11 g added sugar= 2 3/4 tsp.

Spare yourself sugar overload and buy plain yogurt that you can sweeten yourself. Try adding a handful of berries or a small drizzle of honey for a more modest sugar intake.

Dairy-Free Milks (Soymilk)

Milk

Chocolate, 1-cup serving

17 g added sugar = 4 1/4 tsp.

It may seem obvious that chocolate milk contains sugar, but original "plain" flavors of nondairy milks can have 6 grams of added sugar. Choose unsweetened dairy-free milks, which won't have any added sugar.

Peanut Butter

Peanut Butter

Creamy, 2-Tbsp. serving

2 g added sugar = 1/2 tsp.

Yes, even peanut butter has added sugar. Switch to natural brands that have just good old peanuts (and sometimes salt) listed as the ingredients.

Granola Bars

Granola Bar

Honey-oat, 40 g

9 g added sugar = 2 1/4 tsp.

Granola bars sound like a really healthy snack, but 9 grams of added sugar is a lot for a little snack bar. Look for lower-sugar options, or try making your own with these healthy Granola Bar Recipes.

Tomato sauce

Marinara

Marinara, 1/2-cup serving

9 g added sugar = 2 1/4 tsp.

Tomatoes are naturally sweet, but many store-bought brands add sugar to their sauce to enhance that sweetness. Nine grams of sugar in pasta sauce feels a tad overboard, but you can make your own sauce with no added sugar with this recipe for Spaghetti with Quick Meat Sauce.

Dried Fruits

Dried Fruit

Sliced mango, 6 slices

11 g added sugar = 2 3/4 tsp.

Fruit is naturally sweet, so why add sugar? Fortunately, there are plenty of no-sugar-added options for dried fruit out there. Just be sure to read the ingredient list before you stock up.

Salad Dressings

Salad Dressing

Classic Italian, 2-Tbsp. serving

3 g added sugar = 3/4 tsp.

Salads are often a go-to when it comes to eating healthier, but they can quickly take a not-so-healthy turn once dressing enters the picture. Reading the ingredients list can save you serious added sugar and sometimes funky ingredients. Or make your own, so you know exactly what's in your dressing with these Healthy Salad Dressing Recipes.

Marinades

BBQ Sauce

BBQ sauce, 2-Tbsp. serving

11 g added sugar = 2 3/4 tsp.

We'll admit BBQ sauce is a delicious staple of grilling season. But 11 grams of added sugar is a lot for just a little bit of sauce. Again, reading the label is your best bet here for choosing lower-sugar options.

Watch: One-Day No-Sugar-Added Meal Plan

 

Read More:
6 Swaps to Slash Added Sugar from Your Diet
Healthy No-Added-Sugar Snacks to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth
7 Tips for Eating Clean