Convenience in the kitchen has become so necessary in today’s fast paced society that we are often kept in the dark about all the hidden sugar that hides in our quick, “healthy” food. Without even realizing it, the average person consumes roughly 150 pounds of sugar per year.
Cooking from scratch everyday is a luxury not everyone can manage. Studies have shown that eating out or on the run contributes to a higher level of fructose intake. When you mindlessly grab something on the go, there is likely more sugar in it than you realize. A chewy granola bar labeled wholesome may seem innocent enough but you will probably be surprised to find it isn’t the healthy snack you thought it was.
Decreasing your sugar intake is fairly easy to do because it is so present in everyday meals. Here is a list of foods with hidden sugar we’ve been fooled into thinking are good for us but should really only be consumed on a treat-basis.
Refined white flour provides little nutritional value and is super high in fructose. Empty carbs are constantly at hand through bread, pasta, wraps etc. Choosing whole grain carbohydrates will decrease your sugar intake for the day and keep you going longer.
Cereal and granola bars were born for convenience and I can think of nothing easier than pouring a bowl before tackling the day. Cereals are loaded with sugar and artificial flavours like chocolate and vanilla. The second and third ingredients in “healthy” Special K are sugar and corn syrup—a huge red flag. I would take a warm bowl of oatmeal topped with a teaspoon of maple syrup and a cup of fresh strawberries any day.
Fruity yogurts are filled with sugar and sweeteners making low-fat or non-fat yogurts actually higher in calories than whole products. Opt for a bowl of plain or Greek yogurt topped with nuts and berries. Drizzle some honey or maple syrup on top if you really miss the sweetness. You will keep your sugar intake at a minimum and contribute to a healthier meal plan.
Salad dressings are handy when whipping up a quick meal but packed with hidden sugars, canceling out your good intentions with a loaded salad. Try throwing together a homemade dressing by combining olive oil, lemon juice, mustard and sea salt for a healthier option. If you crave a creamy texture, blend the above ingredients with some avocado slices. It makes a great dip too.
Soda is being added to this list because of its popularity but I hardly think anyone classifies it as a healthy food, or at least I hope not. We all know it contains sugar but have you ever wondered just how much? One can of Coke contains roughly 8 teaspoons of sugar… ick.
Energy drinks have an interesting fan base. The average athlete will seek out their source of energy through a sugar packed drink filled with unhealthy artificial ingredients. The sugar in energy drinks contribute to hyperactive energy but within no time at all the individual is crashing with fatigue due to the high fructose intake. Flavour your water with lemons—a glorious thirst quencher and gentle cleanse.
Dried fruit comes across as a healthy snack but can be a terrible choice if you aren’t careful about which kind you pick. If the package is labeled “sweetened” or doesn’t say “unsweetened” it’s full of added sugar and cancels out all the good stuff.
Click here for a list of healthy snacks.
Photograph: Pal Hansen for the Observer