9 Things That Are Secretly Loading You Up with Sugar
There’s one thing all nutrition experts agree on: Americans are eating way too much sugar. Most people eat 22 tablespoons every day, which is about 11 times the recommended amount for women. But we rarely eat dessert—how is this even possible? Unfortunately, a bunch of foods we thought were healthy are secretly loaded with sugar, too. Here are the biggest offenders.
Read the label carefully—just because it says “juice” doesn’t mean that’s all that’s in it. But even if you are drinking 100-percent fruit juice, drink it sparingly. Juicing concentrates the sugars of that orange or grape, and all of the fiber (aka pulp) is stripped away. You won’t gain the same sense of fullness after drinking it, and the sugar will absorb into your bloodstream more quickly.
It’s one of the most popular breakfasts, but most brands offer limited nutritional value and are stripped of essential vitamins and minerals. The sugar content is often too high; the serving sizes listed are deceptively small. They might also have misleading claims on the label, like “100% grains.” That’s not the same thing as whole grain, people. In fact, it doesn’t really mean anything. Avoid brands that contain more than 12 grams of sugar per serving—usually the ones below eye level in the cereal aisle. (They’re strategically positioned so little ones who may be shopping with you can easily see them.)
Snack and “Diet” Bars
They might promise to save you calories, and some even fill you up with appetite-curbing protein, but more often than not, they’re loaded with added sugar in the form of “all-natural” honey, agave, brown sugar and evaporated cane juice. Don’t be fooled—they’re just sugar with fancy titles. When we eat a ton of sugar, most of it gets metabolized by the liver before it becomes fat and is stored—so basically, it stays on your bod. So while you’re eating that diet bar instead of a slice of whole-grain toast or an apple before lunch, you’re probably doing your waistline more harm than good.
Fruit is naturally sweet and shouldn’t need any added sugar (or "sugar-based flavor enhancers," such as fruit juice, nectar or honey, that you often see on packaging). Additionally, certain nutrients, like vitamin C, are heat-sensitive, meaning they can be destroyed in the canning process. If you want canned fruit, choose ones that are packaged in water or in their own juice. Fruit canned in heavy syrup contains extra calories from added sugar.
Jarred Tomato Sauce
When you indulge in a plate of spaghetti and meatballs, it’s for dinner, not dessert. But, shockingly, the average serving of marinara sauce contains nearly as much sugar as a chocolate bar—around six tablespoons. And unless you’re eating whole-grain pasta, you’re basically eating white sugar in the form of that linguini, too.
While they can add fiber and texture to trail mix, they pack a serious caloric punch. To put things in perspective, a Halloween-sized box of raisins has 25 grams of sugar—that’s about as much as a half-cup serving of Ben & Jerry’s Half Baked ice cream. (Sure, it’s a step up from refined sugar, but even sugar from fruit will cause a blood-sugar spike.) Think of it as a special treat, not a daily snack.
Canned Baked Beans
They’re a quick, easy side that’s packed with protein, but they also typically contain sugar or molasses. In fact, a leading brand of baked beans contains a whopping three teaspoons of sugar per serving. For a healthier source of fiber and potassium, try canned black beans, which are also loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Look for low-sodium versions and add fresh cilantro to boost flavor.
This is one snack that always seems to fall under the “healthy” umbrella no matter what brand or ingredients it might contain. But in reality, most yogurts are loaded with so much sugar that your body then processes and stores it as fat—yep, even the ones that are dubbed “low fat.” Some yogurts contain upwards of 40 grams of sugar in a single serving. Instead, opt for plain Greek yogurt and add your own fruit.
Ketchup and Barbecue Sauce
They’re two of the most popular condiments in the Western world, but just two tablespoons of either sauce contains about 14 grams of sugar. If you’re wondering why you rarely see the ingredient “sugar” on the actual packaging, it’s because it’s often labeled as “corn syrup,” which is basically the same thing. Use store-bought marinades and dressings of any kind sparingly—that sugar will add up before you know it.