In the age of processed foods, sugar seems to have found its way into the most unsuspecting foods. You may think it is an additive used to make things taste sweeter, but that is not the case at all.
“But why add sugar to things if not to make them sweet?” you ask.
A fair question indeed. The reason is mostly because sugar is addictive. It’s a drug and food companies want to give you your fix.
Let’s take a look at several common food items you probably buy on a regular basis, blissfully unaware that you are consuming loads of added, processed sugars.
Not only do the carbohydrates in bread turn to sugar as soon as you eat a piece, food companies add sugar to their loaves, often in surprisingly large quantities–and that includes whole wheat bread.
A British survey analyzed 15 popular loaves of wheat bread, finding 10 had added sugars, some as much as 4g per slice. That means eating two slices is about the equivalent in sugar of eating a Snickers bar.
“I’ll just have a salad,” you say, thinking you are making the healthier choice. However, in some cases, you might as well just have Twinkies for dinner.
For example, 1 TBSP of the Kraft Creamy French dressing has 3g of sugar. For a half-plate sized salad, most people are going to use at least three tablespoons, bringing your sugar up to 9g on top of your salad.
A tablespoon of Newman’s Own Honey Mustard has 2.5 grams.
Even some oil-based dressings, like Kraft’s Basil Parmesan Vinaigrette, have as much as 1g of sugar per tablespoon–and people tend to use more of these types of dressing.
The marketing teams for these yogurt companies are brilliant, having successfully convinced most of America that they are selling a health food. So hats off to them. However, it’s best to know the truth.
The country’s best-selling yogurt is currently Chobani, a Greek-style yogurt. One cup (the standard serving) has 6g of sugar. But this is miles ahead of their closest competitor, Yoplait, where a cup contains a whopping 18g of sugar! That’s almost 2 Snickers bars worth of sugar in your yogurt!
First of all, if you’re eating noodles, you’re eating carbs which, again, turn into sugar as soon as they hit your digestive system. Throw in sugar-filled pasta sauce and you might as well start envisioning dinner as a plateful of sugar.
Just as an example, the top-seller, Prego, has a meatball sauce with 10g of sugar in a half-cup serving. Their diced onion and garlic sauce has 12g of sugar in a half-cup serving, and their mushroom and parmesan sauce has 13g per half-cup serving.
How many Tablespoons do you think you smear onto a sandwich when you’re making your child’s lunch?
Let’s say you use about 3 tablespoons of peanut butter per sandwich. If you were using the popular brand, Skippy’s smooth peanut butter, you would have just smeared 9g of sugar on that sandwich–that’s slightly more than a Snickers bar.
Skippy’s is about in the middle of the pack in terms of sugar content. It’s pretty easy to get about half that much sugar from your peanut butter if you pay attention, but it can also go higher.
Stop the Madness!
Given that so many popular and widely-used foods are full of sugar, how do you navigate this sugar-soaked world and avoid as much of it as you can?
It’s pretty simple. Just start reading labels. One tip – if some form of sugar is listed in the first three ingredients, just put it back where you found it.
There are nearly 60 names for added sugar. For a full list of these many and often deceptive names, click here.
Secondly, make sure you take a look at both the sugar content AND the serving size. Food companies can be tricky and make it seem their product has less sugar simply by measuring it in a very small serving size. Try to think about how much you actually use per serving. For example, it is rare that anyone uses 1 tablespoon of peanut butter at a time, even though most peanut butters measure their serving sizes as such.
Be safe out there. It’s up to you to be vigilant and stay educated.