Are you reading the labels on health foods? You might be eating more sugar than you think! Here are 4 “healthy” hidden sources of sugar in your diet
We all know that sugary foods and drinks aren’t good for us to eat all the time. Most people agree that things like soda pop and are best eaten on occasion, but most people don’t stop to look at the sugar content in health foods we eat on a daily basis. Some foods have a health halo: people may think that certain foods are healthy based on label claims, but once you check the ingredients and label you find that they aren’t so healthy after all.
The title of my post is actually a bit of a misnomer: with food labeling laws, not much is really “hidden” in packaged foods. I call these following foods a hidden source of sugar because of the health halo surrounding these foods and the fact that many people don’t read labels on health foods. Here are 4 “healthy” hidden sources of sugar and what you can pick instead to lower your daily sugar intake:
If you are dairy intolerant (like myself) or you just choose to avoid dairy for various reasons, then you are no stranger to the wide variety of non-dairy milk we have available to us now. The only downside to this big variety of dairy-free milk is that most of them have added sugar, and some of them have a lot of added sugar.
Some rice milk has over 12 grams of sugar per 8 ounce serving. If you had 2-3 servings a day, that would start adding up to the equivalent of sugar in a can of soda or a candy bar
Choose non-dairy milks labeled “unsweetened”
It isn’t enough to choose non-dairy milk labeled as “Original” or “Lower Sugar” since the original flavor may still have sugar added to it, and lower sugar varieties still have sugar added, just less of it. Choose non-dairy milks that are specifically labeled “unsweetened” to get ones that have no added sugars.
Barley grass juice powder mixed with water is a good way to get green juice on the go with no sugar
As I mentioned in one of my other posts, juices that have a lot of fruit in them are very high in sugar. They are natural fruit sugars, yes, but it is sugar nonetheless and since it is juice with little fiber, fat, or protein to buffer the sugar’s effect on your blood glucose levels, it is not a good idea to replace a meal with a high sugar juice.
Eating 5 apples at once isn’t a great idea, so why would we drink 5 apples in one sitting? One of the juices I mentioned in this post has 36 grams of sugar per bottle, just as much as soda pop.
If you are a juice fan, choose juices that are made of mostly vegetables and greens. Some of the better green juices have less than 10 grams of sugar in them. Don’t be fooled by other “green” juices, some of them still pack 30+ grams of sugar in them so always read the label! Try making some of your own juice at home, or better yet, eat whole fruit to benefit from the fiber in the skin. Barley grass juice powder is also a good way to get green juice without sugar
Vitamin water and sports drinks
The other day my husband bought my kids a vitamin-enhanced drink and forgot to read the label. We rarely buy vitamin water, and now I know why: I looked at the label and the entire bottle has 32 grams of sugar in it! That’s actually more sugar than a 12 ounce can of rootbeer (which has about 30 grams).
Unless you are doing some intense exercise for longer periods, there is simple no need for that much sugar. This is one of those foods that has a health halo: because it has the word “vitamin” on the label or in the description doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you.
Try making your own flavored water by adding fruit slices to your water bottle, or find some no-sugar or low-sugar electrolyte drink mix or try coconut water that has no added sugars. Just be cautious of artificial sweeteners and colors. Opt for ones that have natural vegetable and fruit colors and are sweetened naturally with stevia.
Fruit sorbet used to be one of my favorite treats! When I was younger and non-dairy ice cream was scarce in my hometown, I would opt for fruit sorbet to fill that frozen treat craving. But when I started caring about how much sugar I was eating, it surprised me to see how much sugar was in a serving of sorbet. There may be no fat in it and it has fruit, too, but fruit sorbet is not so healthy!
One of my favorite flavors (raspberry) of a particular brand has 25 grams of sugar per half-cup serving, and the mango flavor of the same brand has 36 grams of sugars for the same serving size. That is much higher than some non-dairy vanilla ice cream which has around 15 grams of sugar or less per half-cup serving. Frozen dessert calories and sugars can easily add up since most people don’t measure out a 1/2 cup serving and then they add sugary toppings.
Look for no-sugar added and fruit-only sorbets that are lower in sugar, or opt for sugar-free non-dairy ice cream that isn’t loaded with artificial sweeteners. You can easily make your own sorbet or non-dairy ice cream with some good recipes found online (I need to post some of mine), and you can save some money to boot!
Sarah Jane Parker is the founder, recipe creator, and photographer behind The Fit Cookie. She’s a food allergy mom and healthy living blogger based in Wyoming. Sarah is also an ACSM Certified Personal Trainer, ACE Certified Health Coach, Revolution Running certified running coach, and an ACE Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist