5 Simple Ways to Cut Back on Sneaky Sugars
by Tracey Pollack
Hidden sugars shouldn’t be taken with a grain of salt. That’s because eating too much sugar can have negative effects on your health. Studies show that consuming lots of sugar can contribute to tooth decay, obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, cancer and more. While some sugar is naturally found in wholesome foods like fruits and vegetables, this type of sugar is considered healthy. But the problem arises from added sugars lurking where you least expect it. The short and sweet of it is that reducing added sugar in your diet can be surprisingly easy with these tips that make catching stealthy sugars really crystal clear.
- Get a Healthy Start with Breakfast
While sugar is simple to spot in sweetened kids cereals, you may not realize that these crystals have also crept into many “healthy” whole-grain cereals, granolas and packaged oatmeal. You’ll also find sugar in dried fruit, fruit juice and canned fruits swimming in syrup. The way to avoid these added sugars is by reading ingredient labels and seeking out breakfast basics sans the sugar. It’s even easier to slash these sugars by replacing pre-packaged products with real, whole foods.
- Pore Over Your Sauces
One of the biggest bittersweet surprises is that many bottled sauces and condiments that seem to taste salty or savory actually contain heaps of sugar. Ketchup, barbecue sauce, tomato sauce, honey mustard and salad dressings all have secret sugars listed on their labels. It’s important to realize that sugar by any other name is still just as sweet. See, sugar goes by many names on ingredient labels, such as high fructose corn syrup, corn sweetener, molasses or evaporated cane juice. So start reading labels and seek out smarter swaps that aren’t full of sugar. Or, control the sugar content altogether by whipping up your own tasty toppings or using seasonings to spice up your meals.
- Attack Your Snacks
It’s 3 PM and you’re hungry. You’re tempted to race to the vending machine to get your favorite candy bar, but you know that it’s full of sugar, so you make a so-called healthy choice by grabbing a granola bar or a flavored yogurt instead. The only problem is that your healthy-sounding snack is actually full of hidden sugars. Today, it’s easy to be fooled by foods that are thought to be good for you, but are real diet disasters only wearing “healthy halos.” So when you need a nosh, get all of the satisfaction without all of the sugar by having a handful of nuts, a piece of fresh fruit, veggies and hummus, unsweetened plain yogurt, roasted chickpeas or a low-sugar nutrition bar.
- Don’t Drink Your Sugar
It may be hard to swallow, but sugar is secretly stirred into more drinks than you think. While you already know that syrupy sodas are brimming with the sweet stuff, you may not realize that sugar is also added to seemingly better-for-you beverages, such as sports drinks, energy drinks, vitamin-enhanced waters, fruit juice, store-bought smoothies, coffee drinks and bottled iced teas. It’s also hidden in alcohol, cocktails and wine. Your best bets for low-sugar sipping are plain water, sparkling water with a twist of lemon or lime, milk, unsweetened teas or a cup of black coffee.
- Give Frozen Dinners the Cold Shoulder
When time is tight or you’re tired of cooking, heating up a frozen dinner sounds like a sweet solution. Too bad it literally is because many frozen meals are shockingly full of added sugars. While many frozen entrees are notoriously high in sodium, the fact that they’re also packed with sweeteners can make you lose your appetite. If you find it helpful to have some frozen meals on hand, read their labels closely to spot sugar disguised by different names, and pick out packaged meals with fewer than 10 grams of sugar.
With these five sugar-slashing tips, you’ll find that it’s simple to shake off the added sugars in your diet.