Spot the Sugar! Finding Added Sugar in Everyday Foods

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Yesterday, I was inspired to make homemade pumpkin pancakes and they were delicious! When I took a second to reflect on my breakfast (homemade pancakes, flavored yogurt, fruit) and the other foods I wanted to eat that day, I was humbled to realize how much added sugar was (or could be) hiding in my meals for the day.  Overall, the day was pretty healthy with no soda, candy, or desserts scheduled on the horizon. Yet, just in the morning, I was having about 4 teaspoons of added sugar and could easily exceed the recommended limit of 6 teaspoons per day for women and hoping to not go beyond the 9 teaspoons per day for men. High intakes of processed and added sugar have been linked to diabetes, weight gain, and dental issues, which all impact quality of life.  I wanted to share this because people (dietitians included!) often pick foods that appear healthy but actually have quite a bit of unnecessary sugar. Read on for some places to look for added sugar hiding in plain sight!

Salad dressing

Salads are touted as one of the common ways to eat vegetables. Sadly, some salad dressings have liquid sugars in them to help enhance the flavor (especially if it is a fat-free dressing).  To help remedy the salad dressing conundrum, stick to oil-based dressings with herbs, spices, and citrus juices for flavoring.

Condiments

Ketchup, BBQ sauce, and marinates can add so much tastiness, but also a lot of sugar.  Some of this sugar can help with caramelizing and browning and the extra drives our desire for sweets even higher. And, in all honesty, who uses just 1 tablespoon of ketchup with baked fries?  If you are looking to scale back this hidden sugar, go for rubs for meats instead of sauces.  Try measuring 1-2 tablespoons of your favorite dipping sauces in a small cup so you can have a better idea about how much you are eating.

Breakfast cereals

Yup, this includes even the healthy ones that don’t have chocolate bits and bright colors. Breakfast cereals tend to be made out of highly processed grains and sugar, which can make us hungrier sooner because they break down so quickly.  Sticking to rolled oats or plain, unsweetened cereals with protein and nuts can be a tasty morning starter without the added sugar.

Yogurt

Yogurt has so many health benefits but is often full of sweeteners.  Flavored yogurts are more likely to have sugar listed under other names. Stick to unflavored yogurts and add your own fruit puree or a measured teaspoon of honey or maple syrup.  This gives you more flexibility in flavors and helps you be in control of the amount of sweetness.  Although plain yogurt can take some time to get used to, it is worth it!

Now that we have identified some of the places sugar might be hiding, take a look at some of the staple foods in your pantry and see if you can spot the sugar!

Check out this resource for 56 different names sugar goes by in our foods! 

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  • Jeanette Schaible, RD, LD, CLC

    Specialties: Weight loss and weight management, family nutrition, chronic disease prevention and management, meal planning

    Locations: Bedford, NH; Derry, NH; Manchester, NH; Worksite Wellness; Tele-Health

Jeanette is passionate about connecting people with nutrition education and support to create a healthy and happy lifestyle. Follow her on social media to stay up to date on Fun Food Friday or reach out to schedule an appointment to get started toward your nutrition goals!

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