It’s That Sweet Time of Year: Find out where sugar is hiding in your diet

October 24, 2014

Don’t forget to check labels for stealthy sugars. Read on for SupermarketGuru’s top tips on how to find added sugars.

Sugar is everywhere, and the infamous sweets holiday, Halloween is a week away. Halloween also kicks off the Holiday season, and that means treats, parties and dietary cheats. Regardless of holiday season or not, Americans of all ages are getting more sugar than they’ve bargained for. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), Americans eat about 22 teaspoons (110 grams) of added sugars a day, that’s 3.6 times the recommendation (or limit) for women and 2.4 times that for men.

In kids, the majority of sugar consumption occurs in the home. Slightly more than half of the added sugar from beverages (54 percent), and nearly two-thirds (66 percent) of the added sugars from foods was consumed at home. And it’s a similar story for adults.

So, where is sugar hiding? There are many foods on our supermarket shelves with “hidden sugars” so read labels and ingredient lists carefully and look out for ingredients with names like glucose syrup, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave syrup, brown rice syrup, sucrose, malt syrup, fruit juice concentrate, cane juice, and maltose to name a few.

There are also some foods that you wouldn’t think contain sugar like, oatmeal, granola, protein bars, iced tea, tomato sauce, sports drinks, prepared meals, yogurt, smoothies, and more. It’s important to be vigilant about reading labels, as you never know where sugar might pop up.

Although there is no strict consensus on intake, some experts recommend women consume no more than 6 teaspoons of sugar per day, and men no more than 9 teaspoons. (For reference one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains eight or more teaspoons of sugar). Too much sugar is implicated in heart disease, high cholesterol, hardening of the arteries, hypertension, diabetes, decreased immunity, general inflammation, and more. 

Here are some suggestions on how to decrease your sugar intake: 

Cut back on the amount of added sugars you consume. This includes, coffee, tea, and breakfast items that you may add syrup or a teaspoon of sugar (that might already be sweetened!) To start, try cutting the usual amount of sugar you add by half and wean from there. Another great tip is to remove sugar, and sweeteners from the table and possibly even you cupboard! Try adding nutrient dense fruits like berries and bananas to sweeten naturally.

Make your meals more interesting with nutrient dense, antioxidant rich spices instead of sugar; try ginger, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Buy fresh fruits or if you're purchasing canned fruits make sure they are in water or natural juice; avoid those canned in syrup.

When baking treats, substitute unsweetened applesauce for sugar in equal amounts, or try cutting back on the sugar called for in recipes by one-third - you probably won’t even notice a difference.

Read labels. You might think you are buying your family all of the healthiest choices at the market based on the front of pack claims, but flip the package around and check the nutrition facts panel for sugars. Ideally one serving should be 8 grams of sugar or less, regardless if its from fruit or added sugars.

Enjoying sweets doesn’t always mean relying on added sugars. Once you have weaned yourself off some of the sugar in your diet you will start to truly enjoy the natural sweetness of fruits and even some vegetables!