Want to lose weight or improve your health? Try eliminating these hidden sugars from your diet to see an improvement.
Eliminating excess sugar from your diet is important when you’re trying to lose weight or improve your health. But some sugar sources are less obvious than others. You probably already know that you should stop drinking soda and juices. You also probably know that you should stop eating things like candy and ice cream. But what about more “everyday” foods?
In today’s overly-processed and highly satiating food market, sugar is prevalent in places where it wasn’t originally. But the food industry knows that our bodies have specific reactions to various foods, including sugars. They make food addicting and create many of them to behave much like a drug.
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Luckily, there are still low and no-sugar added options on the market. But it’s ultimately up to us as the consumer to educate ourselves and make health-conscious decisions.
That’s where I come in.
My goal is to empower you to make healthier choices, primarily by educating yourself about the food you eat and fitness in general. But I’m not a doctor or registered dietician, so I can’t give you specific diet advice. (I am a Certified Personal Trainer.) But I can get your wheels turning and help motivate you to make changes for yourself. If I can point one person in the right direction and inspire them to learn more, I’m happy. 🙂
Why Sugar Intake Needs to Be Reduced For Weight Loss
Sugars are present in natural foods (fruits, veggies, etc.). But it’s okay to consume those since they’re accompanied by fiber, vitamins, and other important nutritional compounds. When you consume added refined sugar, your body doesn’t process them the same as it would with things like fruits and vegetables.
You’re likely to over-consume these hidden sugars and if they aren’t burned right away, they’ll be stored as fat. That’s because sugars do give you energy, but they aren’t meant to give you long-term energy and aren’t as readily used as say, carbohydrates. Because of that, sugar is likely the culprit of weight gain for many people.
The gist: Sugar from any source can be overeaten. But since sugars from fruits, veggies, and other plant-based foods contain a high nutritional value, they’re generally justified. Refined sugars are normally accompanied by high-fat and sodium content and are usually present in nutritionally sparse foods.
Like I mentioned before, the food industry has increased the amount of sugar in almost every product across the board. Unless you’re eating fresh, unprocessed foods, you’re likely to encounter “extra” hidden sugars. You might be surprised at what foods seem to be safe, but are actually jam-packed with added sugars.
This just wasn’t the way food was meant to be consumed, and this is reflected in the prevalence of obesity in the United States and elsewhere.
Unfortunately, when you’re looking for the word “sugar” on food labels, you might get a little confused. That’s because the food industry has created many aliases for the word “sugar.” Here are just a few variations to look for:
- Corn Syrup
According to this article from the University of California San Francisco, there are over 60 names being used for sugar on food labels. What’s more, an estimated 74% of packaged foods have added sugar in one form or another. (Check it out and familiarize yourself!) Otherwise, let’s talk about the ten ways (food types) to eliminate extra sugar from your diet.
Here are 10 places to check for hidden sugars:
Obvious sources include sodas and energy drinks, but have you seen how much sugar there is in the fruit juice you’re giving your kids? How about your daily coffee and creamer? Drinks are extremely likely to be full of hidden sugars. (According to this article, your Starbucks drink might have up to 25 teaspoons of sugar!) That’s why pediatricians recommend limiting your kids’ juice consumption – because even things that seem healthy can be deceivingly high in sugar. If you give your kids juice, water it down to make it go further and contain less sugar per serving. There are a lot of other ways to consume vitamins that are often found in juices (like vitamin C).
Even the healthiest-seeming Greek yogurts containing probiotics, calcium, and protein can have a lot of sugar. (Kids yogurts are the worst, plain yogurt seems to be the best.) Check your yogurt containers and, next time you’re at the store, opt for lower-sugar. Even if it’s just a few grams in difference!
A word of caution: Many sugar substitutes are just as unhealthy as regular sugar. I highly recommend researching the various replacements on the market.
Breads don’t usually taste sugary, but they often are. I’m not just talking about pastries, I’m talking about the toast you’re having every day at breakfast and the rolls you’re having with dinner. Compare a few bread brands and types at the store and chose wisely! Tip: Be extra careful when selecting whole wheat breads. Some studies have found that they contain more added sugar than white breads so as to mask the flavor of the whole grains.
4. Dehydrated Foods
Eating things like dried bananas and beef jerky might seem like an easy way to get “healthy” nutrients in, but be wary. Store-bought dehydrated foods often have added sugar. Look for options that are labeled “dry” or simply check the ingredients for added sugars. Also, remember that dehydrated foods can lose quite a bit of their nutritional value, so it’s still better to opt for fresh or frozen fruits and veggies.
Just like bread, many sauces doesn’t usually taste sweet. But that doesn’t mean they don’t contain hidden sugars. (Watch out for spaghetti sauce!) A little bit of sugar is necessary in a lot of acidic sauces, but pay attention to portion sizes if you’re going to opt for them. You can also find a lot of low-sugar options at the store.
Ketchup, ranch, teriyaki, and BBQ sauce are big on hidden sugars. Take it easy with your condiments or switch to “no-sugar-added” options. At restaurants, opt for condiments on the side. If you’re at home, another good option is to make your own!
7. Canned Foods
Canned fruit and vegetables can have a lot of hidden sugars, too. Luckily, cans are usually labeled as either, “packed in syrup,” “packed in juice,” or, “packed in water.” Opt for canned foods that are just in water to lower your sugar intake, or simply opt for fresh foods to get the most fiber and vitamins, too.
8. Frozen Meals
Most frozen fruits and veggies are okay, but what about frozen meals like TV dinners and your family-sized lasagna? What about your chicken wings and frozen Chinese foods? These things tend to be packed with sugar and sodium. Be careful what you pick!
An easy way to get too much sugar is to consume cereal. Kids’ cereals are the worst, but don’t let the others fool you. Even cereals that may seem completely safe can be high in sugar. Some cereals contain as much sugar per serving as a can of soda! Plain is generally the way to go when it comes to cereals.
10. Prepackaged Snacks
Anything that isn’t fresh is potentially full of sugar. (Remember that up to about 74% percent of packaged foods have it added.) That doesn’t mean that all packaged foods are bad – it just means that fresh or raw foods are best. An easy way to stay away from these foods is to do most of your shopping on the outer perimeter of the store. This is where fresh and perishable foods are usually located.
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Have you found that many of your favorite foods have a lot of hidden sugars? Tell me about it below!