6 Surprising Foods Where Sugar Is the First Ingredient
There are few experiences more frustrating than trying to eat healthy and realizing you’ve made a major mistake. Of course, sometimes we budget for small indulgences. If we’re reaching for a cookie or a scoop of sorbet, we have a pretty good idea about the sugar that we’re about to consume. However, sugar can also lurk in unexpected places. If you’re out to eat or grabbing something on the run, you might not realize how much sugar you’re consuming unless you happen to look it up afterward. Unfortunately, those grams of sugar still count, no matter how innocently they were consumed. Inadvertently eating something that is high in sugar can leave you feeling bloated or tired. It can also trigger sugar cravings that you’ve worked so hard to rein in. What’s the solution? Don’t fall victim to sugar surprise. Instead, arm yourself with knowledge about which foods contain lots of sugar and what alternatives will give you delicious taste without derailing your low-sugar lifestyle. Here are a few shocking foods where sugar can be the first ingredient, and what to eat instead.
- Fat-Free Salad Dressings and Dairy If you want to save on calories you might opt for fat-free or low-fat salad dressings or dairy options. However, this choice can expose you to lots of added sugar. The flavor that’s taken out of the recipe when fat is removed needs to be made up somehow, and usually that happens by adding a lot of sugar. Plus, remember the whole low-fat lie blames fat for many health ailments that may actually be caused by excessive sugar intake! The solution: Instead of choosing a low-fat or fat-free dressing, use a small amount of the real thing, whether it’s dressing or whipped cream. Better yet, instead of buying a processed food, make your own dressing at home. It’s more delicious and saves money, too.
- Matcha Matcha -- a drink made from ground green tea leaves that are specially grown and processed -- has become a favorite drink of health-conscious Americans. It can help boost energy and has a variety of reported health benefits. Unfortunately, depending on where you get your matcha drink, it can also pack a high dose of sugar. At Starbucks, for example, an iced green tea latte can contain up to 30 grams of added sugar! The solution: If you still love matcha, make your own drinks at home, where you know that you can control how much (if any) sugar is added. If you’re in a pinch while you’re out, specifically ask for an iced herbal tea or unsweetened iced tea to avoid added sugar.
- Barbecue Sauce Most people love grilling meat, but if you reach for a store-bought marinade you might as well be rolling your chicken or steak in straight sugar. In fact, one tablespoon of barbecue sauce can contain 6 grams of sugar, about ¼ of the maximum recommended daily added sugar intake for women. The solution: Instead of slathering on sugar, make your own marinade by combining fresh chopped herbs like basil or rosemary, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. It will taste great and go down guilt-free.
- Iced Tea You probably know that sweet tea contains sugar. But did you know just one glass of sweetened iced tea or lemonade likely contains your entire daily limit of added sugar? No matter how great it tastes on a hot day, that’s hard to reconcile. Many people reach for alternatives that rely on artificial sweeteners, thinking they’re better for you, but these can still trick your body into craving sugar. The solution: Instead of drinking your sugar, infuse water with the natural sweetness that is all around us during the summer. Add watermelon or strawberries to a pitcher of water and allow it to sit overnight. You’ll be amazed at how much flavor seeps into the water without any added sugar.
- Jams If you’re looking for something to top your toast, jams and jellies are tempting options. However, many store-bought jams contain more sugar than fruit. Even if sugar isn’t the first ingredient, some manufacturers hide how much they use by adding different kinds of sweeteners like corn syrup and juice concentrates. In fact, a tablespoon of strawberry jam contains 12 grams of sugar. If you combine it with a tablespoon of peanut butter you can add another 3 grams. Yikes! The solution: Look for jams with fruit as the first ingredient, but even those should be used sparingly, since they still include at least 6 grams of sugar. A better option is to make your own quick microwave jam, using fresh fruit and cutting back on the sugar. Here’s a recipe that’s just four ingredients and takes less than 15 minutes.
- Chocolate-hazelnut spread You would think that nut butters would have nuts as the primary ingredient, but that’s not the case with Nutella and other chocolate-hazelnut spreads. The rest of the long ingredient list is not so appealing, either (there’s palm oil and artificial flavors). One serving (2 Tbsp.) of Nutella contains 21 grams of sugar—almost all of the 25 grams of sugar the American Heart Association recommends you get in a day. The solution: Plain nut butters are a far better option, providing protein and unsaturated fats instead of the processed ingredients and unhealthy fats of Nutella. If you want a chocolate flavor, mix in cocoa powder with the nut butter.