The 9 Surprising Sugar Bombs in Your Pantry
One taste of something sweet is all it takes to trigger the sugar cravings cycle. As soon as a little sugar touches your taste buds, your brain starts signalling you to want sugar and fast.
Avoiding sugar is important to prevent cravings, which undermine your intention eat healthy. Unfortunately, this isn’t so simple: Sugar hides in the most unlikely places! Some of the biggest culprits are the staples you’ve been stocking up in your pantry for years. Ready for a pantry overhaul? Here are the biggest culprits:
Cereal may be convenient, but some brands have as much as 20 grams of sugar in a serving and get more than half their calories from sugar (here’s looking at you, Honey Smacks). One big giveaway: sugar or high-fructose corn syrup is first or second on the ingredient list. And seemingly healthy choices aren’t immune: store-bought granola has between 20 and 30 grams of sugar in a cup. That’s the same amount of sugar as 2 or 3 Krispy Kreme donuts (a glazed donut has 10 grams of sugar).
If you think that oatmeal is a reliably healthy breakfast, think again. Flavored packets of instant oats contain 10 to 18 grams of sugar in a serving. Plain rolled oats are the better choice, but remember that adding maple syrup, brown sugar, or raisins brings up the sugar content considerably. Consider going savory — oatmeal can be treated like any other kind of cooked grain and topped with a fried egg, sriracha, and sauteed veggies.
The bread you toast for breakfast or use for sandwiches might be another source of sugar. You’ll find it on the ingredient list of grocery store breads as straight sugar, but also as molasses and honey. Some manufacturers are even using high fructose corn syrup in their breads. Look for brands like Dave’s Killer Breads, which includes only one gram of sugar per slice.
It may be hard to imagine, but even something as savory as spaghetti sauce can be loaded with sugar — some national brands have it in the first three ingredients. Tomatoes are naturally sweet, so you’d think it wouldn’t be necessary (sure, recipes sometimes suggest a pinch of sugar to help boost flavors if your tomatoes aren’t the ripest). But manufacturers add up to 3 teaspoons in a serving to help cover up the fact that they’re using vegetable oil instead of olive oil and dehydrated vegetables instead of the real thing. Check labels to make sure there’s no added sugar before you stock up: in general, marinara is your best bet from brands like Newman’s Own. Even so, there are 4 to 7 grams of natural sugar in there.
Granola bars and energy bars are marketed as good for you, but many of them are loaded with as much sugar as a candy bar. Always read the nutrition facts before you trust the health claims, since even high-protein bars often contain added sugars. Look for bars that only include natural ingredients such as nuts and whole grains, like Kind bars. But you’ll rarely find anything that has less than 5 grams of sugar (some low-sugar brands have less, but they use sweeteners like monk fruit, which still tastes sweet, so they continue to trigger cravings). If you need a snack, opt for a handful of nuts or a piece of fruit and a little nut butter — but read on for caveats on that!
Don’t worry, we’re not about to tell you to give up peanut butter or almond butter. But do take a close look at the ingredient list before you buy your next jar. Many brands add 1 or 2 grams of sugar to the natural sugars, and some of the fun flavors — Chocolate Cheesecake or Caramel Almond — have 11 to 13 grams of sugar. Also beware of hazelnut spreads like Nutella — sugar is the first ingredient and palm oil the second, with hazelnuts only coming in third. That means two tablespoons contain 20 grams of sugar. Look for natural nut butters that stick to just the nuts and maybe salt, nothing more.
Yes, jams are supposed to be sweet. But the primary source of sugar should come from the fruit, not from added sugar. Some manufacturers are sneaky, adding different kinds of sweeteners. For example, Smucker’s Strawberry Jam includes high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, and sugar. Why? So the first ingredient is still strawberries, not sugar. Look for brands that include only fruit, juices, sugar, and pectin, including Bonne Maman and some Polaner products.
Crackers and Packaged Snacks
It sure is nice having convenient snacks on hand. But many crackers have a lot of sugar in them. Wheat Thins, for example, have sugar, malt syrup, and invert sugar on their ingredient list — all different sources for sweetness. Triscuits are a better option, with just three ingredients: whole wheat, vegetable oil, and salt. And watch out for sugar even in high-protein foods. Beef jerky, for example, usually contains added sugar.
If you find yourself reaching for sweets when you don’t want to, give Sweet Defeat a try. Let it dissolve on your tongue and it will stop you from tasting sweetness for up to an hour.