The Sugar Hiding In Unexpected Places
Last updated: April 2022
With diabetes, it’s important to watch your added sugar intake in order to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range throughout the day. You probably know to minimize the consumption of sugary foods like candy, cookies, and sweet quick breads. However, excess sugar could still be sneaking into your diet in foods you’d never expect to have so much added sugar! These common foods have much more added sugar than you might realize:
Tomato or marinara sauce: Tomato sauce boasts many health benefits. If made from real tomatoes or tomato paste, 1/2 cup counts as one serving of veggies and it’s a low-calorie way to add flavor to many foods, from pasta to steamed vegetables. Tomato sauces are also a great way to sneak more veggies—such as carrots and celery—into your meals. However, many store-bought varieties are loaded with unhealthy added sugars, too. Companies may add sugar to cut the acidity of the tomatoes or to make the taste more appealing to our sugar-addicted society. Either way, it’s not necessary and is extremely unhealthy. Tomatoes contain natural sugars, so don’t expect to find a nutrition label with 0g sugar. Instead, choose brands with no added sugar or read the ingredients list for ingredients that mean added sugar, including high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, malt syrup, sugar, brown sugar, honey, and juice concentrate.
Dried fruit: With it’s high in fiber content and sweetness from natural sugars, dried fruit can be a great snack. However, many varieties are made with added sugar and end up having a nutrition profile more similar to candy than to fruit. Dried cranberries, for example, are always made by dehydrating the fruit with sugar to preserve the fruit’s shape—so treat these like candy. Any type of dried fruit can have sugar added to it, so it’s important to read the ingredient list. Choose dried fruits that have no added sugar; they’re sweet enough on their own!
Condiments: Many condiments, including barbecue sauce, honey mustard sauce, salad dressings, ketchup, and sweet relishes, have tons of added sugar. To avoid unnecessary added sugars, try making your own olive oil, vinegar, and herb salad dressings, and choose grainy or hot mustard or sauerkraut to liven up your sandwiches.
Canned fruit: Many canned fruits are packed in syrup, which is super-concentrated sugar water. The fruit itself will absorb some of this sugar, making it way sweeter than it needs to be. If you’re buying canned fruit, avoid fruit packed in syrup or light syrup. Instead, look for fruit packed in 100% fruit juice with no added sugar. Even better, opt for fresh or frozen fruit.
Bread: Who would have thought that a slice of bread would have sugar added to it? You may not taste it, but it can still be there. Some sugars occur naturally in bread, so check the ingredients list. If you see a word meaning sugar—there are so many, but common ones are high fructose corn syrup, malt, honey, molasses, sugar, glucose, and fructose—skip that brand and search for another type of bread, preferably 100% whole grain, that doesn’t have added sugar on the ingredients list.
Low-fat and “diet” foods: Fat adds an appealing flavor and texture to foods. However, it is also a very calorie-dense nutrient, meaning a little bit of fat adds a lot of calories. When your favorite foods are made into lower-fat or lower-calorie diet versions, sugar is often used to replace the fat that is removed. This improves the flavor of the food without all of the calories from the fat.
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