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Hidden sugars can be a not-so-sweet surprise

  • Category: Diabetes
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Hidden sugars can be a not-so-sweet surprise

Our New Orleans hometown is famous for all things sweet. Beignets, pralines and king cakes are just a few of the confections we have all come to know and love. If you are on a mission to avoid or limit your sugar intake, you may have learned to say no to these iconic sugary treats. However, hidden sugars can be in more foods than delectable desserts. They could be hiding in many of the “healthier” things you eat.

Recognizing which menu items contain several teaspoons of added sugar is critical if you are trying to lose weight or are living with a condition that requires you to limit sugar or avoid it completely. Eating excess sugar can compromise your health in multiple ways.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, consuming foods with excessive sugar content increases your likelihood of developing or worsening a variety of health complications, including:

First steps toward dietary success

To make better and more informed decisions about what to put on your plate, it is important to know exactly where hidden sugars are most frequently found.

The best way to determine which foods are sources of added sugars is simply to read the ingredients on nutrition labels. According to the American Heart Association, examples of sugary ingredients include:

  • Agave
  • Corn sweetener
  • Fructose and sucrose
  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Juice concentrate
  • Molasses

You may be astonished by how many seemingly healthy options work against your nutrition goals.

Stumbling blocks to avoid

Marketing makes it tough for even the most discerning grocery shopper or diner to know if their purchases are sensible. Unfortunately, many options that are touted as healthy are filled with hidden sugars you don’t need. Sneaky sources include:

  • Condiments. Your favorite toppings for sandwiches and burgers, such as peanut butter and mayonnaise, may be calories you don’t consider when you are filling your plate with a seemingly sensible meal. However, these add-ons are often loaded with sugar. The good news is you don’t have to sacrifice the flavors you crave. Select options with "no added sugar" or "unsweetened" labels instead.
  • Fruit juices and smoothies. Fruits are a natural source of sugar. When they are blended in the form of a juice or smoothie, you end up with a concentrated amount of sugar in a serving size. When you drink that juice or smoothie, you take in more sugar than you would if you simply ate a piece of fresh fruit filled with the fiber and essential nutrients your body needs. Instead, enjoy a glass of sparkling water spritzed with a squeeze of lemon or lime for pizazz.
  • Granola bars and energy bars. Marketed as healthy snacks, grab-and-go bars might seem like a smart choice, but many of them are loaded with sugar. Look for options with primarily whole ingredients, such as nuts and seeds, and minimal added sugars.
  • Salad dressings. It seems counterintuitive, but salads can be one of the biggest dangers to your diet if they are dressed inappropriately—and we’re not talking about questionable crop tops. Catalina, honey mustard and thousand island options can pack a sugary punch, so beware. Instead, drizzle your greens with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
  • Yogurt. This creamy breakfast favorite can start your day off on the wrong foot if you choose flavored yogurt, which is often filled with a high amount of added sugar. To enjoy yogurt more sensibly, opt for unsweetened yogurt. If you need a touch of sweetness, add fresh fruit or a drizzle of honey.

Looking for more ways to enhance your health through diet? Make an appointment with a registered dietitian at East Jefferson General Hospital.