Everyone knows that sugar is found in foods like candy and cookies. But do you know that sugar may also be lurking in the jar of spaghetti sauce you bought at the supermarket? The small amount of sugar in pre-made sauce may not be enough to affect your health—or waistline. But consumed over the course of a day, hidden sugars may add up to too many calories with no nutritional value, leading to unwanted pounds as well as tooth decay.
Your daily sugar intake comes mainly in two forms: Naturally occurring sugars, the kind found in foods like milk and fruit, and added sugars, found in processed foods like ice cream and cookies—and your spaghetti sauce. You may also find sugar hiding in such unlikely products as ketchup, salad dressing, salsa, canned vegetables, granola, sports bars and fruit cocktails.
Sugar goes by many aliases. So if you’re looking to cut back on sugar and calories, it’s important to read food nutrition labels carefully. Corn syrup, honey, brown sugar, raw sugar, cane sugar, maple syrup, fruit-juice concentrate, maltose, fructose, dextrose—anything that ends with ose—are all forms of sugar.
Besides studying product labels, try these tips to keep your sugar consumption in check:
- Limit sugary snacks. Enjoy candy, cookies, cake and ice cream as occasional treats only. When eating out, split dessert with friends. Better yet, satisfy your sugar cravings with fresh fruit such as blueberries, strawberries and apples.
- Choose sugar-free varieties of processed foods like salad dressing and gravy, but check the label to be sure you’re not swapping added sugar for added fat.
- Cut down on soda pop or switch to diet soft drinks.
- Instead of sweetened fruit juice, have an orange or apple, which gives you the added nutritional bonus of fiber.
- Eliminate sweetened cereals. Trade Tony the Tiger for healthy whole grains.
- Count all the sugar you use, not just the cookies. That heaping teaspoon of sugar in your several cups of tea throughout the day can add up to many tablespoons. Consider using a low-calorie sweetener.
- Choose nutritious sweeteners instead. Rather than a generous squeeze of honey on your oatmeal, add cut-up fresh fruit and cinnamon.
- Experiment with using less sugar in your recipes. Often, the extra sugar won’t be missed.
For the best health and disease protection, eat more complex carbohydrates—vegetables, fruits and grains—instead of the simple carbohydrates found in sugars, the American Heart Association recommends. You’ll be adding more fiber, vitamins and minerals to your diet in the bargain.