The food industry knows most people don’t read labels, and instead are looking at the front of the packaging to see what they’re buying. It’s confusing, misleading, and companies are doing something called "health-washing.” Health washing is when a food company adds synthetic and processed additives to make a product appear healthier and more nutrient-dense than it actually is.
Added sugar is defined as sugars or syrups added to foods during processing or preparation. A few examples- corn syrup, cane sugar, coconut sugar, agave nectar, honey, maple syrup etc.
This is why the ingredient list is the most important label on a product!
Where is it hidden?
There is a ton of common foods that are secretly loaded with added sugar. These include, but are not limited to breakfast cereals, granola (bars), protein bars, instant oatmeal, ketchup, bbq sauce, salad dressings, yogurt, teriyaki sauce, carbonated beverages, sports drinks, energy drinks, canned fruit, bread, bacon, rotisserie chicken, chicken broth, chips, and, crackers.
Luckily, there are brands out there that do not include added sugars in their products. A few of favorite brands are Primal Kitchen, Jovial Foods, Siete Foods, Simple Mills, Thrive Market, The New Primal (Noble Made), Kettle and Fire, Hope Hummus, 365 Nut Butters, and Rao’s Homemade Sauce.
Sometimes, it’s easier to check if the nutrition fact panel has a section for it.
TOTAL SUGARS are all sugars that are present in the product regardless of origin.
ADDED SUGARS include sugars that are added during the processing of foods, such as cane sugar, sucrose, dextrose, syrups, honey, concentrated fruits or vegetable juices. This does not include naturally occurring sugars like the ones found in milk, fruits, and vegetables.
*Artificial sweeteners will not have an effect on the total sugars or added sugars/ that is why is is important to read the ingredient list.
What are other names for sugar?
Unfortunately, food manufacturers can add sugars without using the word “sugar.” They often use terms that are harder to identify and may seem healthier than they are.
When looking at the ingredient list if there is something on there that you CAN’T pronounce or have no idea what it is- it probably is an added sugar or an artificial sweetener! These are super inflammatory are way worse for you than organic cane sugar!
When adding sweeteners into your diet try to implement natural and low glycemic sweeteners. A few that I use are raw local honey, maple syrup, organic coconut sugar, and monk fruit.
I love buying raw honey from the local farmers market. It helps with seasonal allergies and I even eat a spoonful as a pre-workout. If buying at the store, research the company and preferably look for raw, organic, and unfiltered honey. When it comes to pure maple syrup- NOT maple *flavored* syrup I’m talking about 100% pure, grade A maple syrup. I buy mine off Thrive Market, but you can find it at most grocery stores. I use this in the majority of my desserts. Organic coconut sugar is something I use in moderation and you can use it like you would regular sugar. Lastly, monk fruit is a non-glycemic, zero calorie sweetener (if you are the type that counts calories or macros).
SETTING YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
Clean out your fridge / pantry! You’ll be less tempted to eat sugary foods when they are not in your home! Out of sight out of mind! I’m not sitting here saying you need to throw out / donate everything in your pantry, but go through it! Get rid of expired food, and read the labels of some of your favorite foods and see if you can identify any added sugars.
Stock your kitchen and plan meals ahead of time. Prep ingredients, have snacks available, and stock up on sugar free crackers and nut butters. I also love to keep cinnamon, cocoa powder or nibs, and sugar free vanilla extract on hand to add into my chia puddings, smoothies, granola, yogurt, etc.
If you are eating out look up the menu ahead of time. This will help you know what your options are before you get there. Don’t be afraid to be that person who brings their own ketchup or salad dressing.
SWEET RECIPES TO TRY
We are all bio-individual, meaning that there isn’t one diet that will work for everyone. What may work for others may not work for you. It’s all about moderation, balance and being able to enjoy the foods you’re eating. Don't be hard on yourself or others. The goal is for you to become more aware of the added sugars you eat, and overtime reset your tastebuds so you crave less sugar and feel better overall.