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Sugar Pie Honey Bunch, Where Are You Hiding?

By Amanda Turner MS, RD, CSSD | November 11, 2015

Sugar is arguably one of the biggest health concerns in our country. The average American consumes about 20 teaspoons of sugar each day, while the American Heart Association recommends only 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 teaspoons per day for men (source). Added sugar is any sugar added to sweeten foods that aren't typically sweet. This includes table sugar, brown sugar, molasses, honey, agave, dextrose, and corn syrup amongst others. Natural sugar found in fruit and unsweetened dairy products do not count toward your added sugar consumption for the day.

Where does added sugar live?

In a lot of foods. If you don't read labels and look at ingredient lists, it can be very easy to overlook. Here is a list of some foods that have added sugar:

Desserts: pies, cakes, cookies, candies

Regular Soda

Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks

Coffee Drinks

Juice Drinks (i.e. Tang, Capri Sun, juice cocktails)0

Baked Goods: doughnuts, bagels, bread, English muffins, croissants

Peanut Butter

Crackers

Cereal

Flavored Dairy Products: yogurt, milk

Sauces and Dressings

Imitation crab product

Tricks of the Trade

How can you identify where sugar is hiding? Usually the front of the package is not helpful. However, certain marketing can raise red flags for added sugar. When you see products that are "low-fat" or "fat-free", a common strategy to maintain taste, flavor, and texture without the fat is to raise sugar in the product. Before you buy a "fat-free" alternative, look at both the regular and altered product and check out the sugar content. In general, don't trust marketing on the front of food packages. Claims that are made on the label meet very specific standards: high protein, low sodium, heart healthy, low fat, etc. While the standard for those claims may be met, it doesn't tell you that the product as a whole is healthy. You MUST read the label and ingredient list to decide for yourself. As for beverages, if it tastes sweet, there is a strong possibility it has sugar in it.

Tips: Eat This Not That

Choose: Pass:
Natural peanut butter Low fat peanut butter
Peanut butter with no stirring needed
Whole wheat bran cereal
(add fruit!)
Frosted or flavored cereals
Low fat or fat free
white milk
Flavored milk
Plain, low fat yogurt
(add fruit!)
Flavored yogurts
La Croix and other sparkling, flavored waters Regular soda and sweetened beverages

Of course, we all eat foods with sugar on occasion. My recommendation is to keep sugar out of your every day foods, and enjoy the items you really love in moderation!