Have you gotten off the Sugar high or the winter holidays yet? I hope so, because it is almost time for Valentine’s Day. We all know that too much sugar is bad for our health. Over consumption of sugar can lead to tooth decay, digestive stress, poor immune function, diabetes and will trigger went gain (and the many, many health problems that come from overweight and obesity.)
So, you may be planning to avoid eating so much chocolate this Valentines Day. That’s great. There are also sources of hidden sugar in your diet. Moderation of all sources of sugar will help you to move toward optimal health.
So what are some of these “hidden” sugars?
Yogurt. Ok, I have harped on yogurt before, but, I still see people eating it so I guess my work is not done. Plain yogurt has about 12 grams of sugar in the form of lactose, or milk sugar, in a serving. For people who tolerate dairy well, plain yogurt in moderation can be a fine addition to the diet and may be beneficial by providing healthy bacteria to the digestive tract. Once that yogurt is flavored, however, all the heath benefits go out the window. I was at the grocery store yesterday getting some plain, organic yogurt and I saw Almond Coco Loco Greek yogurt. Yikes! I know someone out there is thinking this 21 gram sugar bomb is a healthy snack. That’s five sugar cubes plus a little more. These yogurts are desserts, not healthy snacks, and should be consumed as moderately as a dessert or, perhaps, not at all.
Bread, pasta, cereal, crackers. Everything that you eat that your body will use for energy will be turned into glucose by the body. Glucose is the energy currency of the body, it makes your engine run. Carbohydrate rich foods like bread, especially white bread, are converted into glucose by the body quickly compared to, for example, meat or green vegetables. So, even if something does not taste sweet if it rapidly converts into glucose, aka sugar, in the body that food is part of your overall sugar consumption.
Sports drinks. Very few of us really need a sports drink to “replace electrolytes” after a work out. We just don’t. And sometimes we choose a sports drink because we think it is a healthier choice than a soda. It isn’t. A typical sports drink contains five teaspoons of sugar in a twelve ounce serving, and the servings are often three times that size. So find an alternative way to hydrate. But not with cranberry or orange juice. Cranberry juice cocktail has an amazing 12 teaspoons of sugar in a twelve ounce serving, and orange juice, in a tie with Coke, has ten.
Coffee drinks. Of course we know that a caramel mocha cafe latte with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles has a bunch of sugar in it. What about the more modest cousin to those confectionary coffee drinks, the simple cafe latte with skim milk? As a college student I worked at a coffee shop and I recall making lattes with espresso and steamed milk, I would not have thought it had sugar in it. A survey of a couple of nationwide coffee shops show their unsweetened and unflavored medium non-fat lattes to have between 18 and 21 grams of sugar. Say what? As it happens, milk has about 13 grams of sugar per cup. And some coffee chains add a touch of sweetener to their “unsweetened” drinks. Same goes for soy milk that they use in most coffee shops, at least 13 grams of sugar in an 8 ounce serving. If you’re cutting back on sugar you’d be better off with regular drip coffee and a splash of half and half.
Salad dressing. Another source of hidden sugar is salad dressing. There are sweet dressings, like raspberry vinaigrette, for which the sugar content would not surprise you. Even non-sweet dressings, like Ranch, have sugar in them. Reduced fat dressings can have five times more sugar than the regular versions because in order to make the non-fat version as similarly appealing as the full-fat version the manufacturers up the sugar. Read the nutrition label, you might be surprised. One way to cut back on sugar is to make your own dressing, of course. Try a simple oil and vinegar dressing with lemon or spices for flavor. When you do use prepared dressings use them sparingly. It is easy give yourself a larger portion than you intended. If you use less and toss your salad well you will be happy with the result.
Granola bars. Even If you have been passing up the chocolate chip granola bars and choosing the more austere oats and nuts varieties you are likely getting a minimum of 11 grams of sugar. A clif bar has over 20 grams, a power bar has 23 and the “no-added sugar” Lara bar has 14-20 depending on the variety. Granola bars have been a snack mainstay in our house in the past, mainly for the kids. Portable, shelf stable, kid-friendly. However, we are kicking the granola bar habit. Some of our better on-the-go snack choices are almonds and fresh fruit, hard boiled eggs, low-fat string cheese or celery and sunflower seed butter. Theses snacks are not as quick as grabbing a granola bar but they are easy enough and the kids are just as happy.
A Happy and Healthy Valentine’s Day to all!