7 Foods Full of Hidden Sugar
by Jonathan Meadows, running coach
80% of packaged food contains added sugar, which makes it a pretty difficult substance to avoid.
Sugar has been used as a base ingredient for centuries as a way of enhancing flavors in many foods we’d expect it to be in such as baked goods, candy, cookies and more. However, various foods have had more and more hidden sugars added to them over the decades to make them tastier and to ensure we will keep coming back and buying more.
The perfect amount of added sugar to increase the sweetness of a product to just the right level, where it isn’t too sweet but is just sweet enough that we’ll keep coming back for more, is known as the “bliss point” within the food industry.
When we consume sugar, it lights up the pleasure centers in the brain and makes us feel good. A chemical called dopamine gets released which is why we experience this pleasurable sensation. We, of course, enjoy this feeling and continue to seek out more sugary foods (even if it’s a hidden sugar!).
It’s this control of the brain’s reward and pleasure centers that make sugar so addictive and hard to give up.
So, if you’re consciously trying to quit sugar, make sure you’re not sabotaging your efforts by consuming foods with lots of hidden sugar
If a word ends in ‘ose’….it’s sugar
1. Sauces, condiments and dressings
A typical savory food that you wouldn’t expect to be full of sugar, but jars of pasta sauce can be full of sugar and some companies even advise eating their products once per week.
The same goes for ketchups, BBQ sauces, salad dressings and various other condiments.
2. Canned vegetables
When I quit sugar for a month, I was surprised to see sugar on the ingredient list of many cans of beans, peas, tomatoes and more.
It’s used to enhance flavor and prolong shelf life. Just because it says organic vegetables doesn’t always mean sugar-free!
3. Diet foods
This one tricks many people due to clever marketing.
Typical healthy-looking snack bars often look like they’re good for you due to their packaging; however, they can actually be full of hidden sugar. Fat-free or diet foods may look and sound healthy, but typically when something is taken out of a product (e.g fat), something else gets added.
If you read the ingredient list, sugar will be there under one of its many hidden names.
4. Breakfast cereal
Many cereals are also full of hidden sugar. If it’s brightly colored and tastes sweet, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that it contains sugar.
Some healthy-looking breakfast cereals contain more sugar than a slice of cake.
Make sure you aren’t starting your day wrong by sending your blood sugar levels rocketing.
5. Sushi rice
Sushi often gets branded as a healthy choice, but it also contains sugar.
To make sushi rice, you need to add sugar to the rice as part of the recipe. So, this one isn’t a hidden sugar – but perhaps not widely known.
Many breads, especially white breads, have sugar added to them. Processed, “healthier” brown alternatives on the supermarket shelves can also be full of hidden sugar and worse than white bread.
It can be very hit and miss but aim for 4g of sugar per 100g.
Alternatively, head to your local bakery for healthier options or better still, make your own!
7. Dried fruit & smoothies
While fruit contains the naturally occurring sugar fructose, when fruit is dried, the sugar becomes concentrated. So, dried fruits can end up being a source of highly concentrated sugar when you start to snack on them.
Smoothies are the epitome of healthy living, but they can also be sugar traps, especially ones from the supermarkets which can have extra sugar added in. Fruit smoothies are high in fructose and the fiber gets pulverized, meaning it can’t act as a barrier and slow down absorption.
Tip for Smoothie-Lovers:
When you buy or make smoothies, opt for the ones with 2/3 vegetables and 1/3 fruits.
Some numbers to keep in mind when you’re reading product labels:
- 1 gram of sugar is 4 calories
- 4 grams of sugar is 1 teaspoon of sugar/1 sugar cube
Remember, life is all about balance! It’s not about restricting things from your diet; it’s all about being aware and keeping things in moderation. If you’re trying to quit sugar, then let us know in the comments below!
Make healthy cooking easy with our Runtasty app! It’s packed full of quick, simple, dietitian-approved recipes that require very minimal ingredients. Get it now!
About Jonathan Meadows:
Jonathan is a keen marathon runner with a personal record of 3:02. He likes to read about new fitness trends and ways to constantly improve himself and is always up for a challenge.