Learn the 8 super surprising places that sugar is hiding in your food! These are things that you are probably eating every day without even knowing it!
More and more information is coming out about how sugar affects our health. I’ll never forget when this article came out in 2016 – it basically opened people’s eyes to the food industry and the money games behind it.
And then it was the documentary “Fed Up”. Since then
Remember when everything was “low fat” and “fat-free”? Fat was pinged as the bad guy and now our health experts are saying that the sugar industry is to blame. The health world, my world, was kind of turned on its side.
Since then, more studies have come out that show the ways sugar is impacting our health and ultimately causing the obesity and diabetes epidemics that we're facing. Eating too much sugar has been linked to weight gain, increased risk of heart disease, increased risk of diabetes and many other health issues.
Where Sugar is Hiding in Our Food
For most of us, we know that eating too many sugary foods is bad. We're not having things like cookies and ice cream for dinner. We think of dessert as a “treat” because it's full of sugar, but what many of us don't realize is that sugar is also hiding in many of the savory foods we're eating every single day.
So in this article, I want to share where sugar might be hiding that you might not realize. We'll go through the common culprits and I'll give you some examples of recipes you can make as a healthier option.
1. Salad Dressings
Salad dressing is one of those things that I always used to buy until I realized how easy it is to make at home. Nowadays? You'll never find a store-bought salad dressing in my fridge mostly because they're usually full of ingredients that I don't want to eat. If you are shopping for a salad dressing, always double check the ingredient list. 9/10 have added sugar… and a lot of it. Salad dressings typically add sugar to balance out the bitterness of vinegar to make them more appealing to all taste buds. Instead of sugar and high fructose corn syrup, if you are okay with a sweetener in your dressing, look for whole food sweeteners (like maple syrup or honey) or at the very least make sure sugar is one of the last ingredients on the list.
Recipes to try: My 6 staple vegan salad dressings, Tahini Dressing: 4 Ways
Yogurt typically sneaks a decent amount of sugar in, especially when they're flavored. And I've actually found that many of the non-dairy yogurts have even more sugar than traditional dairy-based options. Naturally, the fruit flavored yogurts typically have more sugar than plain or vanilla flavored yogurts, but make sure you still look at the labels. Some plain and vanilla yogurts are still quite high in sugar. For example, one container of soy peach flavored yogurt has 25g of sugar – that's equal to 6 teaspoons! So my recommendation is to either go for unsweetened Greek-style yogurt (if you can tolerate dairy) or one of the options below if you are plant-based.
Brands to try: Coyo, GTs Cocoyo, Anitas Coconut Yogurt or Lavva (which does not add sugar)
Store-bought granola is yet another sugar trap! It's one of those things that you might not think about when you buy it, but when you make it at home you realize how little sweetener you actually need to make it taste delicious. Luckily there are more healthy options on the market today, but I'm definitely of the mindset that making it at home is better. From my research, a typical serving of store-bought granola (which is only 1/4 cup) contains anywhere from 14 – 30g of sugar.
Recipes to try: Cinnamon Apple Quinoa Granola, Banana Peanut Butter Granola, Healthy Pumpkin Granola
4. Dried Fruit
Did you know that the majority of dried fruit is coated with sugar?! Which to me is just insane because dried fruit is already super sweet and a more concentrated form of sweetness than the fresh version of that same fruit. It's also really easy to overeat since the pieces are a lot smaller than the fresh version. Unsweetened dried fruit can be quite hard to find sometimes – I have the best luck either online (Thrive Market is great for that) or in the bulk section of my grocery store. Just make sure to triple check the nutrition labels or ask store employees if they have any unsweetened dried fruit.
Places to buy: Thrive Market, Whole Foods bulk bins
Similar to dressings, a lot of sauces and condiments are loaded with sugar. We're talking about things like pasta sauce, barbecue sauce, and ketchup. I try to find sauces without added sugar when I can, otherwise, I’ve dabbled in making my own! There are some sauces that will pretty much always have sugar in them (like barbecue and ketchup), so when I'm buying them at the store I just make sure that the form of sugar is 100% pure and I compare every single bottle at the store to find the one that has the lowest amount.
Recipes & brands to try: Healthy Homemade Barbecue Sauce, Easy Marinara, Jovial, Tessemae's
6. Non-dairy Milk
I don’t know why but the dairy-free world thinks that non-dairy milk should be sweetened! Every flavored or “original” non-dairy milk (almond, coconut, cashew, oat, etc.) has sugar added to it. How frustrating is that?! Luckily you can usually find unsweetened varieties of your favorites at most stores. Just make sure that it actually says unsweetened right on the front of the bottle!
Brands to try: Almond Breeze, Silk, Califia Farms, New Barn, Malk
Crackers are one of those things that you would never think have sugar but often do (especially low fat and flavored). In order for fat-free items to taste good, they replace the fat with sugar. I'll be honest and tell you that homemade crackers aren't something I usually bother with because there are some really great options on the market. But I do have a few recipes on the site that I'll link below.If you don’t have the time or the ingredients, Mary’s Gone Crackers or Simple Mills are two of my go-to cracker brands.
Recipes to try: Toasted Pine Nut & Basil Crackers, Garlic & Rosemary Quinoa Crackers, GF Quinoa Crackers
8. Protein/Granola Bars
Granola bars and protein bars can be really sneaky with their sugar content – even the “healthy” brands. Have you ever noticed how almost every brand in this aisle of the grocery store claims to be healthy and good for you? In reality, a lot of granola bars are packed with sugar. Take a peek at the ingredient list and see where that sugar is coming from. Even if that sweetness is coming from whole food sources like dates, figs, honey or maple syrup, if they're at the front of the ingredient list, it can really make the sugar per serving go way up! I've seen protein bars with as much as 30g of sugar PER serving. Instead, you can either make your own of look for some lower sugar options which I'll link to below.
Brands to try: Raw Rev, Health Warrior, Square Organics (use “simplyquinoa” for 15% off)
Do you check your nutrition labels?
I'd love to hear what you think about this article! Did any of these surprise you? Let me know down in the comments section!