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8 Foods with a Surprisingly High Sugar Content

Updated on February 28, 2014
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Hidden dangers and misleading branding

Don’t fall into the trap of believing you have cut sugar out of your diet simply by avoid sweet treats. The truth is that there is a lot of savory processed food that contains sugar or sugar labeled as something else, such as high fructose corn syrup, agave nectar, corn syrup, cane sugar, molasses, sucrose, and many more. Furthermore, when saturated fat became the diet evil back in the 70s and 80s, many food manufacturers started producing low fat food. But to compensate for a lack of flavor, they added extra sugar. So don’t rely on a brand that tells you it is healthy or low fat.

1. ‘Healthy/low fat’ cereal

Next time you are in the cereal aisle of your local supermarket, read the labels on the boxes of cereal. Cereal manufacturers are clever with their branding. You’ll see many boxes of sugary of chocolate flavored cereal that are obviously sweet, full of sugar and unhealthy. Next to them you’ll see beautifully packaged cereals with wholesome names, pictures of nuts, fruit and oats on the boxes, and big bold words such as low-fat, healthy, or natural. However, check the nutritional information and check the ingredients. Many cereals on the market are full of sugar and are not a great choice for breakfast.

2. Table sauce e.g. tomato ketchup

Table sauces seem so innocent. A teaspoon of your favorite sauce on top of your food may not feel like a cause for concern, but have you ever wondered why they taste so great? The truth is that many sauces and accompaniments contain sugar in their list of ingredients, or sugar substitutes such as high fructose corn syrup. So be warned before you add these sauces to your food. Sometimes it’s better to make something from scratch, such as a fresh tomato salsa. That way, you know exactly what you are eating.

3. Baked beans

How many of us feed baked beans on toast to our children? It seems like such a wholesome, healthy and balanced meal, not to mention tasty. However, if you are buying canned food from the supermarket, read the labels for sugar content. Don’t forget to check salt content too, as sometimes that can be high. Some manufacturers have now started to make low-sugar varieties, so if you are going to buy these then look out for those low sugar options instead.

4. Low fat fruit yogurts

It has always seemed illogical to me that food manufacturers put sugar in a product that contains fruit – fruit being such a natural sweetener anyway. But I guess they do this because it means higher sales for that product. Don’t be fooled into thinking that just because a yogurt is described as ‘all natural’ or with ‘fresh fruit’ that it is sugar-free. Likewise, any low fat or low calorie option may have plenty of sugar in it to add to the taste. The best way of avoiding sugary yogurts is to buy a tub of plain yogurt and serve it with fresh fruit. This is usually cheaper too.

5. Granola / cereal bars

A cousin of the cereal family, granola bars can be just as guilty when it comes to confusing us about their health credentials. Many of us believe we are making a healthy food choice when we snack on a cereal bar rather than a chocolate bar, but in reality some of them contain as much sugar as a chocolate bar – sometimes even more. Again, it is best to always check the labels. If you love these products, it is possible to make your own with seeds, nuts, coconut oil and dried fruit, but without the high sugar content.

6. Ready-made cooking sauces

Its late, you’re hungry and you don’t have time to cook a meal from scratch, so you buy a ready-made pasta sauce, stir fry sauce, or Indian curry sauce instead, and all you need to do is add meat. It seems fairly healthy, because most of the sauces look like they contain vegetables and tomatoes. However, the reality is different. Many contain sugar for taste or shelf life. Rather than buy these ready-made sauces, have some store-cupboard staples to ensure you can always make a meal in 15 minutes without resorting to processed food. I personally love Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals so have a look on the internet for some of his recipes.

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7. Fruit juice

Pre-bottled fruit juice is often marketed as an easy and healthy way to get your five-a-day fruit and vegetables. However, the problem with these drinks is that when fruit is liquidized, it removes all the fiber from the drink and effectively becomes something that can have a sugar content that is on par with some of the more obviously sweet carbonated drinks on the market. So if you want something fruity eat it fresh rather than blended.

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8. Bread

Who would have thought that bread contained sugar? I certainly wouldn’t have guessed that. However, many manufacturers now add it, particularly in the sliced, packaged loaves. Don’t be fooled by wholemeal varieties either as many of these also contain sugar. There are sugar-free varieties in the supermarket but they are not often branded as such, so read the labels. If in doubt, buy a bread maker. Freshly baked bread is a delight.

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