There's no question that the holidays are high season for sweets. From
brownies to fruitcake, treats are virtually inescapable this time of year.
These sugar-heavy goodies are in plain sight, and we're all aware
that overindulging is unhealthy.
What people often aren't aware of, however, is the fact many foods
that don't fall into the sweet-treat category, actually are high in
sugar and thus equally unhealthy as your favorite Christmas cookies.
According to the World Health Organization, people shouldn't consume
more than 100 calories (which equals six teaspoons) of added sugar per
day. The average American, however, actually consumes almost four times
that amount. A sugar-heavy diet can lead to a host of health problems,
including cognitive disorders, diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure,
liver disease, and obesity. That's why ATRIO Health Plans is spotlighting
the dangers of hidden sugar.
Become a Sugar Sleuth
As the phrase "hidden sugar" implies, this type of sugar frequently
is found in foods you wouldn't suspect. Further compounding this problem,
manufacturers aren't required to list if sugar in the product is naturally
occurring (such as in fruits, whole grains, dairy, rice, and starchy vegetables
like peas, corn, beans, and sweet potatoes) or if it's added during
As a result, nutritionists recommend reading the nutrition facts section
on food labels, keeping an eye out for words associated with added sugar, such as:
-agave -brown sugar -corn syrup
-dextrose -fruit juice from concentrate -fructose
-glucose -honey -maltose
-malt sugar -sucrose -syrup
Also, be on the lookout for words that can be misleading, including “sugar-free”
and “reduced sugar.” Here's what these terms actually mean:
Sugar-Free–Less than 0.5 grams of sugar per serving.
Reduced Sugar or
Less Sugar–At least 25% less sugar per serving compared to a standard serving size
of the original product.
No Added Sugars or
Without Added Sugars–No sugar is added during processing, but naturally-occurring sugar
may be present.
Many food items contain small amounts of hidden sugar, but — because
Americans consume them on a regular basis — that hidden sugar can
add up to an unhealthy amount. Following is a list of condiments, beverages,
and foods that fall into this category. You don't have to delete these
items entirely, but you should be mindful of their use:
-barbecue sauce -bread and rolls -cereal (cold)
-dried fruit -energy and sports drinks -fruit juice
-fruit spreads -granola bars -instant oatmeal
-ketchup -marinade -pasta
-peanut butter -salad dressing -yogurt
One of the most effective means of managing your sugar intake is to prepare
as many meals as possible using fresh versus packaged ingredients. When
that's not possible, be picky about the convenience foods you purchase.
Always carefully review the label's nutrition facts, and opt for those
items containing the least added sugar. The more discerning you are, the
healthier you're likely to be.