What if I told you that some of your favorite “healthy” snacks are secretly packed with more sugar than a dessert? Popular health foods like yogurt, granola and protein bars, and even bottled smoothies might not be as beneficial as you think. I’m going to reveal the surprising reality behind these sugar filled foods and offer you better alternatives so that you can make smarter sugar conscious choices.
According to the American Heart Association, adults consume an average of 70 grams of added sugar every day. This is almost 2-3 times the recommended amount of 25 grams for women and 36 grams for men.
Excessive sugar intake is linked to various health issues, including obesity, type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and dental problems. In addition, sugar can cause blood glucose levels to spike and then crash, leading to energy fluctuations and cravings. And the unfortunate reality is that many of us think we are making health conscious food choices which turn out to be loaded with sugar.
So I want to highlight five of these health foods that secretly have extremely high amounts of sugar. And we’ll start off with flavored yogurt. Now at first glance, it seems like a perfectly healthy choice – it's convenient, comes in a variety of appealing flavors, and is frequently marketed as being packed with beneficial probiotics and essential nutrients.
But how much sugar does your favorite yogurt really contain? Let’s take for example Dannon fruit on the bottom strawberry yogurt. This is advertised as a low fat yogurt but it has 12 grams of added sugar. Even greek yogurt which is touted to have high protein content and rich in probiotics are filled with added sugar.
This peach flavored greek yogurt has 9 grams of added sugar in just one serving. Remember, the daily recommended limit is around 20 to 30 grams. One serving on yogurt and you’re already halfway to the limit.
A healthier alternative is plain, unsweetened yogurt. It retains the benefits of probiotics and nutrients without any of the added sugars. You can then add fresh fruits, a splash of honey, or a sprinkle of nuts and seeds. Not only will this alternative satisfy your taste buds, but it will also align better with health and wellness goals.
Next, let's talk about protein and granola bars. They're convenient, portable, and their packaging often boasts an array of health claims like "high in protein," "fiber-rich," or "natural energy." But it turns out that some protein bars are really just disguised candy bars.
Many brands add significant amounts of sugar, syrup, or sweeteners to enhance taste. Let’s take Clif bars as an example. Their blueberry almond crisp flavor has 15 grams of added sugar while other flavors like white chocolate macadamia nut has 16 grams of added sugar.
Similarly, granola bars can also be packed with added sugars. Nature’s valley granola bars are advertised to contain hearty whole grain oats with no artificial flavors, artificial colors, or high fructose corn syrup. But the reality is these bars contain 12 grams of added sugar.
A healthier alternative for both protein and granola bars would be to choose bars with minimal added sugars and wholesome ingredients. Look for bars where sugars are not listed among the first few ingredients. Examples include LaraBar whose chocolate chip cookie dough flavor contains only 3 grams of added sugar.
Moving on to Bottled Green Juices and Smoothies, these beverages are often a go-to choice for those seeking a quick, nutrient-packed option, especially popular among those with active lifestyles. The allure is understandable: they're marketed as containing multiple servings of fruits and vegetables, and they're convenient for on-the-go consumption. However, the sugar content in many of these bottled drinks can be extremely high, and this is where the problem lies.
Take for example, Naked Juice, which advertises itself as having no added sugar. However, their green machine flavor has a total of 53 grams of sugars. For reference, a krispy kreme original glazed donut has 10 grams of sugar. So one bottle of Naked juice has the same sugar content as 5 donuts. Even if the sugars are from natural sources, the high sugar content can counteract the health benefits you're seeking.
A healthier alternative is looking for fresh juice bars or cold pressed juices. Look for the options that have low sugar content like this tropical protein smoothie. It has no added sugars and less than 10 grams of total sugar. In addition, because cold pressed juices are usually served fresh, they retain more of a fruit or vegetable’s vitamins and minerals.
The next food I want to discuss is health cereals. These are often a staple in many diets, particularly for those seeking a quick and supposedly nutritious start to their day. Marketed as whole-grain, fiber-rich, or fortified with various vitamins and minerals, these cereals create an image of the ideal breakfast choice.
But despite their health-oriented branding, many of these cereals contain significant amounts of added sugars. This can come in the form of high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, or other sweeteners. For example, Honey nut cheerios are advertised to be whole grain and help lower cholesterol, but the reality is that 1 serving has 12 grams of added sugar.
Another popular brand is Honey Bunches of Oats. Their almond flavor has 8 grams of added sugars per serving. This is particularly concerning for individuals who rely on these cereals as a quick and easy breakfast option.
Another breakfast trouble maker is instant oatmeal packets. These are another seemingly healthy food choice that often finds its way into many diets. Oats themselves are a nutritious whole grain, rich in fiber, and have been linked to various health benefits, including lower blood sugar levels and reduced risk of heart disease. However, the catch lies in the pre-flavored and instant varieties of oatmeal packets.
For example, Quaker instant oatmeal maple and brown sugar has 12 grams of added sugar whereas the apples and cinnamon flavor has 8 grams of added sugar. Consuming these high-sugar versions regularly can negate the intrinsic health benefits of oats.
A healthier breakfast alternative is to opt for minimally processed foods like steel cut oats. This allows you to enjoy the full health benefits of whole grain oats without the added sugars. To enhance the flavor, add natural sweeteners like a small amount of honey or enrich the nutritional value and taste by topping your oatmeal with fresh fruits, nuts, and seeds.
Remember, the goal here isn't to instill fear or completely eliminate these foods from your diet, but to foster awareness and encourage smarter choices. Start by reading nutrition labels carefully, choosing unprocessed or minimally processed foods, and being mindful of portion sizes. These small changes in your diet can make a big difference in your overall health and well-being.