“Sweet” surprises: foods and drinks perceived as healthy, but high in sugar

'Sweet' surprises: Foods and beverages perceived healthy, but packed with sugar

When it comes to managing our sugar intake, we often think of obvious culprits like sodas, candy, and desserts. However, sugar can be hiding in unexpected places, sabotaging our efforts to maintain a balanced diet. So today we’re exploring some surprising foods and drinks that are secretly full of sugar!

By raising awareness about these hidden sources, we can make more informed choices and take control of our sugar consumption for better overall health and well-being.

Flavored yogurts
While yogurt is often touted as a healthy snack, it can be deceptively high in sugar when it comes in flavored varieties. Fruit-flavored yogurts, especially those that are brightly colored and marketed as “low-fat” or “light,” can contain a significant amount of added sugar. Some brands often add sweeteners to compensate for the loss of taste due to the reduced fat content.

To avoid this hidden sugar trap, opt for plain or Greek yogurt and add your own fresh fruit or a drizzle of honey for natural sweetness. You can also experiment with alternatives like coconut milk or almond milk yogurt, which are often less high in added sugar.

Salad dressing
While salads are generally considered healthy, your choice of dressing can turn a nutritious meal into a sugar bomb. Bottled salad dressings, especially those labeled “fat-free” or “low-fat,” often contain excessive amounts of added sugar to enhance flavor. Instead, opt for homemade dressings using olive oil, vinegar, lemon juice, or natural herbs and spices.

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Bottled salad dressings, especially those labeled “fat-free” or “low-fat,” often contain excessive amounts of added sugar to enhance flavor. Representative Image/iStock/Morse Images

Alternatively, you can choose low-sugar dressings or simply add some balsamic vinegar or squeeze fresh lemon juice over the salad. These options not only reduce your sugar intake but also provide additional health benefits.

Cereal bars
When you need a quick snack, granola bars are often a go-to option and are often perceived as a nutritious snack. However, most commercially available granola bars are high in added sugars, syrups, and artificial sweeteners.


A cereal bar. Photo: Tatiana Volgutova / iStock

Read nutrition labels carefully and choose bars with minimal added sugar, or consider making your own at home using oats, nuts, and natural sweeteners like dates or mashed bananas. Homemade granola bars let you control the ingredients and level of sweetness, making them a healthier alternative to store-bought options. The same “sweet” surprises: foods and drinks perceived as healthy, but high in sugarCondiments and sauces

Condiments and sauces, like ketchup, barbecue sauce, and sweet chili sauce, can sneakily contribute to our sugar intake.

These popular additions to our meals often contain high fructose corn syrup and other sweeteners to enhance the taste. While it can be difficult to avoid them completely, consider using them sparingly or opting for low-sugar alternatives. Reading labels and choosing brands that are low in sugar can help you make wiser choices and control your overall sugar intake. You can also try making your own dressings and sauces at home using natural ingredients and sweeteners like honey or maple syrup.

Fruit juices
Fruit juices may seem like a healthy choice, but they can be a hidden source of sugar. Many commercially available fruit juices contain high amounts of added sugar and lack the dietary fiber found in whole fruit. Even 100% fruit juice can be problematic if consumed in excess.

Even 100% fruit juice can be problematic if consumed in excess. Representative Image/iStock/MajaMitrovic

It’s best to consume whole fruit instead, as it provides fiber and essential nutrients while naturally regulating the absorption of sugar in the body. If you prefer juice, consider making your own using fresh fruit and limiting the amount to a small serving. Additionally, diluting the juice with water or opting for plant-based juices can help reduce your sugar intake while still enjoying a refreshing drink.

Cereals, often marketed as a nutritious breakfast option, can be surprisingly loaded with sugar. While they may entice you with their health claims, most commercial cereals contain high amounts of added sugar. These sugars can come in a variety of forms, including sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and malt syrup.

In fact, even cereals marketed as “whole” or “lean” can contain excessive amounts of sugar. Reading labels and choosing cereals with minimal added sugar or opting for whole-food alternatives like oatmeal can help us make smarter choices and enjoy a healthier start to the day.

Benefits of consuming ready-to-eat multigrain cereals. (photo: IANSLIFE)

Even cereals marketed as “whole grain” or “low-fat” can contain excessive amounts of sugar. Photo: IANS

Ultimately, it’s important to be vigilant and aware of the hidden sugars lurking in seemingly innocent foods and drinks. By examining labels and making informed choices, we can reduce our sugar consumption and maintain a healthier lifestyle. Opting for natural alternatives, such as fresh fruit, homemade snacks, and low-sugar options, can help satisfy our cravings without compromising our health. Remember, knowledge is power when it comes to managing your sugar intake, so stay informed, make informed choices, and savor the sweet treats that are genuinely good for you.

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