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

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By raising awareness about sources of sugar, we can make more informed choices. Representative image/iStock/mescoigolu/Vinayak Jagtap

When it comes to managing our sugar intake, we often think of obvious culprits like sodas, candies, and desserts. However, sugar can hide in unexpected places, sabotaging our efforts to maintain a balanced diet. So today let’s explore some surprising foods and beverages that are secretly packed with 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
Although yogurt is often touted as a healthy snack, it can be deceivingly high in sugar when it comes with flavored varieties. Fruit-flavored yogurts, especially those with vibrant colors and marketed as "low-fat" or "light," can contain a significant amount of added sugars. Some brands often add sweeteners to compensate for the loss of taste due to reduced fat content.

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

Salad dressings
While salads are generally considered healthy, the choice of dressing can turn a nutritious meal into a sugar bomb. Bottled salad dressings, particularly those labeled "fat-free" or "low-fat," often contain excessive amounts of added sugars 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, particularly those labeled "fat-free" or "low-fat," often contain excessive amounts of added sugars to enhance flavor. Representative image/iStock/Morse Images

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

Granola bars
When in need of a quick snack, granola bars are often a go-to option and are frequently perceived as a nutritious snack option. However, most commercially available granola bars are loaded with added sugars, syrups, and artificial sweeteners.

A granola bar. Photo: Tatiana Volgutova / iStock

Read the nutritional labels carefully and choose bars with minimal added sugars or consider making your own at home using oats, nuts, and natural sweeteners like dates or mashed bananas. Homemade granola bars allow you to control the ingredients and sweetness level, making them a healthier alternative to store-bought options. The same 'Sweet' surprises: Foods and beverages perceived healthy, but packed with sugarCondiments & sauces

Condiments and sauces, such as ketchup, BBQ 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 taste. While it may be challenging to completely avoid them, consider using them sparingly or opting for lower-sugar alternatives. Reading labels and choosing brands with reduced sugar content can help you make wiser choices and control your overall sugar intake. You can also experiment with making your own condiments and sauces at home using natural ingredients and sweeteners such as, 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 sugars and lack the dietary fiber present in whole fruits. 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 fruits instead, as they provide fiber and essential nutrients while naturally regulating sugar absorption in the body. If you prefer juice, consider making it at home using fresh fruits and limiting the quantity to a small serving. Additionally, diluting juice with water or opting for vegetable juices can help reduce your sugar intake while still enjoying a refreshing beverage.

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 sugars. These sugars can come in various forms, including sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and malt syrup.

In fact, even cereals that are marketed as "whole grain" or "low-fat" can harbor excessive amounts of sugar. Reading the labels and choosing cereals with minimal added sugars 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 multigrain ready to eat cereals.(photo:IANSLIFE)
Even cereals that are marketed as "whole grain" or "low-fat" can harbor 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 beverages. By scrutinizing labels and making conscious choices, we can reduce our sugar consumption and maintain a healthier lifestyle. Opting for natural alternatives, such as fresh fruits, 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 surprises that are genuinely good for you.

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