I have been trying very hard to avoid sugars lately. A few years ago, I was able to cut it out of my coffee completely. That’s not to say that I don’t enjoy coffee with sugar now and again, but overall, it’s not part of my morning routine. In fact, I’ve been able to cut out a vast amount of added sugar from my diet. Great news, right? Well it is, but then I started to wonder about the foods I’m eating and how much sugar is hidden? And the answer will likely shock you. Side note – I am not talking about natural sugars found in fruits and some vegetables. I’m talking about sugars that are added into a product to make them more palatable.
The first big one, which I think is obvious is pop. Or soda if you’re American. It’s obvious because it’s just sugar water. But I think people think that a diet version is ok. It’s still sugar, just a different kind. This was a hard one for me to cut out, but I started gradually in the summer. My body was likely craving the sugar, but I was actually craving the flavour. I didn’t just want water with my meals. My compromise? Flavoured sparkling water. While sparkling water has never been a favourite of mine, I have come to enjoy Perrier and some of it’s flavours. I’m still able to get that taste that I crave, but no sugar. Watch out as some sparkling water actually has sugar added into it. Not all are created equal.
Another major one for me is yogurt. Honestly, I have never really been a fan of yogurt, but as an adult I figured it was something I should consider adding to my diet. The challenge for me is finding a kind (brand and flavour) that I like, but one that also doesn’t have a ton of sugar added to it. Aside from plain, it’s next to impossible. How do I manage this? I find a yogurt with predominantly natural ingredients. Lots of fruit as the ingredient base, and then I mix it with the plain yogurt. Half and half. Cutting the amount of sugar down per serving, but still allowing me to find it palatable. Alternatively, you could take plain yogurt and add your own fruit, or even vanilla to it. I’m not sure that I’m there yet, but it is something to consider.
Pasta sauce without sugar is next to impossible to find. What was more surprising for me though, was the amount of salt in some of these sauces. I think that part of the reason I like red pasta sauce is the sugar itself. I’m sure I could make my own version, which would be low in sugar, but I don’t think it will taste very good. Tomatoes are naturally acidic, and therefore tart tasting. Sugar might be the only cure! (If you know of a good low sugar, low sodium salt, please let me know.)
And finally – granola bars. I like granola bars because I can throw them in my purse for a quick snack when I’m on the go. But there are many that are so loaded with sugar. Even the ones that are marketed to be “healthy” with lots of fruit and nut options.
While I don’t want to come across in a negative way, it can be very difficult to find foods that are healthy. You think you are doing the right thing by choosing a healthy option, only to find that its loaded with sugar, or other additives that aren’t good for you. Like with anything, moderation is key. Eating pasta sauce with a lot of sugar and salt in it on occasion isn’t going to be overly harmful, but eating it daily will. Sugar can also be very addictive. Or at least I think it can. Eating specific foods for me can trigger my body’s “need” for sugar. My strategy has been to eat naturally sweetened foods, such as dates, as a way to curb the cravings. Again, everything in moderation. And there will be times when you want and even need to eat that added sugar.
The key for me is understanding what is being added to my food. Whether that’s fat, sugar or salt. All these things need to be considered as part of a balanced diet.