3 Tips to Avoid Hidden Sugar
If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram you may have seen my recent post with the staggering fact that sugar is added to 74% of all packaged food found in supermarkets according to Dr. Mark Hyman, Director of the Cleveland Clinic Center for Functional Medicine. Even though that wasn't surprising to me, I still find it shocking. For so long we have been told that dietary fat is what is making us overweight and sick, but that's actually not true. Research has shown time and time again that fat is not the enemy we've grown up believing it is, but that sugar is actually what is making people sick and overweight. And if you think about it, that makes some sort of common sense. These days there are low-fat versions of most common foods, but even though more low-fat foods are available so many people are still overweight and sick. Perhaps it's because those low-fat versions of common foods typically have more sugar in them then the full-fat, or regular, versions. To quote Dr. Hyman, "Fat doesn't make you fat, sugar does." So if sugar is the new enemy, and it's in 74% of all packaged food, what are we supposed to to do? How do we avoid sugar? Don't worry! I've got three completely doable tips for avoiding the hidden and unwanted sugar in your diet!
Tip #1: Read labels
Reading labels on packaged foods is one of the most important and simple things you can do for your health. Knowledge is power, and knowing what is in your food gives you the ability to make informed decisions. When reading the food label you need to look at not only the Nutrition Facts label, but also the ingredients list. When looking at the Nutrition Facts label, you will see the amount of sugar in a single serving of the food item, but this won't give you the full picture. There is a difference between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Think about the fact that apples have sugar in them (naturally occuring), but so does Pepsi (added sugar). Right now, companies are not required to list added sugars as a separate line on the Nutrition Facts label, but by January 1, 2021 they will be required to do so. You may see some companies already doing this, but until it's required of all companies, you can get an idea of whether the sugar occurs naturally or is added sugar by looking at the ingredients list. Knowing the total sugar in grams does not give you the full picture.
Tip #2: Know the Tricky Ways the Food Industry Hides Sugar
There are so many different names the food industry uses for sugar. The food industry's goal is profit, so unfortunately we can't trust them to have our best health in mind. Knowing all the ways they try to slip sugar in our food unnoticed is important for you to be able to make a good decision about what you're eating. So what are some common names you'll find on ingredients lists for added sugar? Here is a quick list: brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose sweetener, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, maple syrup, molasses, pancake syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, trehalose, and turbinado sugar. And this is not an all-encompassing list. Now, I imagine you are looking over this list and thinking, but honey and pure maple syrup are natural sugar. That is true, but they are still added sugar. I don't know about you, but if I am looking at 2 similar products, one of which is sweetened with honey and the other is sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, I'm going to choose the one sweetened with honey. But just because the added sugar is natural sugar does not mean it's something you should eat with wild abandon. Even though these sugars are natural added sugars, they are still sugar and therefore should be consumed in small amounts and infrequently.
Tip #3: Eat Mostly Whole Foods
Truly the best thing you can do is eat more whole foods and avoid processed packaged foods as much as possible. What are whole foods? They are foods found in their natural form. Whole foods include meats, eggs, fish, vegetables, fruits, healthy fats and some grains. Now I realize that never eating food out of a package is nearly impossible, so if you are going to consider a packaged food, make sure you look at the ingredients list. Is it a short list (say 5-7 ingredients or less)? What's on the list? Would you eat all of the ingredients by themselves? For example, look at the ingredients on a peanut butter cookie Larabar. It's made of dates, peanuts and salt! Yes, I'd eat a date or a peanut or salt (and notice the list is short...just 3 ingredients). Does this mean that you can eat Larabars all day long? Definitely not. Just like with the honey/pure maple syrup...it's still a somewhat processed item so eat them in moderation but in a pinch they are great. You're better off grabbing a minimally processed Larabar for a snack every once in awhile then grabbing a highly processed package of peanut butter crackers. The best thing you can do nutritionally for your health is to make whole foods the foundation of your diet!
The funny thing about reducing sugar in your diet is that the less sugar you eat the more tasty foods become. Whole foods that you never considered sweet before will suddenly seem sweeter to you. When you ditch the unwanted, hidden sugar from your diet your sugar cravings will decrease significantly. Plus you'll have more energy and possibly sleep better. Only good things can come from reducing the amount of unwanted, hidden sugar in your diet.
If you need help ditching the sugar in your diet, sign up for my FREE 5 Days to Ditch the Sugar Challenge on my website. Go to www.michellecallahancoaching.com to get a 5 day meal plan with recipes along with information on ditching the unwanted sugar.