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10 Places Sugar Hides In Your Diet + How to Cut Back

Sugar lurks in the strangest places. So if you’re not careful, you may find yourself unintentionally binging on too much sweet stuff. Here are 10 offenders, plus healthier alternatives.

Sugar lurks in the strangest places (think: pasta sauce). So if you’re not careful, you may find yourself unintentionally binging on too much sweet stuff. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to 6 teaspoons (or 24 grams) daily for women, 9 teaspoons (or 36 grams) for men. That’s half of what women and men typically down in a day. Where’s all that sugar hiding? Here are 10 offenders, plus healthier alternatives based on recommendations from Kerri-Ann Jennings, a registered dietitian and yoga teacher based in Burlington, Vermont.

10. Instant Oatmeal

instant oatmeal bowl oats sugar recipe food healthy

Trade this: Instant oatmeal. Yes, those little envelopes or cups feature whole-grain oats, but each also can include 14 grams of sugar.

For this: To rev up your morning practice, cook rolled oats in water and top with sliced bananas, raisins, a shake of cinnamon, and chopped, toasted walnuts. Although bananas and raisins contain natural sugars, they are rich in beneficial nutrients like potassium and fiber.

See also 4 (Unconventional) Ways to Add Oats to Your Daily Diet

9. Pasta

pasta plate recipe diet healthy sugar sugarfree

Trade this: Jarred pasta sauce. Even some savory organic brands can pack 6 grams of sugar per 1/2 cup.

For this: Check nutrition labels for sugar amounts or choose pesto, which combines sweet basil, pine nuts, olive oil, and Parmesan cheese and tends to be sugar free.

Also check out Black Pepper Fettuccine with Chardonnay Sauce and Grilled Asparagus

8. Smoothies

smoothies recipe sugar sugarfree healthy

Trade this: Smoothies. When you drink a fresh mix from your local smoothie bar, you may down more than 65 grams of sugar, especially if the smoothie includes sherbet, yogurt, or other sweet add-ins.

For this: Make your own smoothie using plain yogurt, milk (cow’s or nut), banana, and frozen fruit. You can “sweeten” the blend with vanilla extract, cardamom, and dates puree (made by soaking 1 cup dates with 1/2 cup hot water for 30 minutes and blending until smooth).

See also For a juicy recipe, try our Kale and Fruit Smoothie 

7. Yogurt

aryuveda & dairy, fruit yogurt bowl recipe sugar healthy diet

Trade this: Flavored yogurt. Nutrition labels list only total grams of sugar, lumping together natural sugars (found in milk) and added sugars (like cane sugar). To detect added sugar, look for one of its many names, such as juice (evaporated cane juice or fruit juice), syrup (high-fructose corn syrup or maple syrup), and words ending in –ose (sucrose, dextrose, or fructose).

For this: Sweeten plain yogurt with fresh fruit like berries, which contain fiber and disease-fighting antioxidants.

For a dose of dairy-free yogurt, check out our Soy Yogurt with Walnuts & Cucumber

6. Bread

bread whole grains gluten sugar sugarfree diet healthy wheat

Trade this: Whole-grain bread. Some varieties of nutritious-sounding loaves made with whole grains still pack 4 grams of sugar per slice. If you make a PB&J sandwich, the amount of added sugar you’re eating will double—or more if the peanut butter and jelly also contain added sugars.

For this: Check the ingredients list of your bread for added sugars. Bakery breads rather than pre-packaged sliced loafs may be more likely to be sugar free, says Jennings. Another option: choose corn tortillas to create a sandwich wrap.

Make our Wholesome Wheat Bread, a sugar-free loaf

5. Soup

soup vegetables sugar alternatives food

Trade this: Canned soup. Canned soup is known for its high sodium content, but sugar can also lurk inside. Even a simple tomato soup can have 12 grams of sugar per serving.

For this: Brew miso soup with iron-rich spinach and protein-packed tofu.

See also Creamy Carrot Soup with Oats

4. Granola Bars

diet healthy sugar granola bar recipe chocolate sugarfree snack

Trade this: Energy bars. If snacking on a granola bar before yoga class crashes your practice, there’s a reason why: You may be eating close to your daily sugar allotment (20 grams per bar).

For this: To boost your yoga, nosh on whole nuts, which include protein and healthy fats, or trail mix (minus the chocolate) a few hours before you practice.

For a boost of raw energy, try our Raw Chocolate-Chia Energy Bars

3. Peanut Butter

bread peanut butter jelly sandwich sugar sugarfree healthy protein diet

Trade this: Nut butters. Peanut butter packs protein, but many brands contain added sugar—in some cases in the form of honey or molasses.

For this: Choose natural nut butter without sugars in the ingredients list. Seed butters (like sunflower seed butter or tahini) often do not contain added sugar.

Check out 5 Ultra-Healthy Nut Butters

2. Salads

green vegetable salad healthy sugar sugarfree

Trade this: Salad dressing. It seems innocent enough, but a little salad dressing can push you beyond daily sugar limits. For example, a couple tablespoons of raspberry vinaigrette can pack 5 grams of sugar.

For this: Make your own simple and satisfying vinaigrette by whisking together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

Spice up your salad with Corn-Cilantro Salad Dressing

1. Flavored Water

water bottles sugar sugarfree diet hydrate hydration healthy

Trade this: Flavored bottled water. The flavors sound so refreshing, especially after hot yoga, but, along with vitamins, they can deliver up to 32 grams of sugar per bottle (20 fluid ounces).

For this: Sip water with a squeeze of lemon or choose sugar-free drinks sweetened naturally (think: stevia, an herbal sweetener).

Also try The New Kombucha: Ayurvedic Drinks