The Hidden Monster
What’s white, highly addictive and bad for our bodies? It’s not what you first thought, its Sugar. There are 2 main types of sugar that we come across in our daily lives, there is naturally occurring sugar like lactose and then there is the bad stuff called ‘free’ sugars like table sugar. Some experts are now believing that it is sugar rather than fat in our diets that is contributing to the rising obesity crisis in our country.
What’s white, highly addictive and bad for our bodies? It’s not what you first thought, its Sugar. There are 2 main types of sugar that we come across in our daily lives, there is naturally occurring sugar like lactose and then there is the bad stuff called ‘free’ sugars like table sugar. Some experts are now believing that it is sugar rather than fat in our diets that is contributing to the rising obesity crisis in our country.I don’t want to talk about sugar addiction or weight loss as we all know that too much sugar is not good for us, so let’s talk about the hidden white stuff. Do we know how much sugar is in the food we eat? The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UK’s official nutrition advisors say that only 5% of your daily calorie intake should consist of added, or ‘free’ sugars. This is about 30g or approximately seven sugar cubes. When you put it in that context it doesn’t sound like a lot.
So, what are the main offenders? below I have listed the 10 most common foods that we all eat and have a surprising amount of hidden sugar.
1.Yogurt (Low Fat) – Sometimes eating a portion of low fat/fat free yogurt can be as bad as eating a chocolate bar (I know I have eaten a chocolate bar for breakfast in the past). Like many other low fat foods, low fat yogurts have sugar added to them to enhance flavour. One serving of low fat yogurt can contain up to 26g of sugar. Why not opt for natural or Greek yogurt and add your own fresh fruit.
2.Instant oatmeal – Isn’t oatmeal healthy I hear you say? Oatmeal on its own can be healthy but the pre-packaged instant variety, although convenient can contain up to 14g of sugar per packet! If time is of the essence, try making your own overnight oats. Half a cup of whole oats, half a cup of milk and leave in the fridge overnight. Eat them cold or warm them up.
3.Salad dressing – fat free or low fat salad dressing might seem like a good alternative for our healthy salad if we are watching our weight but as with yogurt, when fat is removed sugar is generally added. Some dressings can have up to 12g of sugar in 2 tablespoons.
4.Frozen meals – We have all been there. After a long day, the thought of cooking a meal is just too much, so we reach for the freezer and bung something in the microwave. Again, it’s these low fat or light meals that are causing the problem. Some meals containing between 20 to 40 grams of sugar per serving. Why not heat up one of the left-over meals you prepared earlier in the week or at least try to avoid the meals smothered in sauce. There are a load of frozen meal providers that produce good healthy food. You just have to look a bit harder.
5.Snack bar – Normally a healthy alternative to a chocolate bar in your lunch box or when the 3pm slump hits you. A lot of these bars are packaged as healthy with words like nutritious and packed with fibre, but they fail to mention the added sugar. Some of these bars can pack in 20g of sugar. Make sure you’re looking at the label and go for lower calorie and sugar content.
6.Breakfast Cereal – If you have ever shopped with children you know what the cereal aisle can do. All these colourful boxes with their favourite cartoon characters on the front and the cereal is a colour you can’t even name because it so bright. We know these have loads of sugar in them but so too can the adult’s boxes. Make sure that when looking at the boxes you are calculating the serving size correctly to see how much sugar is in them. Before you know it, with our full bowl of cereal we can be eating over half of our recommended daily amount.
7.Bottled Sauce – ‘Saucy’. Considering we are talking about savoury condiments, the amount of sugar contained in these innocent bottles can be staggering. Just 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce can contain nearly 16g of sugar. That’s over half of our daily recommended amount.
8.Fruit Juice - We have always been told that junk food is bad and fruit and veg are good so its not surprising that we reach for the fruit juice as a healthy drink option, but just because its labelled 100% pure fruit juice with no added sugars doesn't mean we can guzzle the lot, when we talk about natural fruit juice we need to be mindfull how much we are drinking because although what is contained is natural sugars it is still sugar. So check the label and try to get the lowest sugar content you can then try to limit yourself to a 150ml serving. Some fruit juices can have up to 22.5g of sugar per 100ml serving
9.Jars of Sauce – I am talking about things like pasta sauce here. These sauces generally contain sugar based on their tomato content, however most of them contain nearly as much sugar as a mars bar. Try making your own sauce or picking a jar that doesn’t have sugar in the ingredients list or is close to the end of the list.
10.Pre-made soup – Soup isn’t something we generally associate with sugar or sweet things. It normally has a high veg content and a lot of naturally occurring sugars that aren’t so bad for us, however a lot of commercially prepared soups have a lot of added ingredients including sugar, sometimes up to 5 cubes of sugar. Why not make your own and freeze it or check the label for added sugar, especially high fructose corn syrup. The higher on the list an ingredient is the higher the content is.
After writing this my eyes have been opened to a few on that list and I hope yours have too. So why not have a little peek at the labels in your kitchen and see how much sugar you might be eating?