That Sugar Film showed us there are many places in our daily diet we can expect to find added sugar; many of which are surprising!
Some favourite hidden hotspots for added sugar include:
- Sauces and dressings
- Flavoured yoghurts
- Breakfast cereals
- Muesli/granola bars
- Canned soup
- Bottled drinks, including juice, iced tea and flavoured milk.
Worryingly, most of these foods can be considered ‘healthy’.
Other more obvious homes for the sweet stuff include biscuits, muffins, cake, confectionery, pastries, and other dessert-like paraphernalia that often calls our name at 3 pm.
But there can be stranger places added sugar or sweetener can reside, so be sure to keep a watchful eye as you try to limit your intake.
Yeh, weird right? Not all, but some brands add sugar to canned veg, sometimes to make the product sweeter but also as a preservative. There are plenty of no added sugar options out there though, so check the different brands when at your supermarket. Better yet, choose fresh or frozen veg instead.
Store bought smoothies
You’d think the fruit in smoothies are sweet enough, but alas, sorbet, juice, syrups and other sweeteners are commonly added to store bought smoothies. If you search, there will be providers of no added sugar smoothies out there. You can also make your own (we’ve some recipe ideas in our books and e-books)!
Flavoured crackers or potato crisps
Seemingly savoury, these can offer a sugary punch and also have a high glycaemic load. Arnott’s Entertainers Crispy Oat & a Hint of Honey have 3.5g per serve! These foods are also considered discretionary, so should only be consumed on occasion.
Baby and toddler food
It is not ideal feeding littlies sweetened foods as this sets up taste preferences that can be difficult to counter as the child grows. Watch out for pre-made foods that contain ingredients like fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, as well as sugar itself, and limit or avoid offering tacky, sticky snacks based on dried fruit, especially until you’re sure your child can properly brush their teeth (which officially is not until 7-8 years of age). Such food can get stuck in teeth and contribute to tooth decay.
Breads, bagels and the like
If you choose to eat bread, ensure it is high in quality and minimally processed, such as wholegrain, sourdough or dark rye. Avoid those made from heavily processed white flour, as this can be just as detrimental to the body as added sugar, and keep an eye out when scouring the ingredient list for added sugar. Choose those with a simple ingredient list.
Increasing in popularity are dairy milk substitutes, such as almond, soy, rice and coconut milk. However, many store-bought options are quite high in added sugar, so be sure to seek out those that are unsweetened. These milk alternatives are often sweet enough naturally.
Nut spreads like peanut butter (even though, technically, peanuts are a legume) can be great, but not when loaded with sugar and vegetable oils. There are plenty of nut and seed butters available that aren’t sweetened, but it always pays to read the ingredient list just in case it is. Use 100% nuts and/or seeds to get the most nutritional value from your nut spread.
- Processed meats, such as hotdogs and sausages
- Dried fruit, which is crazy as dried fruit alone is sweet enough without adding sweeteners
- Canned fruit, often swimming in syrup or juice. Enjoy the fresh or frozen stuff instead
- Flavoured water/vitamin drinks. Instead, add slices of fruit and some fresh herbs to your reusable water bottle
- Takeaway foods such as coleslaw, pizza, Chinese lemon chicken, or pad thai. The occasional takeaway venture is fine, but eaten regularly your added sugar intake can sky rocket
Ultimately, when buying processed, packaged or pre-made foods, check the ingredient list for added sugar. Better yet, where possible choose real food that is as close to its natural state as possible, such as whole fruit, veg, nuts, seeds, legumes and ethically sourced meat, seafood and dairy.
And remember, the World Health Organization recommends limiting intake of added sugar to 6 teaspoons (25g) per day for health benefits; a little of the sweet stuff is okay for most.
By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med)