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3 “Healthy” Foods that are hiding more sugar than you think

Let me introduce you to January from January Wellness, a holistic nutritionist, bootcamp instructor, wellness adventurer and a warrior in the sugar battle we’re fighting as a nation. She  works individually with clients, hosts international wellness retreats in Fiji and coaches groups on how to eliminate excess and added sugar from their diets in her signature Sugar Detox (which starts next week if you want to jump in!). She is an all around wellness bad a** and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have her on as an official contributor. Enjoy!

Healthy Food Cover

It’s official… Americans are consuming more sugar than ever, and the link of excess sugar consumption to a myriad of health issues is becoming undeniable. The American Heart Association currently recommends limiting daily, added sugar intake to no more than 24 grams for women, 36 grams for men. (For reference, a can of soda contains around 32 grams!)

Added Sugar Isn’t Always So Easy to Identify

As a member of the Eat Drink & Be Skinny community, it’s likely you’ve already taken measures to cut back on your added, white & refined sugar intake. But big companies in the food industry are smart. They’ve figured out what words they can put on labels to trick us into thinking we are doing right for our body & health. How many times have you browsed the aisles of your market and seen the words…

  • “natural”
  • “organic”
  • “healthy”
  • “gluten-free”
  • “low-fat”
  • “naturally sweetened”

…and thought to yourself, “Sounds good! This will work.”

Unfortunately, these are just labels – meant to lure you in. They don’t always tell the whole story, and can often disguise a sugar-laden food that will add more sugar grams to your daily intake than you bargain for!

Let’s take a look at a few foods commonly though of as health foods, that may be hiding more sugar than you think…

strawberries & yogurt

1. Flavored Yogurt

Yogurt comes in some great flavors, but c’mon, did they really think a Boston Cream Pie yogurt was a good idea? Flavored yogurts commonly contain more sugar than most of us should have in a whole day! And all that sugar will certainly cancel out any benefits you were hoping to give your belly with the probiotics like acidophilus. Sugar can actually damage the balance of healthy flora in your digestion and promote the growth of yeast and the bad guy-bacteria.

Next time you’re in the store, check the sugar content (in grams) even on a fruit sweetened, organic yogurt – it’s likely to be high (over 15 grams per serving, and sometimes up to 32!!). You may also find stabilizers like carrageenan and guar gum, and synthetic added vitamins or other food-products you can’t pronounce.

Replace it with: PLAIN, unflavored yogurt, preferably full-fat and from grass-fed or pasture-raised, organic cows. Add your own fruit, or even a teaspoon of honey, which will contain about 5 grams of sugar.

2. Juices

juice

Did you know that a typical glass of orange juice like the ones we grew up thinking were “a part of a healthy breakfast” can contain as much sugar as the same sized glass of soda? If it’s been processed and packaged (rather than fresh-squeezed) the heat or processing has likely ruined a lot of the nutrition you were seeking in the first place.

Some Green or Juice Smoothies (like many made by Suja and Naked Juice) contain DOUBLE the amount of sugar as in a can of soda! Your body never needs that much sugar at one time.

Even some green juices and juice “detox” drinks that are popular now can be tough on your metabolism if they contain a large percentage of fruit juice, or added sugars like agave.

A real piece of fruit comes packaged with the fiber that helps slow down the digestive process and uptake of sugar into your body – as nature intended it. But a fruit-filled juice without the fiber can be a heavy hit of fructose to your liver and create quite a sugar rush and stress response for your body. Also, if it has been sitting in a bottle for long, you can bet some of the nutrient content has declined.

Replace it with: Real fruit! Some green juices can be ok – check the label for grams of sugar in each serving, and HOW MANY servings are in the bottle! If you order a fresh juice from a juice bar, get mostly veggies, with a little bit of lemon, apple, or grapefruit as a sweet note. And ask yourself – could I be eating the real vegetables here instead, for more nutrients, fiber, and fullness?

3. Energy Bars

energy bars

Most energy bars are – brace yourself – glorified candy bars! We all know the ones with chocolate coatings and candy flavors; delicious, yes – but often have as much sugar as an actual candy bar! If you read the ingredients list carefully, you’ll often see sugar hiding under a few different names in one bar. (I counted no less than SIX different forms of sugar in a popular “healthy” energy bar the other day. Sad face.)

There are a few better, quality ingredient bars out there, but you’ll have to be a label detective. Check the total grams of sugar. Then read the ingredients list and look for ALL forms of added sugar! If you need a little help, here’s a list of 44 “other” names for sugar.

Replace it with: Planning ahead! Eat real food, prepared to go. Eat a piece of fruit and a handful of nuts. Grab a hard-boiled egg and a bag of baby carrots. Avocado sprinkled with salt and lime? Yesssss please.

The real issue here is often the need for us to take food on the go. Take time to plan your meals ahead each day. If you work to regulate the common blood sugar spikes and crashes by cutting out sugars and refined carbohydrates; you’ll eliminate the need to eat every couple of hours as your body adapts to burning its stores instead of sugar.

3 “Healthy” Foods that are hiding more sugar than you think

With a little scouting, you can become a label detective and begin to cut out the sneaky sources of sugar in your diet!

And if you think you might need more help in kicking the sugar habit, consider joining my next round of Sugar Detox, which starts May 2nd, and runs monthly! I’ll be there to coach you along the way, and you’ll have group support as you kick sugar to the curb and reset your sugar palate and metabolism.

Happy Eating!

Contributor_January Newland
January Newland, Holistic Nutrition & Fitness Coach

January is a personal trainer, yoga teacher, nutrition educator, health coach, ocean aficionado, & Hawaii-born island-lover. She teaches classes, provides private coaching and hosts international wellness retreats. Her passion is helping people discover their healthiest, most radiant self through nourishing food, FUN fitness, and travel!

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5 Comments

  • Sara

    YES! Can I get an amen for putting juices in there, too? I’m slightly fructose intolerant and my body can barely handle a green juice without getting super sick 🙁 thank you for this post!

    Reply

    • January

      YES! I’m with you – juices somehow became the darling of the health world but they can be sneaky on sugar and tough for some of us, digestion-wise! Thanks for reading! xo

      Reply

    • Teresa

      I TOTALLY agree and it’s one of my major pet peeves. I’ve seen “strawberry puree” and “peach puree” listed as the first few ingredients in some very, very thick green juices. It’s like you have to be a detective these days to get to the root of what’s actually good for you. I was so glad you included that it January 🙂

      Reply

  • Elle

    I am an avid label reader and have managed to find a couple of bars that have very little sugar. It was a time-consuming effort for sure.

    Reply

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