As a health coach I am on a mission to educate my clients on the danger of hidden sugar in foods.
We all know that we should not give in to those cravings of chocolates cookies ( it is never really only one, is it) but what most people don’t realize, even the most well educated and health conscious ones that tend to be my clients, is that even the so called “healthy foods” can be loaded with sugar.
Sugar is a nasty beast. It creates real addiction, and through increasing insulin resistance and inflammation, is a driver for a huge amount of diseases on top of making up irritable and prone to mood swings.
The real problem with hidden sugar in so called healthy foods is that if you don’t know that is there, so you cannot include it into your daily or weekly budget for sugar and carbs, ending up in consuming way too much of it, feeding your sugar addiction and sabotaging your health & well-being.
1.SNACK BARS. I was shocked the other day when I checked the label of a very popular healthy snack bar and discover that it has 38% of sugar, which translate in 13.6g for single bar. Other snack bars of the same brand, didn’t fare much better, with the innocent sounding “berry delight” having a whopping 47% sugar which translate in 16.6 sugar per single bar.
What to do. Bring with you some healthy snacks if you can, like some whole fruit, few nuts or some oatcakes. Otherwise if too much sugar is a concern for you, read the labels and opt for some lower sugar content snack bars like KIND.
2. TALL LATTES. “Lattes” have become very popular in recent years. Many have chosen “healthy” options swapping diary milk for almond or soya, but the result is almost the same: they contain lots of sugar. If you check the Starbucks website you will see that many of their “lattes” contain between a whopping 18 gr and 29 gr of sugar.
What to do. Swap for a good quality black coffee, maybe with a dash of milk if you enjoy it, or simply drink only half of those lattes. After all who needs all those tall lattes anyways!
3. SHOP BOUGHT SMOTHIES. While the ones that make at home can be the picture of wholesome health, the shop bought ones are another story altogether. This Orange and Mango smoothie from Sainsbury’s has a 17gr of sugar per portion, while this Innocent Drink, blue smoothie contains 14gr of sugar per portion.
What to do. Only consume smoothies that are freshly made in front of you. That way you will get all the natural ( not added) nutrients and you can choose the ingredients. Make sure that you use some vegetables to cut down on the sugar content, or go for naturally low sugar fruits like berries.
4. FLAVOURED YOGURT. Rich in good bacteria, calcium, and pre-digested lactose ( the milk’s sugar), yogurt is full of health benefits. But those deliciously vanilla, or fruits flavored yogurt ( even worst if they are fat-free) often contain 13 gr of sugar. If you think that when you buy a big pot, you often eat 200/250 gr of yogurt, that means a whopping 26-30 gr of sugar per portions. The same of a packet of cookies!
What to do. buy some good quality full fat natural yogurt and add your own flavorings. Berries are great, as they are low in sugar and nutrients rich, but also other type of fruits, or a small amounts of nuts. If you really have a sweet craving a serving of natural yogurt with a few drops of organic maple syrup or honey, can still be a better way to satisfy it!
5. BREAKFAST CEREALS. On a recent trip to Wholefoods I found out with dismay, that many of them yes, even those super-expensive, organic & super-healthy breakfast cereals and muesli, have one thing in common: sugar. For the majority of them, the percentage of sugar was between 12-18% with a peak of 25% in some more fancy ones. That would be already a considerable amount per se, but if we consider that we normally consume them with milk ( either diary or not, it still contain sugar) and added fruits, you can easily understand how much sugar you can pile up.
What to do. Always read the nutritional information on the label and go for low sugar cereals, like oats, buckwheat, spelt flakes, millet, in their plain and more wholesome form. You can then add your fruits, nuts or seeds toppings to get the full nutrition and be in charge of how much sugar ( or how little) you put in your breakfast bowl.
6. FRUITS JUICES. Whole fruits are rich in fibers, vitamins, minerals and phyto-nutrients. They also contain sugar, mainly fructose, which is metabolized by the liver. During the juicing process, the fibers get broken down and removed, and as some of the nutrients are stored in the fibers, we end up with less nutrients, less fibres, and more sugar. This is why fruit juice should be consumed in moderation.
What to do. Try to add some vegetables to your fresh juices to reduce the amount of sugar, use lower sugar content fruits ( like berries or apples), reduce the amount of juice you drink or make 1/2 part juice, 1/2 part water.
7. ENERGY BALLs. They are marketed as healthy, but despite being made of wholesome ingredients, ready made trendy energy balls, can be really high in sugar. These hazelnut energy balls from well known healthy brand Deliciously Ella, contain 35% of sugar which pans out at around 12 gr per energy ball, while this Oat & Coconut bar from the same brand, has 41% of sugar, which pans out as 16 gr of sugar for a single 40gr ball. And let’s face it, you would never really eat one single energy ball!
What to do. Simply consider your energy balls, for what really is: a snack that is also a “treat”. So if you have one, it might be OK, but that is already your treat for the day, so plan your food for day accordingly.
My advice is to always read the nutrition labels, and don’t blindly trust a ready made food only because it comes with a healthy label attached to it.