Sugar is unavoidable. A diet that cuts out sugar entirely is extremely difficult to follow through with, as nearly all foods have the sweet-tasting carbohydrate. However, athletes need to be conscious of their sugar intake in order to have a healthier diet and perform at the highest level. Here are 10 supposedly healthy foods that have more sugar than you might think.
Yogurt has several health benefits and is one of the healthier snack foods in existence. However, yogurt is by no means perfect. It already has some naturally occurring sugars from the milk products inside and even more when you add things like fruit or granola. Then when you add processed sugar to that, like many companies do, yogurt can be a sugary nightmare and far less healthy than perceived. Greek or Icelandic unsweetened, plain yogurts are typically lower in sugar than any other kind. But the ones packed with artificial flavours should be avoided when possible to ensure you get the benefits of yogurt without the detractors.
Suggestion: When possible, buy unsweetened, plain greek yogurt and look for ones with less than 7g of sugar per serving.
Cereal is one of the most commonly consumed breakfast foods. Everyone is aware of the dangers of sugary cereals like Froot Loops, Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes. But even cereals that are supposedly healthy are packed with far too much sugar. Just about every top cereal brand has products with 20-25 grams of sugar per every 100 grams; even the ones that market themselves as healthy.
Suggestion: For healthier cereals with low to no added sugar, see the Organic Foods section of your grocery store.
Juice is one of the worst offenders for sugar. Although 100% juice products have loads of Vitamin C and fulfill a few other minimal health requirements, they’re one of the most highly consumed sugary foods. Just about all juices have over 20g of sugar per serving. It doesn’t matter that the sugar is “naturally occurring” such as in 100% fruit juices. Your body still processes it in the exact same way as processed sugar. Those who purchase juices with added sugar, such as cocktails and blends, do themselves even more damage.
Suggestion: Look for sugar-free juices, or swap the juice for the fruit itself.
Incredibly healthy when made at home without sugar or even with just a tiny dash, store-bought oatmeal might be one the most surprising unhealthy foods. A tiny packet of oatmeal can contain anywhere from 9g to 12g of sugar on average. There is even a type of oatmeal called “brown sugar”, yet some people still think it’s good for you. When done correctly, such as when made at home, oatmeal can be amazing in many ways. But the processed, store-bought, packaged oatmeal’s do far more damage to your diet then needed.
Suggestion: Make your own oatmeal using old-fashioned or steel cut oats. If needing extra flavour, add fruit like a banana or berries, greek yogurt, 100% nut butters, or cinnamon.
Although lower in sugar compared to most of the other entries here, bread can have more sugar than many think, and not just white bread. Just about all breads contain some kind of processed sugar. And it’s not just bread. It extends to bagels, pitas, tortillas, English muffins, and more. Whole-wheat bread and whole-wheat grains in general have loads of health benefits, but those consuming them need to be aware that even these products are not sugar-free, unless explicitly searched for.
Suggestion: Seek bread with no sugar added, and minimize consumption of white bread. Stick to 100% whole-wheat/whole-grain products whenever possible.
6. Canned Soup
Soup is another food perceived to be extraordinarily healthy, and often given a reputation as a magical healer of illnesses. However, canned soups found in stores almost always contain sugar, and some more than others. In fact, most contain sugar as one of their first three ingredients, and have additional amounts of corn syrup or glucose-fructose along the way too.
Suggestion: Look for low-sugar, low-salt soups. Or even better, make soup from scratch at home using simple ingredients like low salt vegetable broth, olive oil, lemon juice and vegetables.
7. Salad Dressings
Another food that can be so incredibly healthy when made at home without adding sugar, it’s practically impossible to find dressings without added sugar in store. Some of the sugar in salad dressings may naturally occur from ingredients like vinegar or lemon juice. But many dressings have much in the way of unnecessary added sugars, that turn the healthy salad into an unhealthy salad in an instant.
Suggestion: Make salad dressing at home using simple ingredients like olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar and garlic. Even better, skip the dressing and try leafy greens with foods like quinoa, canned fish, hummus, guacamole and eggs.
8. Protein Bars
Likely one of the less surprising entries on here, protein bars are still perceived by many to be useful and healthy for athletes to consume. Protein bars, like energy drinks, are so much worse for athletes to have as part of their diet than just about anything. Yet, they are specifically marketed towards athletes, who are supposed to be convinced of their merit as a method of replenishing fuel. Although the average protein bar might have 10g of protein, they usually have about 20-30g of sugar per bar. It’s simply not worth it.
Suggestion: Look for protein bars that are high in protein while being low in sugar (1-2g is enough). Even better, eat lean, unprocessed meat, 100% nut butters, or fish for higher levels of protein without the added sugar.
9. Tomato Sauce
Tomato sauce has loads of sugar already from the high amount of tomatoes needed to make sauce. But then sugar is often added on top to enhance the flavour. It is easier to find sauces with no sugar added than most of the other foods on here and they taste much better too.
Suggestion: Shop for sauces in the organic foods aisle where the ingredients are often kept to a minimum – tomatoes, spices, oils and garlic. You can also easily make a nice, sugar-free tomato sauce at home.
The slightly more nutritious cousin of chips, crackers usually aren’t what they seem, despite their appeal. Many have a bad reputation for their high salt content, but the fact that they pack in unnecessary amounts of sugar often goes more unnoticed. Crackers don’t need sugar to taste good, and many can be found like Triscuits that have no sugar added at all. Other than graham crackers, crackers aren’t supposed to be a dessert, so there really is no reason why they need the extra sugar.
Suggestion: Look for crackers with 0g of sugar per serving or toast a piece of whole-wheat bread instead.
Sugar is practically unavoidable, but we all can do a better job at reading the nutrition labels before buying products, ensuring that our sugar intakes are kept to a minimum. When possible, homemade options of all of the above can make for far healthier choices, as you can easily control the amount of sugar added to each (if any at all). If buying these products in store, whenever possible look for low sugar or no sugar options. The foods on this list do not need to be avoided altogether, but people buying these foods can make smarter choices on which brands or types (e.g. “no sugar added, “100% __”), to ultimately go with.
So there it is! 10 foods that have more sugar than you think. Be sure to share your thoughts on other sugary foods that we missed in the comments below or on Twitter @mastermindsite. Also be sure to check out more of our Nutrition articles and Player Education resources. Thanks for reading and see you soon!
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