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The holidays can be a rough time if healthy eating and an active lifestyle are your goals. It’s getting colder out, and we just aren’t as inclined to get outside and get some exercise. Not to mention the two to three month stint of decadent meals and drinks that are at our fingertips as a means of celebration. Don’t get me wrong, I love this time of year. The cakes, the cookies, the pies…there’s nothing wrong with sampling a slice here and there, but if I am going to eat something sweet, I make a conscience effort to eat something sweet. But for a lot of folks, we eat things that have been sweetened with sugar and we aren’t even aware. Coffee and energy drinks, yogurt, frozen pizzas, even salad dressings can have a lot of sugar in them (personally, I would rather have a chocolate chip cookie to top off my meal versus a big spoonful of Ranch dressing as my dessert, how about you?).

Finding Hidden Sugars

The trick here is to be discerning. Sugar goes by many different names in the food industry, such as agave, cane syrup, dextran, fruit juice concentrate, brown rice syrup, and the list goes on. There are about 57 different names for sugar that the manufacturer can list on the ingredients portion of a nutrition label.  And whatever the manufacturer chooses to call it, it’s still sugar. The World Health Organization recommends that an adult should only consume 25 grams of added sugars a day- this is about the equivalent of six teaspoons. If you drink one can of soda, you have already blown that 6 teaspoons recommendation out of the water.

So how do we handle this? Reading the ingredient list on the products you are purchasing is a great start. Where’s the nutrition label located on a sweet potato, you ask? Good news, it doesn’t have one because it’s a whole food. When the World Health Organization is talking about 6 teaspoons of added sugar, they aren’t talking about the naturally occurring sugars in whole foods, only the sugars added in processed or packaged foods. And when we are reading those ingredient lists on those packaged or processed foods, the less ingredients the better. For example:

 Peanut Butter A                                                                                                      Peanut Butter B

                                                                                                                                 Ingredients: Peanuts and Salt.


The peanut butter on the left has sugar listed as the third ingredient, but what’s that listed in front of sugar? Corn Syrup Solids is also sugar, meaning that by volume sugar is the second and third ingredient…sneaky, huh?

Take home message? Don’t let your healthy efforts be waylaid by marketing tactics and wording that’s intended to sell food and not necessarily to keep you in good health. What are your solutions to avoid hidden sugars? Try this whole wheat flour banana bread recipe to satisfy that sweet tooth, courtesy of Cookie and Kate