Sugar. The modern day World War III. We all know its bad, but it is just oh so addictive. Unfortunately, even when you try to ditch the sweet stuff you could actually still be consuming well above the recommended amount and not even know about it! Everyone knows about cake, chocolate and ice cream, but are you really aware of how many other food products actually contain startling amounts of sugar… but do not even taste sweet! Check out the list below and learn how to better and more effectively reduce your sugar intake.
- Tonic water
This is something I personally have never really drunk, but going out tonic water if often used in drinks that you may perceive to be ‘sugar free’. If you check the ingredients you will actually find that tonic water is carbonated water with sugar. So you may have dumped the soft drinks to reduce your sugar content but replacing them with tonic water (or flavoured sparkling water) is going to do you no favours what so ever!
Instead: sparkling mineral water – it essentially tastes the same (but obviously less sweet) and can be easily substituted into drink recipes for a sugar free alternative to your favourite cocktails!
- Vanilla paste
You have to be really careful of these products because they are not something you think would have sugar added to it. Even products that are labelled ‘vanilla bean paste’ actually also contain added sugar to sweeten it. This means often making your favourite refined sugar free desserts may not actually be sugar free by adding this…
Instead: vanilla essence – be sure to double-check the ingredients but usually these do not contain added sugar as they are a more concentrate vanilla flavour.
Do not be fooled by all the fancy labels and claims of ‘natural’ or ‘healthy’ as so many juices in supermarkets actually contain added sugar. Juice, even if it is purely fruit juice already contains so much sugar just from the natural sugars present in fruit that when sugar is added on top of this it can mean they are even worse that soft drinks. So if you are planning on quitting sugar these are something you should already be avoiding all together.
Instead: vegetable juice – home made is always best but if you don’t have a juicer and like to buy juices be sure to choose the option with the most veggies and the least fruit to avoid sugar.
Even better: water! You can’t go wrong with a glass of water, so ditch the fruity juices for water, you will not only reduce your sugar toll but you will also save money!
4. Sauces and salad dressings
Although most sauces are generally considered savoury, so many actually contain bucket loads of added sugar! Be sure to always read the labels of sauces, including pasta sauces for added sugar. Furthermore, the easiest way to ruin your healthy, beautiful salad is covering it in sugar filled salad dressing.
Instead: tahini – this is a spread made from sesame seeds, and brands such as Mayvers make beautiful tahini that can be drizzled your lunch and really makes your salad taste amazing!
Or: apple cider vinegar – this can be drizzled over a salad to add that bit of tang that salad dressings often offer. It can also be mixed with lemon or other ingredients to make your own healthy dressing.
- Iced tea/Sports drinks
Often perceived to be ‘health’ or ‘fitness’ drinks these can actually contain startling amounts of sugar! Everyone is aware of soft drinks and their high sugar content but sports drinks and iced tea can often contain equal amounts if not more sugar. So be sure to check the label first!
Instead: home brewed ice tea – to ensure no added sugar the best way is to brew your own favourite tea, wait for it to cool, add some ice/lemon etc and mineral water for the perfect refreshing summer drink.
Or: water – nothing will revive you after a work out as well as good old-fashioned water! Especially if you sweat a lot it is so important to replace that lost water or else you will find yourself with a headache a few hours later.
Shovelling a bowl full of cereal or granola for breakfast every morning could actually be exceeding your ENTIRE day’s worth of sugar in one go! Generally, most packaged cereals and granola contain added sugar so be sure to check the label before you buy next time. This also includes the many granola and cereal bars on the market.
Instead: home made – my love for granola is endless, so check out my many blog posts and Instagram photos featuring home made granola recipes.
Or: to replace the granola bars try making your own nut & seed mix. Eg. Pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, goji berries, almonds, macadamias.
- Baked beans
An Aussie favourite… but unfortunately also packed with lots of sugar. Despite being a savoury item you will probably be shocked by how much sugar is actually added to a can of baked beans (it is usually one of the top 4 ingredients in the can). Luckily there are really easy recipes to make your own, and I promise they will taste even better than the canned type.
Instead: mix canned beans with diced tomatoes plus your favourite herbs (oregano, parsley) and heat in a saucepan.
- Low fat products
From yogurt to cheese, low fat products have fooled us for years. The common belief that fat in foods makes us fat is a myth for another time. See Erica’s post about the different types of fats for more information. However, unfortunately when you take the fat out of these foods the flavour must be replaced with something… cue, sugar.
Instead: avoid the low fat – choose products that are normal or full fat that have not been substituted with sugar to maintain the same great taste.
Naturally yogurt is not as sweet as we have become accustomed to due to the large amount of sugar filled yogurt now available. It is important to be aware of the high amount of sugar present in most yogurts, especially the low fat variety (as explained above). The main culprits are flavoured yogurts, but you will also find high amounts of added sugar in yogurts labelled ‘natural’ and ‘greek-style’. It is most important to choose one that is unflavoured and check the back to see if there is any added sugar.
Instead: opt for a natural yogurt that does not contain sugar in the ingredients list on the back. You will find it has a very different consistency and taste but you will become accustomed to it in no time.
Or: Try a green smoothie – if you are eating yogurt for breakfast with muesli/granola try replacing the yogurt with a thick green smoothie (made using frozen banana) and add your toppings to this. I can almost guarantee once your try it and get it right you will never go back! Bonus: you can pretty much get your daily requirement of vegetables at breakfast with a smoothie (much more nutritious than yogurt – and it will keep you fuller for longer)
- Peanut butter
As a child I would eat peanut butter out of the jar (well… I actually still do). It was and still is one of my favourite foods, little did I realised when I was younger that many of the popular brands are actually loaded with added sugar. This creates a sweeter taste and also gives it a nice smooth consistency. Instead: there are now numerous brands around that offer peanut butter as it should be – just nuts! The only change I really noticed when swapping was the oily consistency of just nut butters, because that is how nuts are naturally, but nothing a little mixing can’t fix! My favourite brand is Mayvers, whom have an entire range of spreads that are made from simple and natural ingredients so you can enjoy your spreads without the extra sugar.
Whether you are quitting sugar or just planning on cutting down the amount you eat daily, it is not going to be an easy task due to the poor control over food labelling present today and sneaky tricks by food companies to keep adding sugar to their products. The best you can do is source natural ingredients – the way they come out of the ground and prepare food yourself. However, many of us just do not have the time to make our own muesli and sauce. So my best advice to you is READ THE LABEL! We are lucky that all food products must legally be labelled, hence every time we pick something off the shelf we have the opportunity to know absolutely every ingredient in it. Make the most of this, it will take very little time out of your shopping experience – especially if you just have to scan the list for the word “sugar” (or its associated names) and you will find yourself becoming much more knowledgeable about the food you are putting in your mouth. You will also find the more you do this you will become aware of the brands and products that don’t have added sugar so you wont have to keep re-checking and the whole process will be unnecessary once you have found good sugar free products.