Friday, August 30, 2013

Sugar - why is it hiding in everything?

Since I started consistently logging my food diary at the start of the week, one thing that I have noticed is that there seems to be a lot more sugar than I expected in my diet.  As somebody who makes a lot of food from scratch and doesn't drink soda, it makes me wonder where on earth all the sugar has been hiding.   

Various articles I've found suggest that the average American eats about 22 tsp (88g) of added sugar daily, which is more than twice the recommended amount.  So, where is all the sugar coming from?  The concern isn't really naturally occurring sugar from fruits, vegetables or dairy (i.e. fructose or lactose).  The problem is all the added sugars that hide in prepared foods. 

A huge step in identifying hidden sugars is possibly the most obvious - read the label.  Let's take Heinz Tomato Ketchup as an example.  One tbsp serving has 4g of sugar, or 1 tsp.  If you have a burger and fries, how many servings are you likely to have used?  Not to mention that a fast food burger, in addition to the condiments, may have added sugar in the meat or bun (or both).  I know that people are always picking on McDonalds, but there's 6g of sugar in a regular hamburger, and as much as 12g of sugar in other burgers that they offer.  [For what it's worth, I also looked at the nutritional table for my beloved In-N-Out Burger, which has 10g of sugar in their burgers, most likely from the delicious "spread" they use.  Sigh.]  Even "healthy" foods, such as yogurt, have a ton of sugar.  Some are naturally occuring as lactose in milk, but you're better off adding your own fruits and flavoring rather than buying with fruit already mixed in.  Another problem that we face is that you need to look further than just the amount of sugar noted on the label, but look at the way sugar is noted on the ingredients list.  Added sugar sneaks in under a variety of different names - glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, maltose, dextrose, fruit juice concentrates, to name a few. 

I think the biggest thing I've noticed that I'm doing wrong is keeping granola bars in my office for a quick on-the-go breakfast or snack.  I'll be making more of an effort to prepare breakfasts at home that I can bring in rather than relying on cereal bars, and putting together my own trail mixes etc. so I don't get inundated with sugars from the regular store-bought ones.  I rarely drink soda and we have hardly bought juice for months now, so I'm fortunate to have a head start there.  For desserts, we're trying to take better advantage of having so much fresh fruit in the house on account of the baby, which are natural sugars at least.  While I'm mid-way between the recommendation and the average, it was still a surprise to me and definitely something I can improve upon.  Take a look yourself, you may be surprised.

American Heart Association - Sugars 101
USDA 2010 Dietary Guidelines (see page 27 for more information on sugar)
Harvard School Of Public Health - Added sugar on food labels
Heinz Products

McDonalds Nutrition Facts
In-N-Out Burger Nutrition

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