Are you ready for sugar shock? Find out a few places the sweet stuff likes to hide.

Sugar seems to be having a Hollywood “it girl” moment. Every “expert” in the diet industry is trying to get you to detox from the sweet stuff, including sugar’s even sweeter counterpart, artificial sweeteners. Is it really necessary, or is this the modern version of the war against fat of the 1980s?

Yes and no. I know, I know, people hate gray areas when it comes to nutrition. But that “all or nothing” thinking is generally what gets us into these predicaments in the first place. So what gives?

For the first time, Americans are now being specifically told to limit added sugars. New Dietary Guidelines recommend we should consume less than 10 percent of calories per day from added sugars. Added sugars are the key words here. Naturally occurring sugars, like those in fruit, are not included.  For someone older than 3, 10 percent of daily calories means eating no more than 12.5 teaspoons, or 50 grams, or  about 193 calories of sugar a day. The problem for many,are hidden sugars.

Unfortunately, sugar or some version of it lurks in almost everything that we eat, especially packaged and processed foods. So where are these hidden sugars? You might be surprised. Read on to see a few of the sweetest culprits in your own refrigerator:

  • Salad dressings: A simple DIY salad dressing is your best choice here. Packaged salad dressings have a whole host of added ingredients you probably don’t want to consume, but you might be surprised to learn that some contain as much sugar as a donut!
  • Frozen “low fat” entrees: Take away the fat in a frozen meal and guess what was probably added to make up for it for the lack of flavor? You guessed it: salt and sugar. We found one popular brand’s entrée had more sugar in it than the best-selling candy bar. Always check the label and read the ingredient list.
  • Yogurt: People flocked to yogurt in swarms when they started marketing them as healthy snacks or desserts. What’s not to love, right? Fruit flavoring, a dose of calcium, they are inexpensive… but hold on a minute. What do you think makes that Banana Cream Pie flavored yogurt taste so… well… dessert-like? Sugar, sugar and more sugar. Next time you want a creamy treat, opt for Greek yogurt with some fresh fruit mixed in, or even Greek yogurt with a little honey drizzled over the top. You’re still getting way less than the 6-8 teaspoons found in some varieties.
  • Drinks: You’ve heard the message about soft drinks, but what about other sugary beverages? Do you think twice before slamming that energy drink? What about your kid’s chocolate milk? Some of these “health” drinks contain more sugar than the soft drink you’re trying to avoid. Some flavored sports drinks contain 10 teaspoons. Can you imagine pouring yourself a nice glass of water, then mixing in 10 teaspoons of sugar? Probably not.

Although there is no official RDA, there are limits recommended by health organizations like American Heart Association, World Health Organization and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have suggestions for limiting added sugars. Women should get no more than six teaspoons of added sugars daily and men have a limit of nine.

So, what should you do if you want to cut back? Just check the label and the ingredient list. If the first few ingredients include sugar, skip it. And a sweetener by any other name is just as sweet… or even more so. Honey, agave, syrup, fructose or anything ending in –ose, beet sugar… it’s all still sugar… which means it’s going to add a lot of calories and no nutrients.

To satisfy your sweet tooth, opt for nature’s candy: fruit!

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