The Sweet Spot: Navigating Hidden Sugars

At a recent party, a decadent candy bar reminded me: while my kids and I enjoy sugary treats (who doesn’t?), it’s the hidden sugars in everyday foods that truly need our attention

Why It Matters: The real challenge with sugar is not so much the obvious treats - these are exactly what they claim to be: TREATS. Where sugar's effect becomes insidious is all its hidden forms. Those sneaky sugars added into foods where you wouldn't expect them, and aren't looking for them, that consumption can really add up.

Understand & Uncover Hidden Sugars

Identifying hidden sugars isn't always easy, but there are two important tools that anyone can use to guide them through the supermarket jungle. Here's how you can become a sugar-spotting ninja:

1. Read Nutrition Labels: Always start here. Look under the total carbohydrates to find listings for "total sugars" and "added sugars." Total sugars combine naturally occurring sugars (like those in milk and fruits) with any added during processing. Added sugars are, well, just that—extra sweetness thrown in to make a product more appealing.

PRO TIP: Be wary of serving sizes; manufacturers can be tricky by listing a smaller serving size to make the sugar content appear less daunting.

2. Ingredient Lists: This is where you turn detective. Ingredients are listed by quantity, from most to least. You'll find many names for sugar: glucose, fructose, cane sugar, corn syrup, and many others. Some are straightforward, while others, like fruit juice concentrate, might sound healthier than they are.

PRO TIP: More names mean more sugars. Look out for anything ending in ‘-ose,’ syrup, or juice concentrates.

Quick Tips

Be Inquisitive: Always check labels for sugars and serving sizes. As stated above, reducing the serving size means that per serving value of sugar goes down too. If you would normally eat 2-3 times that serving size (because it's so small), then you're eating 2-3 times the sugar as well.

Stay Informed: Know the various names sugars can be listed under. You might be surprised by how many different terms are used for sugar. From dextrose to maltose, the variety is staggering. Keeping an eye out for these can help you make better decisions about what you're really eating.

Prioritize Transparency: Choose products that clearly label sugar content and don't (necessarily) fall for front of pack claims like "healthy" or "no artificial sweetener" or "no added sweeteners". These don't necessarily equate to "low in sugar."

What About the Fake Stuff?

While I won’t dive deep into artificial sweeteners today, it’s worth noting they're also added for sweetness without the calories. They can still trigger a sweet craving, which is something to consider if you're trying to cut down on sweets overall.

Wrap-Up

Being sugar-savvy means enjoying intentional sweets without the unwanted extras. Educate yourself with a sugar name list (here is just one example) and make smarter choices at the supermarket.

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