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Did you know that it is very difficult to avoid sugar unless you pay very close attention to what you are eating? Take a look at the labels on most of the foods on the supermarkets shelves and you will find that sugar is high up in the ingredient list on the vast majority of them, whether the product is meant to be savoury or sweet…
It starts at breakfast time.
Most breakfast cereals are full of sugar. There are the ones which you can see the sugar on e.g. Frosties, but then there are the ones which you can’t and the ones which are promoted as ‘healthy’ options. These include Rice Crispies, Cornflakes, Coco Pops, Cheerios, Special K and various varieties of muesli and oats e.g. Alpen, and Oat So Simple. There are some sugar free versions of Alpen and Oat So Simple though – the plain ones or specifically designated sugar free versions. Jordans breakfast cereals are a bit better, but some versions contain sweetened dried fruit (i.e. dried fruit which has had sugar added to it). Even normal dried fruit is very sugary, I used to get a toothache after giving up sugar just from eating raisins.
Toast is also a sugary option. White bread containing refined white flour converts to sugar very quickly once eaten and wholegrain bread is very likely to have added sugar. Kingsmill and Hovis wholegrain bread varieties both have added sugar. That’s before any spreads are added e.g. jam – very high in sugar, peanut butter (you can find sugar free versions, but you have to look for them) and the spread which I can’t quite understand why it is advertised as a great idea for breakfast – Nutella (contains added sugar!).
Many breakfast bars are – you guessed it full of sugar. I don’t know if there are any sugar free versions out there, but some of the ones I looked at contained sugar e.g. Alpen bars.
I don’t know if anyone has yoghurt for breakfast, but unless you buy (or make) plain greek yoghurt, the likelihood is it has had sugar added to it.
There might be organic, seemingly healthy version of these breakfast products, but often they still contain sugar. It just might be in the form of organic sugar, or fruit juice, or dried fruit, or agave nectar or fructose for example. Plus the low fat and flavoured options often contain more sugar than the full fat versions plain versions – Rachel’s organic low fat vanilla yoghurt contains organic sugar for example.
More sugar for lunch?
If it’s sandwiches for lunch, even if you skip the white bread, we’ve already established that some mainstream brands of wholemeal bread contain sugar. If you add a sandwich filling to that, many of them are covered in mayonnaise, which usually contains added sugar as an ingredient. Bagels contain sugar as an ingredient and as part of the process of making them are boiled in sugar water.
Hot lunches are likely to contain refined carbs e.g. white pasta and white rice and sauces e.g. pasta sauce, and curry sauce for example often contain added sugar. Stock cubes may also contain sugar e.g. Oxo and Kallo organic cubes contain sugar, meaning even soup made at home from raw ingredients have added sugar when a stock cube is added. I sometimes just add yeast extract to add flavour instead of stock as that is one of the key ingredients of stock cubes… If you have chips and dip them in ketchup or BBQ sauce or mayonnaise well all three have added sugar (unless you specifically search for and buy sugar free versions).
Even if you go for a healthy salad, the salad dressing is likely to contain – surprise, surprise – added sugar (especially those low fat versions…)
A packet of crisps on the side or as a snack during the day can add to the sugar intake. The ready salted ones are usually ok (from an added sugar perspective), but add a flavour e.g. cheese and onion or salt and vinegar and there is almost guaranteed to be added sugar as an ingredient.
That is before any cakes, biscuits, chocolate bars, fizzy drinks and so on…
Any room left for dinner?
All the added sugar in hot lunches applies in hot dinners. Plus simple meals of Heniz baked beans, or Heinz tinned spaghetti for example contain added sugar (there may be other varieties which don’t). Some burgers may contain sugar and if they don’t, they can always be slathered with a sugar laden condiment….
Desserts are usually expected to have added sugar, but ones advertised as ‘healthier’ and/or low fat options can often have more sugar added – my advice would be to check those Weight Watchers food labels carefully!
Cooking from scratch…
I haven’t covered all the foods that contain sugar and of course lots of foods still don’t contain added sugar – mainly raw ingredients…
My conclusion is that cooking from scratch is the best way to avoid added sugar. Even if you can get hold of a sugar free version of something it probably contains a sugar substitute, which is likely to come with it’s own set of problems.
The next best thing is to go for the full fat, plain (i.e. unflavoured) versions of things e.g. yoghurts, crisps, chips, burgers, drinks and to rigorously check the labels! Plus unfortunately the wholegrain version of branded products often has more added sugar than the non-wholegrain versions.
It isn’t easy, but it is worth it!
Since giving up sugar, I have lost around 2 stone in weight, have more energy and feel less tired (apart from when I stay up late writing blog posts!). If you are thinking of giving up sugar it might not be easy at first, but it is possible and it is definitely worth it!