There is no universal definition of what constitutes healthy food, but there are characteristics that most healthy foods share. For example, healthy foods generally provide vitamins and minerals, are a source of protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and provide minimal empty calories. Added sugar and saturated fat are considered empty calories in foods because they provide minimal (or zero) calories of nutritional value. Unfortunately, some foods you might think of as “healthy” have a lot more empty calories in the form of added sugar than you think.
Marketing claims like “keto-friendly,” “gluten-free,” and “natural” can trick you into thinking the food is healthier than it actually is. While these claims may mean that a food is lower in carbohydrates or is made without wheat, this does not automatically make the food healthy. Many of these foods end up being higher in sugar than you would expect. Instead of basing your food choices on advertised claims, compare nutrition facts and ingredient labels for more detailed information.
If healthy eating is important to you, be sure to check the added sugar in your food. You might be surprised how much sugar is in foods you think are healthy. Small amounts of added sugar can be part of an overall healthy diet, but it’s best to keep grams of this nutrient to a minimum. For example, the FDA says the daily value for added sugar is about 50 grams per day on a 2,000-calorie diet.
Here are 9 common “healthy foods” that contain a lot more sugar than you think. Read on and for more healthy eating tips, check out 20 Healthy Weight Loss Breakfast Recipes for Busy Mornings.
For those looking for a quick, healthy meal option, soup can be a great meal. However, canned soups can sometimes be less healthy than you think.
Although most notable for their savory and sodium content, soups can also be a source of sugar. For example, Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup contains 8 grams of sugar in just ½ cup. This means that one can of soup can provide 20 grams of sugar.
There are many healthy soups available, so look for options that provide at least 10 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and zero grams of added sugar. If you have health problems, you can also watch the sodium content.
A popular meal and snack food for kids as well as a favorite with adults, granola bars are easy and convenient. However, this convenience doesn’t always translate into good nutrition. Oftentimes, store-bought granola bars contain unexpectedly high levels of added sugar.
For example, Nature Valley Oats and Honey Granola Bars pack 11 grams of added sugar. Along with the high sugar content, this granola bar contains only 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein, making it a less healthy option. When looking for bars, choose options with at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of added sugar. The lower the better!
Oatmeal is a healthy food on its own, containing fiber and even a few grams of protein. However, many flavored instant oatmeals come loaded with added sugar.
Cinnamon and Spiced Oatmeal from Quaker Oats has 10 grams of added sugar, and sugar is the second ingredient listed after oats. Instead of this option, check out Quaker’s line of low-sugar instant oatmeals, which provide 35% less added sugar than traditional flavors.
Low-fat yogurt means fewer calories from fat compared to full-fat yogurt, but many options trade fat grams for added sugar.
For example, Yoplait’s blueberry-flavored yogurt contains 13 grams of added sugar. Although it provides only 1.5 grams of fat, the amount of sugar brings the calorie count to 140 in a 6-ounce container.
Next time you buy yogurt, look for Greek yogurt or similar options with higher protein content. Also, make sure you choose varieties with less than 5 grams of sugar.
Whole grain cereal
Cereal is an easy breakfast and complements yogurt, but many versions have hidden sugar. Even those that market themselves as healthier alternatives can have too much sugar, like this whole grain version of Raisin Bran, which packs 9 grams of added sugar per serving.
If you eat more than a one-cup serving, your mealtime sugar can spike. Many cereal options are available with minimal to no added sugar, so look for unflavored options and compare the sugar content of brands.
Gluten free cookies
Gluten-free products took the country by storm many years ago, and you’ll still find plenty of GF options on grocery store shelves. While many people require their food to be gluten-free due to allergies, others simply choose these products thinking they are healthier.
However, this is not always the case. For example, gluten-free cookies can provide the same amount of sugar as regular versions. Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies from Simple Mills are also non-GMO and grain-free, but still contain 7 grams of added sugar per serving.
Most cookies contain sugar, so choose the best option by comparing labels and get less than one serving to avoid added sugar.
Many people use protein bars as a meal replacement. While this may be better than other fast alternatives, most options provide some amount of added sugar. For example, these Gatorade protein bars contain a whopping 28 grams of sugar per bar. This does come with 20 grams of protein, but with so many protein bars on the market, you can find an option with a lower amount of sugar.
To narrow down healthier options, compare store labels and look for products with at least 10 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and 5 grams of added sugar.
Fresh fruit is a healthy food that contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. However, dried fruit often contains sneaky added sugars.
A household favorite for many, Ocean Spray’s dried cranberries provide a staggering 26 grams of added sugar per serving. Whether you mix your dried fruit into oatmeal or a homemade mix, this excess of added sugar can turn any healthy meal or snack into a sugar bomb.
Raisins are typically made without added sugar, and many fruit varieties also come in sugar-free versions. Just take the time to study the nutrition labels before adding them to your cart.
While some choose non-dairy due to dairy sensitivities, others gravitate towards it because it is perceived as a healthier option.
Oat milk in particular has grown in popularity in recent years, but it is a source of added sugar. Chobani oat milk contains 7 grams per serving, which adds up to a much larger amount if you eat several servings a day between coffee drinks and breakfast cereal.
When looking at non-dairy milk, compare grams of added sugar. While some options will contain zero, others will provide several grams per serving.
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