Let’s imagine you have been working on your diet and doing well. You are working toward a healthy diet and clean eating… even goals like 5k runs and exercise groups or (gasp) even a half marathon. The problem is, you have been told by your nutritionist or doctor that your sugar levels are still not in a good range and you are hitting a wall. You have removed soda, processed sugars, and sweets. Now you are left with wondering where the sugar is coming from. Here are a few hidden sources of sugar and what you need to do to remove them from your daily diet.
You may not think about coffee when you think about hidden sugars in your diet. The truth is, your one packet of sugar that you do not think about adding, can add up during the day. You can end up with a large amount of sugar if you drink several cups of coffee a day. On top of that, coffee drinks that are specialty drinks may have much larger amounts of sugar than you think. Though you can request the nutrition facts, there may be artificial flavors that have sugar in them that are not listed separately.
You may think that you are being healthy by picking up a juice instead of a soft drink. The truth about pre-made juices is that many of them do not contain real juice. Most of them contain a small percentage of juice combined with a large amount of sweeteners and sugars. This is something that many people don’t consider, and unfortunately as a given they believe it’s healthy. If you’re going to go the juice route, which I often don’t recommend anyway, consider getting a veggie blend juice or smoothie (yay, fiber!) that is organic and actually, authentically fruit… and check the grams of sugar on the nutrition facts before you buy.
Frozen dinners, aside from containing endocrine disrupting plastics, rarely come to mind as a containing sugars. In many cases, sugars are used as more than just a sweetener for the small amount of dessert, pasta sauces and breads. Sugars can be found in most frozen dinners, even savory ones. For example, dinners like lasagna and meatloaf or salisbury steak have sugars in them to help sweeten sauces and gravy. To avoid this, you can make your own frozen dinners and that way you know what is going into your pre-made food. It also gives you the option of having food on demand instead of making the choice to get something quick that can be heated but may be loaded with sugar.
People generally think of gluten free as healthy. Often though, sugar is used for texture and as a binder in gluten free baked goods and snacks and it can have far more than a similar product that is not gluten free. Make it a habit to turn over the package and look at the ingredients for hidden sources of sugar.
Pre-Made Health Drinks
Health drinks, like smoothies, are like pre-made juices. They may seem like a healthy choice but they are not necessarily a good choice. Some smoothies contain sweetened milk as well as sugar based yogurts or fruits with very high amounts of natural sugars. Instead, make your health drinks like protein based drinks as well as smoothies at home. You know exactly what is going into your drinks and you can control the fruits and natural sugars as well as boost it with some bone broth protein or Sacha inch protein and a healthy fat to control that sugar spike.
There is always an alternative to sugar that is healthy. You do not have to go with a chemical sugar substitute either. Keep that in mind when you begin to remove sugar in these hidden sources before you jump to the conclusion that there is no replacement option and that these hidden sources will just have to stay in your diet.
Some of my favorite substitutes are dates, raw honey, maple syrup & maple sugar if you are going for a simply cleaner, paleo type diet. But remember that they are still sugar! I like pure monkfruit to sweeten things as it does not have much effect on insulin like a lot of faux sugars do. I transitioned my family (or I should say my husband) off of the bulk of their sugar intake over ten years. I withdrew refined sugar and replaced it with organic and unbleached. Then I moved to rapadura and sucanut. I substituted some of the sugar in recipes with dates, figs or ground fruits like lucuma. He is still not a fan of monk but I find that if I use just a bit he doesn’t notice. For a lot of our birthday and holiday bakes, I opt for Swerve as it is non-gmo and birch based erythritol, but that is few and far between. Allulose, which comes from figs, is also a decent option for diabetic and the sugar sensitive, such as myself. My kids will eat my cookies that are only sweetened with monk fruit these days and love them. The point is these things take time for some, while others can quit cold turkey. I haven’t had sugar in over 20 years as it causes me physical pain.
I hope this helps!