When it comes to your nutrition plan, one thing that you must be on the lookout for is sugar. Gone are the days where dietary fat is the enemy. Now we are realizing that the right types of healthy fats can actually help prevent heart disease, help us control our body weight, and keep our mind healthy.
Sugar, on the other hand, is nothing but bad news. Not only does it contain no nutrients at all, but it sends your body through a series of reactions that can greatly increase your risk of weight gain and disease. When sugar surges through your veins after a sugary meal or snack, you’ll release a high dose of insulin, which encourages this sugar to move into fat storage. Not only that but if this happens quite often, you may put yourself at risk for insulin resistance, which is the hallmark trait of diabetes and can also lead to heart disease as well.
If you think that you’re doing a good job of avoiding sugar just because you aren’t adding the white stuff by the spoonful on at the table, you could be strongly misled. Sugar sneaks into many of our everyday foods and unless you are constantly looking for it, it may be passing you by.
Let’s take a quick peek at a few of the sneaky places sugar may be making its way into your meal plan.
Most people who are trying to improve their diets take a closer look at the specific foods they are eating and try and make improvements there. While this is good, sometimes it can have you overlooking some of the most dangerous items on your menu: condiments.
The fact is, ketchup is loaded with sugar, but most people dish it up like it’s practically calorie free. Each tablespoon of ketchup you consume will contain roughly 20 calories and just about 4 grams of sugar. Most people never eat just one tablespoon per serving, so you could easily be consuming double or even triple this.
You can find low-sugar varieties of ketchup on the market now, so be sure to seek out one of those if you need this condiment. Or, better yet, consider using salsa instead.
Next up you have bread. Now, many people do realize that bread isn’t the healthiest carbohydrate to be consuming, but they fail to realize that bread actually can contain quite a bit of sugar as well.
This will depend on the variety that you are purchasing but next time you’re about to prepare a sandwich, check the nutrient label. How much sugar is in your slice?
You may just be surprised to find two or three grams per slice, meaning you’re taking in double in that sandwich.
Yogurt is another place where sugar likes to lurk. While it’s great to focus on getting more dairy in and yogurt can be a source of protein, often the sugar content is even higher than the protein content itself.
The problem with yogurt is that most varieties have added flavorings, which is where the sugar comes into play. The yogurt may say it contains ‘real fruit’, but don’t be fooled too quickly. Usually this just means more sugar is there.
While you can get sugar free varieties, often these contain too many artificial sweeteners to really be considered much healthier.
Your best bet? Plain Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt contains less sugar or sweeteners than regular yogurt does and packs in more protein. Then simply flavor it yourself by adding some fresh berries to your bowl.
Starting your day off with a good bran cereal may seem like a great way to promote regularity and decrease your cholesterol levels. But, check the sugar content of that cereal. Many varieties such as bran flakes can contain 7 or more grams per serving. This really doesn’t make it much better than your average kid-friendly cereal.
Instead, opt for oatmeal. Plain oatmeal is sugar free and also supplies a wonderful dose of fiber. Again, add some fresh berries or a sprinkling of cinnamon for more flavor.
Finally, don’t overlook that glass of milk you’re pouring yourself with each meal. Milk actually contains 12.6 grams of sugar per cup, so this can really add up quickly.
If you drink three glasses of milk per day as per common recommendations, you’re taking in a whopping 38 grams of sugar just from that milk alone. The American Heart Association recommends that you consume no more than 36 grams of sugar per day if you’re a male and no more than 25 grams of sugar per day if you’re a female. Clearly three glasses of milk is doing you no favors.
Look at other ways to get your calcium intake up such as from sources like low fat hard cheeses, tofu, or leafy greens.
So be on the lookout for sugar in your daily diet. It could be lurking in the places you’d least expect it.
Shannon Clark is your go-to-girl. She holds a degree in Exercise Science from the University of Alberta, where she specialized in Sports Performance and Psychology. In addition to her degree, she is an AFLCA certified personal trainer and has been working in the field for over 12 years now, and has helped others of all ages lose weight, build muscle, and improve their physical performance.