Anyone who’s ever lost a battle with a cupcake knows exactly how addictive sugar can be. And, as with any addiction, as long as the offending substance stays in your body, your cravings will remain.
If you’ve ever gotten fed up with sugar and tried going cold-turkey only to fail miserably a few days later, it could be because you didn’t go quite as cold-turkey as you thought …
The following “healthy” foods all secretly contain sugar, which means they’re also keeping you addicted despite your best efforts.
1. Fruit juice
When you take an apple or an orange and process it with a juicer, you remove it of all its fiber, and fruit without fiber is really just added sugar.
Start reducing the fruit juice in your life by mixing it with vegetable juice, diluting it with water, using fruits that are less sweet (like lemon), and experimenting with fruit-infused water.
Yogurt is a great source of natural probiotics, but flavored yogurts also come packed with a pretty significant amount of sugar.
Try substituting your flavored yogurt with the plain kind. You can add your own flavor with actual fruit (or even all-fruit jam) and maybe a little drizzle of raw, local honey for sweetness. Even with a little bit of honey, you’ll still be cutting down your sugar intake significantly.
3. Bread (including whole wheat and gluten-free)
While whole wheat or gluten-free bread may be a little more nutritious than white, the truth is that any bread product is still made with refined flour. Refined flour acts just like sugar when it enters your body.
If you’re eating lots of bread, your sugar cravings aren’t going anywhere soon. Instead opt for whole grains, like brown rice, oats, and quinoa.
4. Packaged organic foods
Many of us have come to associate the word “organic” with “healthy.” But many organic products contain a significant amount of sugar — even organic sugar is still sugar. If you’re buying packaged organic foods, make sure you read the label and watch out for sugar content, just like with anything else.
5. Alternative milks
Nondairy milks like almond and coconut make a great alternative for anyone trying to reduce dairy consumption. But the “original” versions of many of these milks are very high in sugar. Again, read the labels and make sure you’re choosing the unsweetened kind. You can add your own sweetness (with fruit, for example) at home.
6. Store-bought smoothies
Smoothies are all the rage and there are many pre-bottled versions available now at grocery stores. While we tend to think of these drinks as a great way to add more vegetables to our diets, most are also made with quite a bit of fruit juice, which as noted before, is really just sugar in disguise. If you’re a smoothie fan, make your own smoothies at home instead with whole pieces of fresh or frozen fruit. (Not sure where to begin? Start here.)
7. Protein bars
Protein and energy bars make a quick snack for on-the-go busy and active people. But many of these bars contain as much sugar as a doughnut! If you’re in need of something portable and easy, try some nuts or a piece of fruit instead.
8. Nut butters
Nut butters such as almond butter are an excellent source of protein, healthy fats and energy in your diet. But many also contain sugar as a main ingredient. When you’re buying nut butters, make sure to read the label. The only ingredient on the list should be the actual nut itself. (Want to make your own nut butters? Start here.)
9. Protein powders
While increasing your protein consumption could be helpful, especially if you’re in training and/or working out a lot, many protein powders also come with quite a bit of added sugar. Again, make sure you’re reading the labels and choose powders with no sweeteners added.
10. Natural sweeteners
We often hear about the benefits of natural sweeteners, like raw honey, molasses and maple syrup. And while these sweeteners are a little more nutritious than table sugar, they still act just like table sugar in your body.
When you see phrases like “refined-sugar free”, chances are it’s being sweetened with one of these less refined versions instead.
Sugar addiction is real and can be difficult to overcome, especially considering how prevalent it is in all the foods we consume every day. But you can make a good start on your own addiction by becoming more aware of labels and watching for these hidden sugar traps around you. With a little extra vigilance, you’ll be well on your way to overcoming your own sugar addition for good.
And then you’ll show that cupcake who’s boss!