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13 Foods You Think Are Healthy (But Secretly Contain Sugar)

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November 16, 2015

It’s nearly impossible not to have a love-hate relationship with sugar. From freshly baked birthday cakes to our favorite Thanksgiving pies, sugar occupies a delectable place in our diets.

But while it tastes oh-so-scrumptious, sugar comes with drawbacks. It can cause a number of emotional health problems, such as depression and anxiety, and is addictive.

The tricky part is, sugar sneaks into our diets in unexpected ways and under different names — such as molasses and corn syrup. But to maintain optimal health, it seems best to stick to a low-sugar diet. That’s why we’ve teamed up with siggi’s dairy, one of our favorite yogurt companies, to help you become a smarter snacker.

We’ve listed 13 so-called healthy foods that aren’t as nutritious as they seem on the surface:

1. Almond milk

Dairy-free might be in vogue, but that doesn’t mean alternatives are always healthier. Many boxed brands of almond milk contain around 7 grams of sugar. Luckily, many big labels have “unsweetened” options.

If you don’t mind spending a few extra dollars, drinking fresh, cold-pressed almond milk is another way to avoid added sugar.

2. Protein powders and protein bars

Fitness fanatics know protein is necessary for maintaining muscle and energy. But while protein powders and bars are easy ways to amp up your amino acid intake, many contain added sugars to improve their flavor.

Opt for an unsweetened protein powder, or try making your own wholesome protein bar.

3. Whole wheat bread

Many people probably think of whole wheat as the healthier alternative to white bread. But it still contains added sugar. Some brands labeled “100 percent whole wheat” list sugar, raisin juice concentrate, and molasses among their ingredients.

Sprouted bread is a healthier option, as it is less likely to contain additives and is easier to digest. And when in doubt, read the ingredients.

4. Granola

Granola might be the perfect topping for your parfait. But all that crunchy goodness is often coated with sweet substances such as sugar, syrup, or honey, adding up to 15 grams of sugar per serving. Your best bet to go sugar-free is to make your own granola.

5. Salad dressing

Even tangy salad dressings are typically made with hidden sugars. Instead of buying packaged dressing, try mixing olive oil and lemon to add zest to your salad. Or play around in the kitchen and concoct your own recipes.

6. Some flavored yogurts

To combat the tartness of plain yogurt, many companies add sugar — about 16 grams — to their flavored options to make your taste buds happy. However, siggi’s dairy — a company committed to creating dairy products with not a lot of sugar — adds only 5 to 7 grams of sugar per serving.

7. Peanut butter

Many companies add sweet substances to their peanut butter to improve the taste. Even some “natural” peanut butters list sugar in the ingredients.

Seek spreads that are made only from peanuts and salt and therefore contain only 1 or 2 grams of naturally occurring sugar. When it comes to nut butters, always check the label.

8. Tomato sauce

Yes, even tomato sauce has sugar — as much as 10 grams per serving! So check labels. Even some of the big names sell a “no sugar added” option.

9. Some dried fruits

Fruits are naturally sweet on their own, but many companies add sugar and oil to dried versions, even in the bulk section of the grocery store. It’s always best to opt for low-glycemic fresh fruit, which has less sugar and will also help hydrate you.

If you just can’t live without that handful of raisins, be sure to check the ingredients.

10. Smoothies

Smoothies are pretty healthy, right? Sometimes. But many include sweetened liquids, such as almond milk or yogurt, in addition to added sugars and fruits.

Your best bet is making your own smoothie — or placing a fresh order instead of grabbing a pre-made smoothie — and being careful about choosing sweetened ingredients.

11. Flavored oatmeal

Not all bags of oatmeal are equal — and you should be especially wary of the flavored varieties. For instance, cinnamon-and-spice instant oatmeal can have 11 grams of sugar.

While there are surely lower-sugar options, it’s simple to make your own flavored oatmeal. Just get steel-cut oats and add seasoning (such as a dash of cinnamon) and some sliced fresh fruit. Voilà!

12. “Light” and “fat-free” foods

While “light” and “fat-free” foods might sound more appealing for your waistline, they are actually loaded with sugar. Manufacturers have to make up for the missing ingredients somehow!

Instead, opt for whole foods, as they are more likely to have less added sugar. (It’s still a good idea to always check the sugar content, of course.)

13. Fruit-and-nut bars

What’s so bad about a modest amount of fruits and nuts? Well, those aren’t usually the only ingredients in a fruit-and-nut bar. Like granola, most of them are coated with sweeteners such as sugar, glucose syrup, and dates.

A healthier — and perhaps more filling — treat is a trail mix containing your favorite dried fruits and nuts. Or try making your own bars! You’re body — and your wallet — will thank you.

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