There is no general definition of what healthy food is, but there are characteristics that are common to most healthy foods. 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 would be considered empty calories in food because they provide calories with minimal (or zero) nutritional value. Unfortunately, some foods you may think are “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 really is. Although these claims may mean that the food is low in carbohydrates or made without wheat, this does not automatically make the food healthy. Many of these foods are higher in sugar than you might expect. Instead of basing your food choices on advertised claims, compare nutrition facts and ingredient labels for more detailed information
If a healthy diet is important to you, be sure to check the amount of sugar in your food products. You might be surprised how much sugar is in foods you think are healthy. A small amount 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 lunch option, soup can be a great meal. However, canned soups can sometimes be less healthy than you think.
Although most notable for their salty flavors and sodium content, soups can also be a source of sugar. For example, Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup contains 8 grams of added sugar per serving, which is just one cup. This means that one can of soup can provide 20 grams of sugar.
There are plenty of healthy soups out there, 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 existing health problems, you may also want to watch your sodium content.
A popular meal and snack for kids, and a favorite among adults, granola bars are easy and convenient. However, this convenience does not always mean good nutrition. Often, store-bought granola bars are unexpectedly high in added sugar.
For example, Nature Valley Oats and Honey Granola bars pack in 11 grams of added sugar. In addition to being high in sugar, 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!
By itself, oatmeal is a healthy food that contains fiber and even contains a few grams of protein. However, many instant flavored oatmeals come loaded with added sugars.
Quaker Oats Cinnamon Spiced Oatmeal contains 10 grams of added sugar, with sugar being the second ingredient on the list after oats. Instead of this option, check out Quaker’s line of lower sugar instant oatmeal that provides 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 contains only 1.5 grams of fat, the amount of sugar brings the number of calories in a 6-ounce container to 140.
Next time you’re shopping for yogurt, look for Greek yogurt or similar high-protein options. Also, be sure to choose varieties with less than 5 grams of added sugar.
Cereal is an easy breakfast and addition to yogurt, but sugar is hidden in most options. Even those marketed as healthier alternatives can have too much added sugar, like this whole grain option from Raisins, which provides 9 grams of added sugar per serving.
If you eat more than one cup, the sugar in your meal can skyrocket. There are plenty of cereal options available with minimal or no added sugar, so look for unflavored options and compare the sugar content of different brands.
Gluten-free products took the country by storm years ago, and you’ll still find plenty of GF options on grocery store shelves. While many people require their food to be made gluten-free due to allergies, others simply choose these products thinking they are healthier.
However, this is not always the case. Gluten-free cookies, for example, can provide the same amount of sugar as regular options. Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies from Simple Mills are also GMO and grain free, but still contain 7 grams of added sugar per serving.
Most cookies will contain sugar, so choose the best option by comparing labels and have less than one serving to keep the extra sugar at bay.
Many people use protein bars as a meal replacement. While this may be better than other quick alternatives, most options provide some amount of added sugar. For example, these Gatorade protein bars contain a whopping 28 grams of added sugar per bar! This comes with 20 grams of protein, but with so many protein bars available on the market, you can find a lower sugar option.
To narrow down healthier options, compare labels at the store and look for those with at least 10 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of added sugar.
Fresh fruit is a healthy food that contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. However, dried fruit often contains hidden added sugars.
A household favorite for many, Ocean Spray’s dried cranberries pack a staggering 26 grams of added sugar per serving. Whether you’re putting your dried fruit in a bowl of oatmeal or homemade trail mix, this excessive amount of added sugar can turn any healthy meal or snack into a sugar bomb.
Raisins are generally made without added sugar, and many types of fruit come in options without added sugar. Just take the time to research the nutrition labels before adding them to your cart.
While some choose non-dairy milk due to dairy sensitivities, others gravitate to it because it is perceived as a healthier option.
Oat milk in particular has become popular 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 higher number if you have several servings a day between your coffee drinks and breakfast cereal, for example.
When looking at non-dairy milk, compare the added grams of sugar. While some options will contain zero, others will provide a few grams per serving.
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