There is no blanket definition for what constitutes a healthy food, but there are characteristics that most healthy foods have in common. For example, healthy foods generally provide vitamins and minerals, are a source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, and provide a minimum of empty calories. Added sugar and saturated fat would be considered empty calories in foods 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 sugars than you think.
Marketing claims like “keto-friendly,” “gluten-free” and “natural” can lead you to think a food is healthier than it really is. Although these claims may mean that a food has a lower carbohydrate count or is made without grain, that does not automatically make it a healthy food. Many of these foods end up having higher sugar counts than you would expect. Instead of basing your food choices on advertised claims, compare nutrition facts and ingredient labels for more detailed information.
If healthy eating is important to you, be sure to check the added sugar in your food products. You might be surprised how much sugar is in foods you consider healthy. A small amount of added sugar can be part of a general healthy diet, but it is better to keep grams of this nutrient to a minimum. For example, the FDA says that the daily value for added sugar is about 50 grams per day on a 2000 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 and healthy lunch option, soup can be a great meal. However, canned soups can sometimes be less healthy than you think.
Although best known for savory flavors and sodium content, soups can also be a source of sugar. For example, Condensed Tomato Soup from Campbell’s contains 8 grams of added sugar per serving, which is only ½ cup. This means that a single can of soup can provide 20 grams of sugar.
There are many healthy soups, 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 want to keep an eye on the sodium content as well.
A popular dish and snack food for children, and loved by adults too, granola bars are easy and convenient. However, this convention does not always translate into good nutrition. Oftentimes, store-bought granola bars come with unexpectedly high levels of 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 only comes with 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein, making this 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 also contains a few grams of protein. However, many flavored instant oatmeals come loaded with added sugars.
The Cinnamon & Spiced Oatmeal from Quaker Oats contains 10 grams of added sugar, and sugar is the second ingredient listed right behind oats. Instead of this option, check out Quaker’s line of low-sugar instant oatmeal that provides 35% less added sugar than traditional flavors.
Low fat yogurt
Lower-fat yogurt means fewer calories from fat compared to full-fat yogurt, but many options trade fat grams for added sugar.
For example, blueberry flavored yogurt from Yoplait contains 13 grams of added sugar. Although it provides only 1.5 grams of fat, the amount of sugar brings the calorie of a 6-ounce container to 140.
The next time you buy yogurt, look for Greek yogurt or similar options with a high protein content. At the same time, be sure to choose varieties with less than 5 grams of added sugar.
Cereals make for an easy breakfast and add to yogurt, but sugar is lurking in most options. Even those marketed as healthier alternatives can have too much added sugar, like this whole grain option from Raisin Bran, which provides 9 grams of added sugar per serving.
If you eat more than a one-cup serving, the sugar in your meal can jump dramatically. Lots of cereal options are available with minimal added sugar, so look for unflavored options and compare the sugar content between brands.
Gluten free cookies
Gluten-free products took the country by storm several years ago, and you’ll still find plenty of GF options on grocery shelves. While many people need to make their food gluten-free because of allergies, others choose only these products that they think 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 non-GMO and grain-free, but still contain 7 grams of added sugar per serving.
Most cookies contain sugar, so choose the best option by comparing the labels and have less than one serving to keep the added sugar.
Many use protein bars as a meal replacement. While this may be better than other fast food alternatives, most options provide some added sugar. For example, these Gatorade protein bars contain 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 an option with a lower sugar.
For 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 sneaky added sugars.
A family favorite for many, Ocean Spray dried cranberries provide 26 grams of added sugar per serving. Whether you incorporate your dried fruit into a bowl of oatmeal or homemade trail mix, this excessive amount of added sugar could turn any healthy meal or snack into a sugar bomb.
Raisins are usually made with no added sugar, and many varieties of fruit also come in no added sugar options. Just take the time to explore the nutrition labels before adding to your cart.
Dairy free milk
While some choose dairy-free milk due to a sensitivity to dairy products, others gravitate towards it because it is perceived as a healthier option.
Oat milk, in particular, has gained popularity in recent years, but it is a source of added sugar. Chobani oat milk contains 7 grams per serving, which leads to a much higher number if you have several servings per day between coffee drinks and breakfast cereals, for example.
When looking at non-dairy milk, compare grams of added sugar. While some options contain zero, others will provide several grams per serving.
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