In Picky Peaches’ first post of the year, we shared tips on making 2017 your best year yet and we want to continue toward that goal by offering easy ways to eat healthier. February is American Heart Month (heart.org), and to go along with that, we’re introducing the first installment of our new 3-part series featuring simple ways to cut sugar, fat and sodium from your diet. Let us say right off the bat that we are not medical professionals. We are three women who have the same struggles as you when it comes to trying to live a healthier lifestyle. Haven’t we all been guilty of over-indulging in sugary foods at one time or another? Obviously, that second glazed doughnut, an extra slice of coconut cake or a half-dozen cookies, instead of the two we meant to eat, are examples of too much sugar. However, even when we are consciously trying to cut back on sugar, we may be innocently eating a lot more sugar than intended. That’s because it’s hidden in the unlikeliest of places; from peanut butter to mayonnaise. Sometimes just switching brands can help curb sugar consumption. It is so important to get in the habit of reading food labels to make sure that sugar isn’t lurking in that product and just waiting to come out and bite you on the hips–or thighs or belly.
Sugar is a lot like the devil. Both are called by many names and both can hide where you least expect them. Clearly, we know that if sugar is listed as an ingredient on the label, it’s sugar. Food companies and marketers know that consumers are trying to cut back so they disguise it by calling it something else; barley malt, dextrose, maltose, beet sugar, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, honey, agave, turbinado, sucrose, rice syrup, maltodextrin, glucose solids, evaporated cane juice syrup, brown sugar, and many others, over 60 aliases at last count. The more sugar we eat, the more we want. It causes blood sugar to go up quickly and down quickly, which just makes us want more. It’s a vicious cycle.
It doesn’t matter what it’s called, it’s still sugar and four grams of any of these equals 1 teaspoon. So, if you see a breakfast cereal with 20 grams of sugar per serving, do a little math. That’s the same as sprinkling 5 teaspoons of sugar on a bowl of cereal! Close your eyes and visualize what that would look like. Scary huh?
As you start reading more and more food ingredient labels, you’ll notice that low-fat, reduced-fat or fat-free doesn’t necessarily equal low-sugar or low-calorie. Sometimes food companies replace the fat with sugar. For example, a Starbucks tall non-fat Vanilla Latte contains almost 5 teaspoons (19 grams) of sugar and a Dunkin’ Donuts Hot French Vanilla Swirl Macchiato has about 7 teaspoons (30 grams) of sugar, according to the companies’ websites. A Dunkin’ Donuts Vanilla Chai has 8 teaspoons (32 grams) of sugar.
Still not convinced? Think of it this way: If you normally drink a Starbucks tall non-fat vanilla latte every day, you can replace it with water or black coffee or unsweetened tea and save about 200 calories day which equals about 21 pounds in a year! So losing weight may be as easy as changing your coffee or tea habit.
Just changing to skim milk with no syrup in your 12 oz. coffee will save you about 145 calories a day, which translates to about 15 extra pounds a year. If you’re making your own coffee and using a non-dairy creamer, check the label. Sugar is probably one of the top three ingredients, which means that if you add a spoonful of sugar too, you are having sugar with your sugar. Hmm…
Low-fat yogurt can be another sugar bomb. It sounds healthy, but don’t be deceived. A small container of the popular fruit-on-the bottom type has about 26 grams of sugar. That’s a whopping 6.5 teaspoons in that little bitty 6-oz. cup! When you consider that a single scoop of Bruster’s vanilla ice cream has 4.5 teaspoons (18 grams), you’ll see that this type of yogurt is just a sugary dessert in disguise. So opt for plain fat-free yogurt and add real fruit yourself for a much healthier option.
Dried fruit sounds like a healthy, nutritious snack and it can be, but that sneaky little devil we warned you about finds its way here too. Some of the popular national brands have added as much as 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar per 1/3 cup serving, according to Prevention Magazine.
Sugar loves to hide in granola bars and energy bars too. One bar can contain 3 teaspoons (12 grams), or more, of sugar. Oats are packed with fiber and are very nutritious, but they usually end up being held together with sugar or dried fruit or chocolate or both.
According to Prevention magazine, these are the Top 10 foods with hidden sugar:
Barbecue sauce, fruit yogurt, Chinese takeout, pasta sauce(some brands have no added sugar so check the label), soft drinks, agave, dried fruit, gummy worms, granola bars and energy drinks.
It isn’t just about the calories and weight or vanity, so keep reading to see what the American Heart Association has to say about sugar.
“GETTING TOO MUCH ADDED SUGAR IN YOUR DIET COULD SIGNIFICANTLY INCREASE YOUR RISK OF DYING FROM CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE, AND CONTRIBUTE TO OBESITY, HIGH BLOOD PRESSURE AND HIGH CHOLESTEROL.
IN A STUDY PUBLISHED IN THE JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION INTERNAL MEDICINE IN JANUARY 2014, RESEARCHERS FOUND THAT THE ODDS OF DYING FROM HEART DISEASE ROSE IN TANDEM WITH THE PERCENTAGE OF SUGAR IN ONE’S DIET, REGARDLESS OF A PERSON’S AGE, SEX, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY LEVEL, AND BODY-MASS INDEX (A MEASURE OF WEIGHT).
SPECIFICALLY, THOSE WHO GOT 17 TO 21 PERCENT OF CALORIES FROM ADDED SUGAR HAD A 38 PERCENT HIGH RISK OF DYING FROM CARDIOVASCULAR DISEASE COMPARED TO THOSE WHO CONSUMED 8 PERCENT OF THEIR CALORIES FROM ADDED SUGAR. THE RISK WAS MORE THAN DOUBLE FOR THOSE WHO CONSUMED 21 PERCENT OR MORE OF THEIR CALORIES FROM ADDED SUGAR.
ACCORDING TO THE STUDY, MOST U.S. ADULTS CONSUME ABOUT 22 TEASPOONS OF ADDED SUGARS A DAY. THAT’S MORE THAN THREE TIMES THE RECOMMENDED AMOUNT FOR WOMEN.”–AMERICAN HEART ASSOCIATION
Sounds like a lot of sugar doesn’t it? It is, especially considering that if we consume 22 teaspoons of added sugars per day, we could potentially gain a pound every ten days.
(22 tsp. X 16 calories = 352 extra calories/day, 352 calories X 10 days = 3520, 3500 calories = 1 pound)
Those are sobering words, aren’t they? It certainly is food for thought, if you’ll pardon the expression.
Join us next week for the 5th installment in the Hidden Gem Restaurant Challenge. It’s a good little place to grab a fresh sandwich or salad when you visit the lovely little downtown area where it’s located.
As part of our commitment to a healthier 2017, we will begin featuring one healthier option from the menus for all the restaurants we visit!
Until next time, love and peaches!