Secret Sugars: Where is Your Sugar Hiding?

‘Avoid empty calories’ is one of the most common philosophies among healthcare professionals. However, that attitude is often centered on the main meal and not so much the sides and sauces. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of how many sugars are in condiments. Consumption of such foods can lead to unwanted sugars and calories, and the associated health risks.

Here are a few places where those unwanted sugars are coming from and how to avoid them.

Sauces and dressings are perhaps the most infamous for their hidden sugars. Although fat-free or low-fat dressings seem like a healthy topping for your salads, they often have more sugar and carbohydrates than regular dressings. Ingredients like honey, corn syrup and maltodextrin – a starch additive – are added to fat-free dressings to replace the textural qualities fat lends such as mouth feel. A great way to avoid these unhealthy sauces is by making your own! CFYL has a whole catalog of sauce recipes including our Summer Vinaigrette and Ranch Dressing. Also, check out our YouTube videos on how to make vinaigrettes and other dressings!

Tomato Sauce: Big name tomato sauce companies often add sugar to their products in order to balance out the tartness and acidity of the tomatoes. CFYL’s Basic Quick Tomato Sauce is healthy and easy to make! You can adjust the ingredients to your liking and don’t have to worry about hidden sugars in your sauce! You can even make big batches of it and store it in your freezer for future use.

Barbeque sauce is another place sugars hide; most are made from ketchup, molasses and brown sugar, all of which contribute to BBQ sauce’s 12 grams of sugar per serving (2 tablespoons).

Ketchup alone has 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon, and we all often use much more than that on a regular basis. Checkout CFYL’s Homemade Ketchup recipe for a healthy alternative!

Asian chicken sauce, such as General Tso’s or orange sauce, is perhaps the worst of all them all. The combination of sugar, corn syrup and cornstarch leads to over 14 grams of sugar per one serving of chicken. Always be cautious of sauces when eating at restaurants and try to make homemade versions to keep in your refrigerator like our Adobo Paste and Miso Lime Sauce.

Flavored Yogurt is another food in which people don’t expect to find a lot of added sugars. Most brand yogurts, however, have added sugars and flavors, which contribute to a carbohydrate count as high as 40 grams per serving. Greek yogurt is a great substitute as it has more protein and less sugar. Check out our article on the benefits of Greek Yogurt!

Baked Beans have a lot of fiber and protein, but they often contain even more added sugars. Ann’s Pinto Beans provide a healthier and more flavorful bean dish. The same goes for other starchy vegetables such as potatoes, lima beans, and peas. All of the above are healthy, but they must be consumed in small amounts, especially when watching calorie intake.

Dried fruit is another culprit. Choose fresh fruit instead because its sugar is more diluted and easier to eat in moderation. Check out our full article on Dried Fruit for a more in depth look at its nutritional content.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds us that it is important not to completely cut out carbohydrates or sugars in one’s diet, especially during cancer recovery. Carbohydrates and sugars are necessary in maintaining good energy and good health throughout treatment. It is best to avoid processed foods and foods with added sugars because there are endless sources of carbohydrates used in food processing. Many shredded cheeses, for example, are coated with cellulose – a starch – to keep the pieces from sticking together. Keep in mind that the healthiest way to eat carbohydrates is with fiber, protein and a little fat as to reduce blood sugar spikes as often as possible.

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  • "The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics reminds us that it is important not to completely cut out carbohydrates or sugars in one’s diet, especially during cancer recovery. Carbohydrates and sugars are necessary in maintaining good energy and good health throughout treatment"

    I agree, but carbohydrate has been overemphasised in the UK's healthy eating guidelines. Most people's body burns between 100g and 150g of carbohydrate per day, whereas we've been advised that 50-60% of our energy should come from carbohydrate. For a daily intake of 2400 kcal, that is a minimum of 300g of carbohydrate, or at least twice what is needed. That excess will either be turned to fat, often contributing to dislipidoemia, or may signal to cancer cells to proliferate because of the abundance of their preferred energy source.

    Your reference to using a little fat is also correct, however it is written as if we need to be more cautious with this than the carbs. Again, this is not backed-up with what happens in the body, where only a third of energy is used as carbohydrate, whereas two-thirds comes from fat, either ingested or stored body-fat.

    Now this does not mean it is necessary to eat in that exact ratio, as stated already excess carbs can be turned to fat for example. However, the further we deviate from that 'ideal' balance, the more susceptible to ill-health we become.