On the first day of 2011, I ate strawberry yogurt for breakfast, snacked on a granola bar before lunch, sipped on vitamin water, and enjoyed a savory serving of pasta for dinner. At the end of the day, I was feeling pretty good about my fresh start. That is, until I read the labels. As it turns out, I had consumed almost one hundred grams of sugar (more than twice the recommended daily amount) in this so-called attempt at eating healthier.
This whole debacle prompted me to do some research on sugar-packed snacks that masquerade as health foods. Here are the most deceiving culprits:
1. Breakfast Bars
Sure, they may have less sugar than a glazed doughnut, but breakfast bars aren’t nearly as healthy as you may think. Nature Valley’s Vanilla Yogurt Granola Bars and Nutri-Grain’s Cereal Bars cram thirteen grams of sugar into a single serving. Being organic doesn’t make Health Valley’s Cereal Bars any better; they’ll even get you one gram closer to your daily sugar limit.
2. Vitamin Water
A bottle of vitamin water fuels your body with much more than just a dose of nutrients. That burst of energy you feel upon taking the last sip is just a sugar high in disguise. A twenty-ounce bottle of Glaceu’s Vitamin Water or Snapple’s Antioxidant Water contains more than thirty grams of sugar. Take some vitamins and drink a glass of water, instead.
Every time you walk down the cereal aisle, you say no to Tony the Tiger and refuse to go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. But even cereals that trade in a colorful mascot for wholesome claims can pack one sugary punch. Take Kellog’s Smart Start Strong Heart cereal. Despite its misleading name, one cup contains a whopping fourteen grams of sugar.
4. Spaghetti Sauce
Just because you don’t taste the sweetness doesn’t mean there isn’t sugar lurking somewhere beneath the tomatoes. Believe it or not, there are fourteen grams of sugar in a half cup of Newman’s Own Tomato and Basil Sauce and Bertolli’s Vineyard Marinara. Mama Mia!
5. Bran Muffins
You choke down every last bite of a bland bran muffin with your morning coffee and pat yourself on the back for making your fiber quota. Whoa there! Don’t be so quick to equate lack of flavor with nutritional value. There are over twenty grams of sugar in a bran muffin from Starbucks, and those from your local grocer probably aren’t very far behind.
6. Dried Fruit
Fruit is already naturally sweet, so why would dried fruit contain an excess of added sugar? Don’t turn to logic when debating what snacks to buy; just stick to the facts. There are twenty-six grams of sugar in a single serving of Ocean Spray’s Craisins and thirty grams of sugar in the same amount of Sun-Maid’s Natural California Raisins.
Tip of the day: although labels like “all natural” and “100 percent juice” sound healthy, it would be a wise choice to just ignore them. Despite the wholesome promise of such statements stamped on the carton in big, bold print, a serving of Langer’s Apple Juice contains twenty-six grams of sugar, and the same amount of Minute Maid Orange Juice follows close behind with twenty-four grams of sugar. You are better off just eating the fruit and sipping water.
8. Flavored Yogurt
Yogurt is hailed as one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It’s known to boost your metabolism and even improve your immunity. On the other hand, it can also push you over the limit for your daily sugar intake. Just to put it in perspective, a six-ounce container of Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt is crammed with twenty-seven grams of sugar. Your best bet? Stick to plain yogurt and add slices of fruit for flavor.
9. Instant Oatmeal
There’s just not enough time in the morning to make it from scratch, it’s so convenient to have each serving prepackaged, it’s much more flavorful than plain oatmeal … yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard (and used) every excuse in the book. But these justifications still don’t change that fact that a serving of Quaker’s Flavored Instant Oatmeal can contain as much as fourteen grams of sugar. If you must do instant, go for the natural, low-sugar options.
10. Bottled Iced Tea
There are twenty-six grams of sugar in eight ounces of Coca-Cola, while the same amount of Snapple Lemon Iced Tea contains twenty-four grams of sugar. Enough said.