We’ve all been there before: you (or your kids) are hungry and dinner won’t be for another few hours. You grab something quick, and “healthful”, like a blueberry muffin, a granola bar, a fruit roll-up, or even a flavored yogurt. The snack satisfies the hunger, and even feels healthy, but before you know it, you (or your kids) have consumed a decent share of your daily caloric intake through added (hidden) sugars. So, why is this bad?
It’s no big secret that sugar has a negative impact on our health. Multiple studies have shown that people who consume more sugar-sweetened beverages are at higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, gout and weight gain. But the hidden sugar we are consuming in factory processed foods may be even more dangerous than we think. Several new studies have shown that calories from fructose sugar (which is found in added sugars) may be more likely than other calories to hit our waistlines, putting us at an even higher risk for heart disease and diabetes. Now, more than ever, it is imperative that we know what is in the food we eat daily.
If we are eating whole foods, prepared at home, we have greater control over what goes into our diets. This may not always be feasible though, so how can we easily tell if the foods we are eating are filled with hidden sugar? Part of the answer lies in reading the nutrition labels on the food we purchase. Here are some quick guidelines to use: the “Sugars” number on the package’s Nutritional Facts panel will tell you how many grams of added sugars are in each serving. Multiply the grams by four and you will get the number of calories from sugar; or, divide the grams by four to get the number of teaspoons of sugar. Generally, shoot for 100 calories, or 6 1/2 teaspoons of added sugar per day if you’re a woman, 150 calories, or 9 1/2 teaspoons of added sugar per day if you’re a man, and 50 to 75 calories, or 3 to 4 teaspoons of added sugar per day for children.
The important thing, ultimately, is to avoid added sugars wherever you can, including high-fructose corn syrup, cane or beet sugar, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, agave syrup and honey. Don’t worry about the naturally occurring sugar in fruit, milk and plain yogurt as these sugars are much healthier and easier for the body to process. Come and cook with us!