Discover Hidden Sugar in Our Food

Are you finding it difficult to make the right choices too? I have to agree that all the terms used on food packaging today make it hard and very confusing to buy what we want. “Fat-free”, “low-fat”, “sugar-free”, “organic”; all these phrases in combination with images of fresh fruit and vegetables make a product promising. But are we really shopping smartly?

My journey to find hidden sugars took me as far as my fridge. 

Honestly I was a bit mortified upon investigation of these discoveries. I try to get as much fresh produce as I can from our Sunday farmer’s market but my lovely husband does do the groceries too in the middle of the week. I shouldn't complain as he does his best to help around the house, and I count myself lucky. But needless to say his choices are not always the same as mine (they never are, are they?). And let me tell you, he really does try to go for ‘healthy’ options!

Let’s have a further look into my fridge…


Culprit #1: Tomato sauce 3 spoon


Here in New Zealand, tomato sauce is definitely a staple. I know some people who add it to everything! While tomatoes are great and packed full of nutrients, our tomato sauce packed a whopping 4.6g of sugar in a 15g serve.  For those of you haven’t read our previous blog "Understanding our Food", 4g of sugar is equivalent to one teaspoon – so that’s roughly one teaspoon of sugar for less than one tablespoon (17g) of sauce – and let’s face it, who just stops at one?

Culprit #2: Yoghurt spoon

It looks like the 99% fat free fruit yoghurt was at a reduced price – it’s not normally a regular in our fridge. Surely fat free yoghurt would be healthy right? No, that is a common misconception, as most fat free products are packed full of sugars. It looks like this yoghurt in particular contains about 18.1g of sugar per serving (pottle). And while approximately the first 4.7g of sugar in any yoghurt is lactose (naturally occurring in dairy), anything on top of that is added sugar. Oops…

Culprit #3: Pasta sauce spoon

We have half a jar of pasta sauce leftover from yesterday’s dinner which contains 12g of sugar for every half cup - and here I was worrying about the pasta. A good way around this though is to make your own out of fresh tomatoes, plenty of herbs and a pinch of salt. My mum simmers a good sauce – I’ll try to get the recipe for you!

Culprit #4: Juice 5 spoon

My husband is from the Netherlands and loves his apple juice. It turns out a glass (248g) contains 24g of sugar… and this was unsweetened apple juice! If you want to attempt to juice your own fruit and vegetables you may find Juicing 101, a previous blog of mine helpful. Juice comes in all different varieties – what’s the sugar content of your juice at home?

Culprit #5: Dried Fruit 7

Okay, I don’t store my dried fruit in the fridge, but I found it in the pantry and I just had to draw attention to it. Dried fruit can be a healthy, fiber-filled snack or salad topping. But in many cases it may as well be candy. Just a quarter cup of dried cranberries which is roughly a single handful can have as much as 29g of sugar!  And it’s not all coming from the naturally sweet fruit; a full cup of fresh cranberries has a mere 4g of natural sugar.

More Hidden Sugar

There are many other foods that come to mind that aren’t in our fridge, but may be in yours that contain a surprising amount of hidden sugar. These include, fat-free salad dressing, breakfast cereals, canned fruit in light juice, muesli bars, energy or fizzy drinks. The crazy thing about all this is even foods we don’t consider sweet contain sugars too! These include barbeque sauce, baked beans, certain crackers and chips, instant noodle flavour packs, some cheeses and dips and many more.

Now I am not saying you can’t consume any of these foods. Most of these are foods I know and love, and I am sure you do too. What I am trying to bring attention to is the fact that we should be paying MORE attention to our food labels. There are so many options out there – you only have to stand in a supermarket aisle to realise this. If we shop with our eyes opened, we can probably cut out a huge chunk of hidden sugars from our diet – sugars that we are consuming without even realizing!

Below is a small Hidden Sugars guide that you could use in combination with our Reading Labels guide. It helps you identify some of those hidden sugars on Ingredients Lists. Arm yourselves with these guides to fight sugar and let me know your experiences using them. I would love to hear your thoughts. Happy shopping everybody!

In good health.

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