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Top 5 Foods That Have More Sugar Than You Think

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There is no question, we should remove refined sugars from our diet in as many places as possible. 

It’s well documented that sugar is a major contributor to many chronic health conditions including: obesity, heart disease, Type 2 Diabetes, and cancer. 

It also has massive implications for our microbiome which means it also impacts our immune system, digestive function, mood, and mental health.  

And as if that wasn’t enough, the impact it has on our blood sugar is endless which means: cravings, energy, sleep, mood (again), cognitive function, etc…

In fact, there is barely a body function that eating excess amounts of sugar does not negatively impact. And we all know how quickly sugar can quickly hijack your mind! 

When you eat sugar, your blood sugar spikes, insulin is released, and your blood sugar drops. The body sees this as an emergency state and goes into reactive mode by increasing the cravings for more to bring your blood sugar back up. 

This is the body’s natural physiological reaction and the less sugary products you eat, the less your body will send you craving for more. 

There is also a chemical reaction that takes place. Sugar also releases Dopamine. Dopamine is the feel-good neurotransmitter which increases our feelings of pleasure and satisfaction. Our brains release it as part of the reward system. This gives you a pleasure-like “high” feeling which sends you searching for more. 

If you’re already making efforts to reduce sugar, kudos to you! But it’s also easy to underestimate how much you’re really consuming. And many of the foods with the highest added sugar content don’t even seem that sweet.

The food industry does not make transparency their top priority and as a result, it’s on us to be educated consumers about what we’re buying. 

Whether you’re just getting started on your health journey, a seasoned pro or somewhere in between there’s always something to learn! 

Here are top 5 foods and drinks that have more sugar than you’d think:

  1. Low fat yogurt. 

We all know fat is delicious. It’s what gives food its rich flavor! So what happens when you remove that delicious fat? It typically needs to be replaced with something so people will enjoy eating it. That replacement is usually sugar. All yogurt contains natural sugar (lactose), but most also contain added sugars in various forms. 

Skip the low-fat fruit yogurt. Opting for full-fat unflavored yogurt is your best choice. Add flavor by putting a splash of vanilla in with some fresh or frozen blueberries. 

2. Protein Bars. 

I get it. They’re quick and easy. They’re also almost all filled with sugar and high fructose corn syrup. This varies widely between brands, depending on ingredients, but don’t be fooled by marketing! Many of these bars being touted as an excellent weight loss product are anything but! Take a look at the ingredient list on the protein bar you’re leaning on. Google them all. How many different types of sugar are in it? 

Not all protein bars are the same. And protein bars should not be used as a meal replacement. I think of protein bars as an emergency food, not a meal. 

My favorite brands are Chomps, The New Primal, and Will Zora Bars and they can all be found on Thrive Market (click here for 40% of your first order). 

3. Sports Drinks. 

A few years ago I worked at the YMCA as a health coach and I remember having a conversation with a member about their diet and weight loss goals. As we were talking he was also drinking a blue Powerade (don’t even get me started on the food coloring component, that’s a post for another day). I was brutally honest with him and told him if he was serious about his goals he should consider switching to water. 

Get this, a bottle of Powerade has 52 grams of added sugar. That’s 13 teaspoons of sugar dumping right into your bloodstream. If you’re an athlete training for prolonged intense periods of time this is great because it’s quickly absorbed and used for energy. But for the everyday person getting in an hour a few days a week, it’s not necessary.

Unless you are a true endurance athlete training in extreme heat, you do not need this for performance.

If an electrolyte drink is truly needed to replace what is lost through sweat and urine, the basic formula is simple: Add salt to water. I do this every morning

If  you’re looking for something stronger, Redmond Re-Lyte is a good option.  

4. Ketchup

Ok, all condiments really. Salad dressings, BBQ sauce and ketchup are some of the biggest offenders of hidden sugar. One tablespoon of ketchup can have almost one teaspoon of sugar. 

I use the Unsweetened Primal Kitchen brand which is available on Thrive Market.

5. Breakfast Cereals.

Another one of those quick and easy convenience foods. Also another source of highly processed, heavily fortified (which means they removed all the nutrients then added a lab made version back in), sugary foods.

What’s worse, the ones marketed to children have LOADS of added sugar. Why are we setting our kids up to start the day like this?!

Even granola cereals are sugar bombs. In fact, some have more than 15grams of sugar in one bowl. That’s almost 4 teaspoons of sugar and over half the recommended intake of added sugar per day.

Wake up a few minutes early and spend that time whipping up some whole foods to start your day. It literally takes 5 minutes to whip up a batch of scrambled eggs. Even less time if you pre boil a batch of hard boiled eggs for breakfast. You could even pop some bacon in the oven while you take a shower. Or have leftover dinner for breakfast. No one said you had to eat “breakfast food” for breakfast!

Conclusion

If you want to reduce inflammation, lose weight, restore your digestion, get rid of all that brain fog – let go of tracking fat or calories and start becoming more aware of sugar! 

Start by downloading this many names of sugar guide I put together for you. There are currently over 60 names of sugar, and the food industry is constantly adding more. 

Familiarize yourself with this list of sugar offenders and commit to being diligent about reading labels. Pull out your phone in the grocery store if you’re not sure. What you put in your body matters!

Ingredients are listed in order from highest concentration to lowest. One of the sneaky ways they get around this is to add sugar in multiple forms so they are less concentrated individually. 

They count on people not knowing the names of sugar! 

Let this guide to help you read labels and prepare to be shocked to see the sugar hidden especially in what is being sold as “health food.” 

Once you remove excess sugar and stabilize your blood sugar, brain fog is lifted, your moods stabilize, your energy returns, excess weight falls off. 

It’s truly a game changer! 

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Kristen Barrett, FNTP, FDN-P

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