So, you think you’re eating a low-carb/low-sugar diet? You may be surprised to learn that you are likely consuming far more carbohydrates and sugars than you think you are.
Now, not all sugars are created equal. For example, natural sugars, like those found in fruits are easier for diabetics to digest because most fruits also contain fiber and antioxidants. These additional nutrients help the sugar to digest more slowly, reducing the effect on blood sugar.
Refined sugars, however, like those found in processed foods, are digested very quickly, and can cause blood sugar to skyrocket. Refined sugars are rarely accompanied by any nutrients whatsoever. That’s why after eating sugar you feel “high” then crash shortly afterward.
As research reveals more and more negative effects of consuming sugar, the white stuff is getting a lot of negative press. This has caused food and beverage companies to “hide” the sugar by calling it by different names.
For example, do you think “brown sugar” is a healthier choice? Surprise- it’s just white sugar with molasses mixed in! There are many names for sugar, and you should be checking food and beverage labels carefully.
Here are a few of the most commonly found “hidden sugars”: Dextrose, Fructose, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Cane Juice, Maltodextrin, Maltose, Sorbitol, Mannitol, Sucrose, and Corn Sweetener.
Think artificial sweeteners are healthy because they don’t contain “sugar”? The chemicals and additives in artificial sweeteners have been found to be carcinogenic-meaning they cause cancer.
Artificial sweeteners also trick your body into craving more sweets. This is one reason why an individual can drink “diet” soda and still not lose weight. Do your research and be wary of artificial sweeteners.
Even some very “healthy” foods are full of sugars. The less fat a product contains, the more sugar it is likely to contain. This is due to food companies taking the fat out, and replacing it with sugar to make the food taste good. This began decades ago when the “fat is bad” movement was perpetrated by sugar companies in order to boost their sales.
A more positive alternative to a candy bar to be sure, however many granola bars contain added sugar or sweeteners like corn syrup. Depending on the brand and flavor, one granola bar could contain upwards of 15-20 grams of sugar! To get your granola fix, enjoy some organic unsweetened granola sprinkled on top of Greek yogurt with fresh berries for a filling treat with less than 10 grams of sugar.
Speaking of yogurt, most brands contain two to four teaspoons of sugar per serving. All yogurts contain some sugar (lactose) because yogurt is made from milk. It’s the fruity flavorings some yogurts contain that can add up to 30 grams (six teaspoons) or more of sugar.
The best yogurt option is plain full-fat Greek yogurt. Greek yogurt is an ideal swap in dozens of recipes! Instead of sour cream, try a dollop of plain Greek yogurt on tacos, use it to make Spinach-Artichoke Dip, or add it to mashed potatoes. In place of mayonnaise, fold it into chicken or tuna salad, or mix with a pouch of ranch dressing mix for a delicious salad topper or dip.
Everyone knows that salads are healthy. Think again – the veggies themselves are not the issue; the sugar is hiding in your salad dressing! Thousand Island, French, and Russian dressings are actually ketchup-based, and can contain 9-10 grams of sugar per two-tablespoon serving! Try making your own dressing using olive oil and garlic, or balsamic vinegar. Your favorite restaurants will likely offer oil and vinegar as a salad dressing option, just ask your server.
When it comes to drinks, you’ve given up sodas and switched to tea thinking it’s a healthier choice. What you may not know is that many popular ready-to-drink tea varieties are already sweetened and contain a shocking amount of sugar. (For example, the leading brand of lemon-flavored iced tea contains over 30 grams of sugar per bottle.)
Don’t skip tea altogether, though. Tea has many health benefits, just brew your own at home!
Be wary of fruit juice blends, mixes, and concentrates. Most store-bought fruit juices are actually just fruit-flavored beverages. They contain a very small amount of actual fruit juice, and are mostly made up of sugar and preservatives, with most having between 20-30 grams of sugar per cup.
Look for labels that state “100% unsweetened juice.” If you really have a passion for fresh juice, invest in a juicer. That way you can enjoy fresh fruit (and vegetable) juices at home without added sugar.
It can be difficult to stay focused on determining the carbs and sugars in every food you eat. Becoming overwhelmed and burned out is easy! Just because you have high blood sugar does not mean that you can never have delicious foods again.
Take your favorite foods and recipes, and get creative with alternative ingredients and preparations. For example, instead of a piece of white toast with jam for breakfast, try a slice of whole wheat toast topped with mashed avocado and an egg. Still delicious, but includes fiber, protein, and good fats!
Keeping your eye on the prize (a longer, healthier life) can make it easier to keep an eye on your carbs and sugars, too!