Goblins, ghouls, and witches, oh my! As we hurtle towards Halloween, costumed kids everywhere can’t wait to yell “trick or treat” in exchange for a sweet surprise. Unfortunately, when it comes to our body, the treat often is the trick—a trick on our overall health and vitality.
We can consciously steer our kids (and let’s be honest, ourselves) away from the holiday-themed grocery aisles packed with sugary Halloween treats, but try as we might to keep the candy out of our family’s diet, did you know that some of your favorite go-to foods may pack just as much—or more—of a sugary punch?
According to the American Heart Association, the average American consumes about 22 teaspoons of added sugar every day—that’s a far cry from the recommended maximum of six daily teaspoons (24 grams) for women, children, and teens and nine teaspoons (36 grams) for men1.
So, before you head to the store this month to fill your grocery cart with healthy fare, check out these eight surprising sources of sugar!
1. Flavored yogurt
Just one cup of flavored yogurt can contain a whopping 12 teaspoons (47 grams) of sugar—that’s double the amount of added sugar recommended in an entire day! If yogurt is an important part of your daily meal plan, choose full-fat, plain, unflavored varieties and add in your own fresh fruit for a flavorful treat.
2. Protein bars
Sometimes it feels like reaching for an energy bar on the run is the only way to get in a mid-day snack, but even the “healthiest” of these bars may not be as nutritious as you think. With upwards of 4-8 teaspoons of sugar per bar, some protein bars are no better than candy bars when it comes to added sugar content. Look for bars with minimal ingredients and low quantities of natural sugars from sources like dates, agave, or honey.
One slice of whole wheat bread can pack in 4 grams of sugar—make it two slices, and you’re looking at two teaspoons of sugar just in your daily sandwich. Choose organic sprouted, low glycemic whole grain bread that is rich in fiber and low in sugar or skip the bread altogether and opt for a lettuce wrap.
4. Salad dressing
Kudos for choosing a healthy salad at mealtime, but your salad topper may be adding much more than just a little spice to your greens. Did you know that some bottled salad dressings contain as much as two teaspoons of sugar in just two tablespoons of dressing? Next time you’re looking to jazz up your salad, skip the store-bought dressing and make your own sugar-free vinaigrette with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and salt and pepper.
5. Pasta sauce
Although full of nutrient-dense vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and peppers, pasta sauce from a jar is often loaded with sugar—up to 10 grams (over two teaspoons!) per serving—to counteract the tomatoes’ acidity. Look for jars that say “no sugar added” or make your own sauce at home with fresh or canned organic tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil, and oregano.
6. Dried fruit
Yum—dried fruit can make an excellent snack on its own or as part of a healthy trail mix, but many dried fruits (already high in natural sugar) are doused in added sugar. Especially common with sour fruits like cranberries and cherries, even dried mangoes and papaya are often covered in three teaspoons of sugar per ¼ cup serving. Many health food stores carry dried fruits without the extra sugar, or you can make your own at home with a dehydrator.
7. Sauces and condiments
Sauces and condiments can liven up any dish, but they’re usually chock full of extra sugar. Barbecue sauce can have 8 grams of sugar in every ounce, and ketchup may contain 6 grams or more per ounce. Fortunately, recipes for homemade “added-sugar free” sauces abound online, so get creative and indulge your inner saucier.
The very word, granola, conjures up images of healthy eating and organic, clean foods. Unfortunately, most commercially made granola—a mix up of oats with added staples like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits—is drowning in added sugar. With many brands weighing in at 5-6 teaspoons of sugar in just one cup, you’ll want to steer clear of this sweet treat. Instead, look for low-sugar options or make your own and sweeten it with a tad of raw honey or maple syrup.
Curbing Your Sugar Cravings
Sugar has a deleterious effect on your microbiome, the ecosystem of bacteria living in your body. You see, the good guy bacteria in your gut—responsible for a number of life-supporting functions for your health—feed on prebiotics, indigestible fibers from plant-based foods like onions, garlic, bananas, apples, and Jerusalem artichoke. Bad guy bacteria, on the other hand, feed on sugars from the foods you eat. The more sugar you consume, the more undesirable bacteria can begin to grow out of control, displacing the beneficial microbes you need to keep you healthy.
Focusing on an organic, whole food, plant-based diet, rich in nutrients and free from preservatives and added sugars, is the key to keeping your microbes—and your entire body—happy and healthy. With a little planning and creativity, you can make nearly any “treat” from scratch, with much less of the unhealthy added sugars and fillers that you don’t want.
But, total abstinence from sugar isn’t always realistic, especially this time of year when you and your kids will be tempted at every turn. So, how can you protect your family’s microbiome through all the seasons?
• Take an effective daily probiotic. Continually supplying your body with beneficial bacteria will help the good guys stay in the majority, despite any dietary slip-ups. Hyperbiotics PRO-15 for adults and PRO-Kids for children are multi-strain probiotic formulas that guarantee delivery of live organisms deep into your gut, where they can get to work warding off the sugar-loving bad guys.
• Stay away from artificial sweeteners. When cutting out sugar, it’s tempting to substitute artificial sweeteners to satisfy your sweet tooth, but the effects on your microbiome could be devastating. Studies show that artificial sweeteners alter the gut microbiota to such an extent that the body could become intolerant to glucose, leading to a countless number of long-term health issues2.
• Support your gut at every turn. Living a gut-healthy life is crucial for microbial balance, and can help you weather dietary changes as the seasons turn. Staying active, learning to relax, avoiding antibiotics when possible, focusing on prebiotics, and steering clear of microbiome-depleting toxins and antibacterial products can all keep the good guys in the majority.
Ideally, we’d cut added sugar out of our diets completely, focusing 100% on unprocessed foods straight from the earth. But, with today’s on-the-go lifestyles, we need to be able to figure in some dietary flexibility to keep up with our often hectic schedules. Preparing foods from scratch whenever possible, keeping a close eye on added sugars when you do buy packaged foods, and nourishing your gut microbes each and every day will help you stay the course through all of life’s sweet challenges!References:
Emily Courtney is a Writer and Editor at Hyperbiotics and mom to two fun and active boys. Emily is passionate about natural wellness and helping others learn about the power of probiotics for vibrant health! For more ideas on how you can benefit from the power of probiotics and live healthier days, be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.