Fat Chance author Dr. Robert Lustig sees sugar as one of our biggest dietary scourges—especially fructose, which he calls “the Voldemort of the dietary hit list.”
But cutting your consumption isn’t so simple. Sugar is added to tons of items that most people wouldn’t expect—including healthier foods. (And about half of the added sugar you see on a label is fructose).
According to Dr. Lustig, 80 percent of packaged foods in the US contain added caloric sweeteners. And while sugary beverages like soda and desserts are partly to blame, about half of the fructose we consume comes from foods not in those categories.
“Even if I could snap my fingers and make soda disappear,” Dr. Lustig says, “that would only solve part of the problem.” It doesn’t help that the food industry has over 40 names for sugar—from the obvious “fructose” to the much trickier “evaporated cane juice” or “carob syrup.”
Here are 5 foods where high levels of sugar are often lurking:
1. Bread. It’s not just Wonder. Whole wheat and multigrain breads usually do contain added sugar, about 2g per slice. (The American Heart Association recommends a maximum sugar consumption of 44g/day for men and 30g/day for women.)
2. Salad dressing. Sugar is the fourth ingredient in the Newman’s Own Lite Honey Mustard in my fridge, with 5g in two tablespoons. Less wholesome brands can have much more.
3. Orange juice. We’re all about throwing back healthy green juices, but when juice is mostly fruit, it’s basically like chugging fructose. Especially when it’s the processed, bottled variety. Minute Maid orange juice, for example, has 23g in just eight ounces!
4. Cereal. Children’s breakfast cereals tend to be the worst, like Kellogg’s Honey Smacks, which the Environmental Working Group found was 55.6 percent sugar by weight, in a 2011 report. But even organic granola brands usually count sugar among the first ingredients, with many containing about 6 grams/quarter cup.
5. Yogurt. According to Dr. Lustig, a standard Yoplait yogurt has 27 grams of total sugars—the same as eight ounces of Coca-Cola. Part of that is lactose (milk sugar), but 11 grams are extra, added sugar. Stick to Greek yogurt with no added sweeteners, instead.
And, of course, the easiest way to avoid added sugar is to skip processed items and eat fresh, whole foods instead.—Lisa Elaine Held