You’ve committed to living a healthier lifestyle, and step one is cutting back on sugar in a big way. You take care of the obvious – you stop adding sugary flavored creamers to your coffee in the morning. You swap out your rushed coffee shop muffin in the morning for scrambled eggs cooked at home. These are all great steps, but you may get to the point that your lunch salad is the unhealthiest thing you eat all day, or the superfood energy bar you eat for a mid-afternoon pick-me-up may as well have been candy.
At first, it’s a good idea to check nutrition labels on everything you eat until you develop a sense of what foods contain a lot of sugar. For now, here’s a list of sugary foods that might surprise you.
1. Peanut butter
3g per serving
The two most popular brands of creamy peanut butter have about 3 grams of sugar per serving, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it’s pretty common to consume more than the standard 2 Tbsp in a sitting. It adds up.
Check labels. A lot of peanut butters labeled “natural” contain only peanuts and sometimes salt.
The word “natural” on the label doesn’t always mean your peanut butter is sugar-free, though. The only way to know for sure is to check the ingredient label.
2. Spaghetti sauce
5-10 g per serving
When you make your grandma’s spaghetti sauce at home, you’ll slow-simmer ingredients like tomatoes, onions, garlic, and herbs, with maybe some meat or vegetables.
The stuff on the shelf is a different story. Store-bought spaghetti sauce can have 5-10 (!!) g of sugar in a 1/2 cup serving. It’s easy to underestimate your sugar intake if you didn’t think you had to count your marinara!
Your best option is to make it yourself. There’s nothing like the aroma of an authentic sauce simmering all day. Your next best option is to ask your favorite Italian restaurant or deli whether they sell containers of house-made sauce, and find out how much sugar is in it. Most often, they will use far less than jarred sauce from the grocery store.
3. Baked beans
13 g per serving
Baked beans are a popular dish that you’ll see lining the buffet at summer cookouts in every part of the country. While you might think of beans as a healthy, high-fiber dish, traditional recipes for baked beans can rack up 13g of sugar per serving.
That’s a lot for a small scoop of a side dish!
With a few simple swaps, you can make traditional baked beans with less sugar or no sugar. If your recipe calls for maple syrup, try swapping it out with sugar-free maple flavored syrup made with monk fruit. If your recipe calls for brown sugar, Lakanto® Golden Monkfruit Sweetener is a one-to-one substitute.
4. Prepared soup
Sugar content varies by variety
You might think of soup as a sensible meal, and it can be. But canned soups and the soups you find in cardboard containers can have as much sugar as a fistful of chocolate truffles.
A 10.75 oz can of a popular brand of tomato soup contains about 12 g of sugar.
Protein bars and energy bars
Up to 24 g of sugar or more
While you may think you’re reaching for a healthy, satiating snack or meal replacement, you may be unwrapping what amounts to a protein-packed candy bar. Some varieties can have as much sugar as a can of soda.
There are options that contain less sugar or no sugar – keep an eye on the label to know what you’re buying.
Another option is to make your protein bars at home. They often taste better than the ones that have been sitting on the shelf, and it’s more economical to make them yourself, too. The best part is, you can control the sweetener. You can opt to simply use less than the recipe calls for and have a less sweet bar as a result, or you can swap out part or all of the sugar for Lakanto Classic Monkfruit 1:1 Sugar Substitute.
5. Salad dressing
Sugar content varies by variety
What’s the first thing we do when we want to live a healthier lifestyle? We start by eating more salads. Adding vegetables is always a good move, but what happens when you drizzle a sugary dressing all over it? You’re back where you started.
Salad dressings, especially lower fat varieties, are notorious for having a higher sugar content than you would expect. Watch your labels when you’re making your choices.
Making salad dressing at home is one of the easiest ways to cut sugar, and save money at the same time. A simple vinegar and oil salad dressing is easy and satisfying, and you can enjoy your sweet balsamic vinaigrettes and other varieties using a few drops of liquid monkfruit extract in place of sugar. These drops are strong, so add them just one at a time and taste as you go.
6. Dried fruit
Sugar content varies by fruit
Dried fruit is a bit of a mixed bag (shameless pun intended).
Some fruits are sweet enough on their own. Companies can simply dehydrate them and bag them.
Other fruits are fairly tart on their own and need sweetener to be appealing. Cranberries, for example, are extremely tart and wouldn’t appeal to the masses without a little help from sugar.
If you want to snack on dried fruit or add it to your trail mix without adding sugar into your day, choose fruits that are naturally sweet. The ingredients list will tell you whether or not sugar has been added during the manufacturing process.
7. Milk alternatives
13g per serving
People are avoiding dairy for one reason or another and turning to alternative milks to drink, to add to cereals, and for recipes.
A lot of varieties are flavored with vanilla and sweetened, which adds a substantial amount of sugar and carbs to your daily totals.
The fix? You can go through the steps to make your own, or you can choose alternative milks that are unsweetened and even unflavored. Some companies make vanilla flavored nut milks that are unsweetened, which is the best of both worlds.
Sugar content varies by flavor
Jerky is meat, right? And meat has negligible carbs and no sugar?
Technically yes, until you cure it.
Cured meats can contain all kinds of things. Jerky in particular is often cured with sugar and other flavors that can rack up the sugar and carb content.
Fortunately, you can find sugar-free jerky varieties that taste just as good as the kind that has marinated in sugar. You’ll usually find it in natural grocers and online, but more and more conventional grocery stores are carrying it as well.