5 On Your Side

Hidden sugars can sabotage diet plans

Posted January 30, 2012

— For people looking to lose weight and get in shape, the first few weeks of almost every year are a key time. 

Whether it's joining a gym, starting the newest fad diet or both, people seeking weight loss often use January as a time to take stock and start over. 

One way many look to drop their calorie intake is by cutting down on sugars. On average, Americans consume 22 teaspoons of extra sugar a day. Most of the time, those are sugars added to food and drinks. 

"A high intake of sugar comes with some serious health risks," Consumer Reports' Jamie Hirsh said. "The American Heart Association says it increases the risk of high blood pressure and high triglyceride levels." 

When people start looking for foods to cut out, soft drinks, candy and cookies are often the first to go. But according to Consumer Reports, many foods that people assume are healthy can continue to pack on the sugar-related pounds. 

For example, a half-cup serving of Prego's Traditional Italian Sauce contains the equivalent of 2.5 teaspoons of sugar. A 6-ounce container of Dannon's All-Natural Vanilla Lowfat Yogurt has more than 6 teaspoons. So does a half-cup serving of Mott's Original Apple Sauce. 

Hidden sugars Hidden sugars can sabotage diet plans

A serving of Vlasic Sweet Midgets pickles has almost 2 teaspoons. Some soft drinks can have as much as 16 teaspoons in a 20-ounce bottle.

Consumer Reports says checking the nutrition label should always be the first step. 

"A teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to about 4 grams, so that can help give you a good estimate," Hirsh said. "You want to try and keep the added sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 teaspoons for men." 

Looking at the ingredients can also be a good way to judge how healthy a product is. Sucrose, glucose and high fructose corny syrup are easy to recognize, but added sugar can be listed under many names. 

Some of the more popular options are fruit juice concentrate, malt syrup and evaporated cane juice. 

Consumer Reports says seltzer with a splash of fruit juice, unsweetened teas or smoothies made with fresh fruit can all be healthier options when the cravings for sweets hit.

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  • iknowmyschnitzel Jan 31, 2012

    All this time, I was on the look-out for high fructose corn syrup. Now, I have to look for corny syrup too? :)