Sugar, specifically added sugar lurks in foods you’d least suspect. In fact, the worst offenders are commonly perceived to be “healthy” choices—especially some of our favorite summer treats (say it ain’t so!)
Health experts increasingly agree that we could all benefit from cutting added sugars from our diet—eating too much can raise insulin, increase inflammation, and accelerate cellular aging (a.k.a. make our bodies age faster!). “Consuming less sugar throughout the day will help balance your blood sugar and stabilize your appetite and mood,” says Nikola. Here are some of the most beloved summer staples that secretly contain sugar—and her suggestions for how to make them healthier:
SAUCES AND CONDIMENTS
The hidden sugar: Since sauces and condiments are eaten in smaller amounts, they typically fall under the radar, which is why they can be the sneakiest when it comes to hidden sugar. Popular bottled barbecue sauce has 16g of sugar in just 2 tablespoons. Even ketchup can have 4g of sugar in just 1 tablespoon.
The Nutri fix: Look for sauces that use the least amount of sugar. Instead of ketchup, try mustard. Even better, make your own sauces so you have control over what and how much goes in. For sauces that need just a touch of sweetness, like barbecue or teriyaki, we like to use honey or maple syrup, since they’re sweeter than table sugar and you can get away with using less.
The hidden sugar: Sports drinks can be a great tool for athletes or people working strenuously, especially in hot weather for longer than an hour. They replenish important electrolytes for hydration and provide a fast-acting source of sugar for energy—a 20 fl. oz. bottle provides a whopping 34g of sugar. The problem is, most of us don’t work hard enough to warrant that much, and they can contribute to weight gain.
The Nutri fix: Unless you’re working up a real sweat, stick to water. Foods like watermelon and cucumber can be hydrating too—plus they provide beneficial vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Or, try an unsweetened coconut water, which has some natural sugar and electrolytes, just be sure to check the label to avoid brands with excess sugars and added flavors.
The hidden sugar: Just like condiments and sauces, salad dressings can also hide sugar and possibly sabotage our healthiest intentions. Check the label, especially for sweet salad dressings like French, fruit-flavored vinaigrettes, and coleslaw dressing which has 6-8 grams of sugar per 2 tablespoons. Plus, the small serving size makes it easy to overdo!
The Nutri fix: For an easy dressing without the sugar, whisk together vinegar or lemon juice with dijon mustard and extra virgin olive oil. Experiment with herbs like parsley and basil for an Italian flare, or oregano for a Greek-style dressing. Add minced garlic or shallots for extra flavor.
The hidden sugar: Recipes and restaurants often add sugar to sweeten-up an already sweet fruit smoothie. Instead, rely on the natural sugars from whole, unsweetened fruit. Some smoothies can go overboard on fruit too, so stick to a reasonable portion – no more than you would eat for a snack or as part of a meal.
The Nutri fix: For a milkshake-y texture, blend frozen fruits and veggies (bananas and cauliflower work well for creaminess) with unsweetened milk or coconut water. Sneak in a handful of fresh or frozen spinach or kale, plus a healthy source of fat like seeds, nuts, or avocado, and fresh herbs or spices like fresh mint, ginger, or turmeric for added nutrition.