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Don’t Be a Zombie Year Round, Spot Lurking Sugars This Halloween!

In 1822, it took the average American five days to consume the amount of sugar in a single 12-ounce can of soda. That means in 1822, an American citizen consumed slightly more than 2 teaspoons of sugar a day while today, we eat 10 to 12 teaspoons every 7 hours!

As many might think, Halloween candy, or holiday sweets in general, are not a primary cause of American obesity. Everyday consumption of sweetened foods, which contain frightfully high levels of sugar, are the key culprits in our nation’s ever-expanding waistline. In fact, everyday processed foods contain enough sugar to rival what’s found in Halloween treats!

A great way to cut back, of course, is to remove sweets like soda, cookies, and ice cream from your diet…but to truly make a difference in your eating habits is to retrain your taste buds to like the taste of healthier foods. To do this effectively, you must first learn to spot these lurking pests hiding in the both the nutrition facts of your local grocery store products AND in your kitchen, right at home!

Lurking Sugar: Ingredient Edition  

Many processed foods don’t list “sugar” on the ingredient label, but instead refer to sweeteners by their chemical names such as sucrose, fructose, dextrose, and maltose. Naturally occurring sugar in foods such as milk and fruits are not the problem, added sugar is. Understanding how to spot added sugars on ingredient labels can help you make healthiest choices for you and your family.

Behold the golden rule of grocery store shopping: If it’s packaged, it’s most likely packed with sugar. It is true, this sweet stuff is absolutely everywhere and if you’re not careful, sneaky sugar bombs won’t hesitate to detonate. Prepare yourself with knowledge of where sugar hides and you’ll never suffer an unintentional sugar binge again. You can also use this easy trick: anything that ends in –ose is sugar, and so is anything with sugar or syrup after the name. In addition, here are some of the different names when on the hunt for hidden sugar:

  • Agave nectar
  • Barley malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered sugar
  • Cane crystals
  • Cane juice
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Rice bran syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Sorghum
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
  • Turbinado

Lurking Sugar: Kitchen Edition  

Lurking sugars can hide in every corner of your kitchen, from innocent-looking barbecue sauce in your pantry, to frozen pot pies in your freezer. Why do these seemingly unsweet foods contain so much added sugars? Food manufacturers have a nasty trick, they remove fat and use sugar or cheap high-fructose corn syrup to fill the flavor void.

In the fridge…
  • Ketchup
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Teriyaki sauce, plum sauce, or other Asian sauces
  • Low-fat or fat-free salad dressings and marinades
  • Dips and spreads, such as onion dip
  • Side dishes from the supermarket deli, such as macaroni salad, potato salad, or coleslaw
  • Canned biscuits and pizza dough
  • Leftovers from take-out meals, such as pizza or that sweet-and-sour chicken from your favorite Chinese place
In the freeze…
  • Frozen entrées (low calorie or otherwise)
  • Processed meats (sausage, hot dogs)
  • Frozen veggies prepared with sauce
  • Breakfast sandwiches
  • Mini pizza bagels or pizza rolls, or pocket sandwiches
  • Frozen bread and rolls
  • Pot pies
In the pantry…
  • Pasta sauce
  • Rice mixes
  • Fat-free dressings
  • Instant flavored oatmeal
  • Granola or fruit and grain bars (whole grain varieties included)
  • Sweetened cornbread mix
  • Whole grain cold cereals (Even the ones that are sugar free and contain fiber are processed and can spike your blood sugar.)
  • Bread, whole grain and white
  • Baked beans
  • Trail mix
  • Whole grain crackers
  • English muffins
  • Pita bread
  • Tortilla wraps
  • Taco shells
  • Yogurt, fruit or flavored

Daily sugar consumption for Americans has been shown to contribute to high cholesterol, heart disease and stroke, cognitive impairment, diabetes and metabolic problems, chronic pain, fatigue, and the obesity epidemic. On average, women should consume a maximum amount of added sugar, daily, of no more than 6 daily teaspoons (100 calories, 25 grams) and 9 daily teaspoons (150 calories, 37.5 grams) for men.

Remember, trick-or-treating only comes every 365 days, so don’t be a zombie year round! Leave off the excess sugar the rest of the year and know your facts on spooky sugars in the grocery store and the ones that are already lurking in your home!