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Hidden Sugars

5 Surprising Foods with Hidden Sugars

Here in North America, a large portion of the foods found in grocery stores are loaded with preservatives and sugar. Go into any grocery store, and you’ll find isle after isle and shelf after shelf with packaged food that will most likely still be good in five years time because of all the added ingredients. I like to think that by now, most of us know the dangers of consuming a diet that is high in sugar. Some of the risks associated with consuming high amounts of sugar include: increased blood pressure, inflammation, diabetes, and weight gain. Although we know the risks, companies do a great job at sneaking sugars into our foods. They seem to get away with this by using other health claims to mask the fact that their products are full of added sugars. The Canadian Diabetes Association recommends limiting free sugar intake to less than 50 grams per day. Free sugars are another term for added or refined sugars. I’ve compiled a list of 5 common foods that actually have a load of sneaky sugar in them.

1)      Flavoured Yogurt Vanilla, or other flavoured yogurts pack a load of sugar per ounce. In one  4 ounce package of Activia yogurt, which are the little lunch size ones, there is anywhere from 12-13 grams of sugar. Think of how many spoonfuls it takes to eat one of those yogurts, 2-3 spoonfuls perhaps? That means you are consuming about 25% of your daily recommended sugar intake (50g) in 2-3 spoonfuls.

2)      Pasta Sauce Like yogurt, you may not think that pasta sauce carries a lot of added sugar; however, you may be surprised at how much sugar is actually in your bowl of spaghetti. In one can/jar of Hunt’s traditional pasta sauce, there is 27 grams of sugar. Now of course, you more than likely won’t be consuming the entire jar at one time. However, in one cup of the sauce, which is a more realistic measure of how much the average person is consuming, there is 10 grams of sugar.

3)      Healthy Choice Steamer Frozen Dinners Well if it says healthy in the name, well gosh darn then it must be great for you. This one may surprise some people. I’m sure at some point in our lives; we’ve all had our experiences with frozen dinners. They’re quick and easy, pop it in the microwave for 2 minutes, and you have yourself a full meal. Companies have gotten smarter in their marketing by claiming their meals are “healthy” alternatives to traditional frozen dinners which are awful for you. They claim they are low in calories and high in protein and fibre. The truth of the matter is these apparently “healthy” alternatives; carry a whopping amount of sugar. In one Healthy Choice Steamer meal, there are upwards of 18 grams of sugar per meal. That’s roughly 35% of the daily recommended intake in one single meal.

4)      Cliff Bars Cliff has tremendous marketing. They market their products to active individuals who need a snack that’s packed full of energy. The problem is, most of the people that are consuming Cliff Bars, are people who are not active. People, who sit for hours on end every single day, are the primary consumers of these products. In one chocolate chip Cliff Bar, there are 21 grams of sugar. That’s almost 50% of the daily recommended sugar intake.

5)      Starbucks Specialty Drinks This is the big one folks. I know many of you reading this are consumers of coffee. I know Starbucks isn’t for everyone, however, stand outside of any Starbucks between 7and 8am on a Wednesday morning and you’ll see thousands and thousands of people running in to get their hands on the daily fix of caffeine. Having a look at Starbucks Venti (2nd larget size) Iced Caramel Macchiato, mixed with non fat milk, packs 50 grams of sugar into one drink. That’s 100% of the daily recommended sugar intake all in a single beverage and most likely before your day has even begun.

In wrapping up, I love putting together real world examples to help drive the point home. Let’s talk about Jason.  Jason starts his day with a Venti Iced Caramel Macchiato from Starbucks on his way to work. For a quick snack, Jason has a Cliff Bar and a peach yogurt. For Dinner, Jason has a big bowl of pasta for dinner. Doing some quick math, Jason has consumed already 94 grams of sugar today, nearly two days worth of sugar all in a single day. Let’s even assume that Jason’s pancreas has worked hard enough today and he repays it by not having dessert at the end of the day. Jason, your pancreas thanks you.

You may be reading this and thinking; “there’s no way people actually eat that way.” I’ve spoken to hundreds of clients about nutrition, and believe me; this is far more common than you would like to believe.   People love to get stuck-in on the calories, the protein, and the fibre. Which of course are important factors in the nutritional landscape. However, I promise you, if you simply look at reducing your sugar intake, you’ll notice not only a reduction around your waist, but your doctor will also be much happier when they look at your blood work:)

About the Author:  Eric Noyes BHSc (Kin), CSEP-CPT

Eric is  Kinesiology Graduate from The University of Ontario and holds his Training Certification with the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology.  He has been training general population and sport specific clients at Body Fit since 2013 and is currently the Lead Trainer.  He can be reached at for advice and consultation.


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