Sneaky Sugars: 5 "healthy" foods to look out for

Approximately 80% of our food supply has some form of hidden or added sugar! With that statistic, it’s no surprise that even healthy foods (or what we think of as healthy foods) have hidden sugars.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 to 9 teaspoons for women and men, respectively, a day. The average adult is having 3 to 4 times more sugar on a daily basis! 

The World Health Association takes it a step further and recommends that no more than 5% of your calorie intake should be from added sugars. Therefore, a person consuming 1500 calories a day would be entitled to 4.7 teaspoons or sugar packets of added sugars per day whereas a person with a 2400 calorie diet could consume about 7.5 teaspoons of added sugars per day. Regardless, our intake is definitely more than the recommendations. 

Keep your eyes open for the following “healthy” foods:

1. Whole grain cereals or granolas. If you are not careful, ¾ cup can be up to 16 grams of sugar (about 4 teaspoons).

  • BN Tip: Don’t choose cereals that are described as crunchy, crispy or with clusters. I prefer muesli over granola, since it’s not coated with sugar. Try Bushwick Nutrition’s version of a healthy granola

2. Flavored yogurt. Yogurt naturally has sugar called lactose, but it’s the added sugars that come with the “fruit” or “vanilla” yogurts that are the killer.

  • BN Tip: Check the ingredient list for added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup. Even children’s yogurts like GoGurt have up to 3 different types of added sugars! Choose Greek yogurt since it has double the amount of protein and add whole fruit yourself.

3. Tomato sauce. In order to counter act the acidity of the tomato products, tomato sauce has become one of the condiments with the highest amount of sugar. One tablespoon has about 1 teaspoon of sugar.

  • BN Tip: Read the ingredients, monitor your portions, or even better, make your own

4. Peanut butter (or any nut or seed butter). Brands are still adding sugar and/or oil to make the nut butters smoother, but definitely not healthier.

  • BN Tip: Peanut butter should only have peanut and salt. Keep it simple. 

5. Breads. You’ll be surprised to know that even “whole wheat or high fiber” breads have added sugars, usually in the top five ingredients. A slice has around 1 teaspoon of sugar. Sugars are added to increase shelf life.

  • BN Tip: Check labels before buying, purchase local or consider baking your own. 

Start breaking the sugar habit. Stop eating “healthy foods” that have way too much hidden sugars.

Written by Alanna Cabrero, MS, RD, CDN. Originally posted on NYHRC Social Media. 

Edited by Debi Zvi, RD, CDN 

What's in a label?

Truth. Reading a nutrition facts label can be daunting, or if anything confusing. Therefore, making healthy choices becomes not only harder but burdensome.

So, I broke it down for you. When you are in doubt, remember these simple steps and how they apply to you.

Food Item: Dairy-Free Veggie Pizza

1) Serving Size & Servings per Container.
This is an important piece of the puzzle, because it gives you the big picture. For instance, now I know that if I eat the whole pizza (not recommended…) I have to multiply it by 3, because there are 3 servings in one container.

2) Calories. As I mentioned in a previous post, calories are important, especially when it comes to weight management. If you are looking at this serving of pizza as a meal, it might be a good option (combined with a green salad, of course), but this particular food may be too high in calories to be considered a snack.

3) Saturated Fat & Trans Fats. Now, most entities will tell you to decrease all fats (including total fat) from your diet. I don’t agree.

  • I do agree that you need to decrease saturated fat in your diet to a maximum of 10% of your total calorie intake. So, based on the label, a serving of pizza will provide 14% of your total allotment of saturated fat for the day (based on a 2000 calorie diet). If you eat two servings it will reach up to a 1/3 of your saturated fat intake. Foods with high saturated fat are: full fat dairy, red meat, or chocolate.
  • Trans Fat should be avoided completely. More on that later.

4) Sodium. If you don’t have hypertension or any precessing heart conditions, renal insufficiency, or heart failure, your intake of sodium should be <2400mg a day. Therefore, a serving of pizza is already providing more than a ¼ of your daily intake. Sad to say, this item is high in sodium. You might want to choose an option with lower sodium.

5) Carbohydrates. Total carbohydrate counting is very important when you are prediabetic/diabetic. For regular health, increasing dietary fiber provides satiety and higher nutrient intake and decreasing sugars ensures a lower intake of empty calories.

Here are a few buying tips:

  • Dietary Fiber: ensure that breads: 2-3 grams per slice and cereals: 5 grams per serving
  • Sugars: it’s not mandatory to put sugar on a label, so if you see it, use it! Remember that some sugars are natural in foods like fruit. We want to keep our added sugars to a maximum of 25-50 grams per day. The *ingredient list comes in handy when deciphering added sugars. See below.

6)Protein. Protein provides additional satiety and is good for muscles, tissues, and provides some energy. One size does not fit all. If you are unsure of what your protein intake should be, contact me!

* Ingredients! This is by far my favorite part of the nutrition label. Foods are listed in descending order by weight. The list will give you a good idea on whether the item is mostly food or food-stuff (fillers, preservatives, chemicals, etc).

  • NOTE 1: added sugars have 10,000 gazillion names including glucose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, any type of syrup, dextrose, diatase, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, lactose, maltose, raw sugar, and more.
  • NOTE 2: even though a food can say Trans Fat= 0 grams, the ingredient list can tell you otherwise. All foods that have the words “partially hydrogenated” will have a <0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. So, if you eat more than one serving your trans fat intake can be higher than desirable.
  • NOTE 3: not because it’s organic means that it’s always healthy. Just use your judgment!

If you are interested in a 10-minute complimentary consultation on weight loss and other nutrition-related issues, please contact me at Include your name, number, and a good time to reach you.