This weekend as I walked through a refreshment line at an event, I picked up a bottle of cranberry juice. Turning the juice bottle to its side, I read the ingredient list. Much to my chagrin, the first ingredient was water and the second ingredient was sugar.
The ingredient list got me thinking about the extent to which the processed food industry conceals enormous amounts of added sugar in its products through deception. My cranberry juice bottle–or perhaps more aptly put, my glass of sugar water–serves as only one example of a product marketed as nutritious yet teeming with sweeteners.
Below you’ll find three other food products whose nutrient density must be put into question. At the grocery store this week, set a goal to read the ingredient lists of these products and reevaluate whether their sugar contents are too costly for your overall health and well-being.
Flavored milks and yogurts
Chocolate, strawberry, and vanilla milk all too often contain synthetic chemicals that sweeten the product and detract from the nutrient density of the milk. In addition, yogurt with fruit on the bottom may be another added-sugar culprit. I’ve found that sugar pseudonyms such as evaporated cane juice precede the actual fruit in ingredient labels for yogurt. The same goes for drinkable yogurts. My solution? As I’ve said before, purchase plain versions of dairy products and add desired mix-ins at home.
Many a times branded as delicious and nutritious, protein bars often contain vast quantities of added sugar and almost no natural sugar. Scan the ingredient label of your go-to protein bar and look out for terms such as dextrose, maltodextrin, or rice syrup. If you unearth myriad sweeteners, consider switching to another brand. If I may offer a suggestion, my wonderful Auntie Jen recently sent me RXBARs. Void of added sugars, each of these protein bars contain two dates for natural sweetening.
If you scan an ingredient label for ketchup, it’s highly likely that one of the first few ingredients will be high fructose corn syrup. This unfortunate reality too often holds true for mustards and mayonnaises as well. I’d recommend substituting whole foods as condiments rather relying upon processed ones. To that end, smear an avocado on a sandwich rather than mayo. Skip the ketchup on a hamburger or hotdog and try homemade salsa.
On January 28, 2017, Michael Pollan wrote “Unhappy Meals” for the New York Times Magazine and explained, “Once, food was all you could eat, but today there are lots of other edible foodlike substances in the supermarket. These novel products of food science often come in packages festooned with health claims, which brings me to a related rule of thumb: if you’re concerned about your health, you should probably avoid food products that make health claims. Why? Because a health claim on a food product is a good indication that it’s not really food, and food is what you want to eat.”
Edible foodlike substances. Food science. Health claims. Pollan unpacks each of these terms to demonstrate how some foods may not be as nutritious as we would necessarily like to believe. All too often, the added sugars contained in food products are disguised so masterfully it’s difficult to deduce the ultimate nutrient density of grocery store items.
It’s up to each and every one of us as empowered and informed consumers to ensure that the juice we drink isn’t sugar water, and so on and so forth.
Have you ever discovered that one of your favorite and supposedly nutrient dense food products in actuality contained added sweeteners? What strategies do you implement while you shop and while you cook to avoid added sugars seeping into your diet?
Until Next Week…Plan Well, Pack Well, Live Well,