Hidden sugars, part 1

iStock_000017201373_Large (1)Walk into any grocery store and you will find a myriad of food products claiming to be “healthy”, “all natural”, “low-fat”, and “diet-friendly”, among others. Unfortunately, many of these claims are misleading – for example, a product that’s labeled low in fat is likely to be high in sugar so that it’s still palatable to consumers. A product can be labeled all natural, but still be filled with unnatural preservatives. In today’s food market, it seems to be more difficult than ever before to decipher the words on our food labels. And if we can’t trust what we read, how do we know whether or not the food that we’re putting in our mouths is actually good for us?

Some of our favorite drinks are not to be excluded from this never-ending healthy vs. unhealthy debate. While there are some products that are undoubtedly unhealthy, there are others that are not so easy to categorize. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade are guzzled by fit athletes on television ads, but the liquid’s bright orange hue just doesn’t seem natural? Milk is always touted as an important part of a healthy diet, but what about chocolate milk or strawberry milk? And juice is good for us, right? It’s made from fruit!

Luckily, we’re here to dispel some of the myths surrounding healthy drink choices. When it comes to what’s in our cups, the ingredient that we most often worry about is sugar. (Keep in mind, The American Heart Association recommends that kids 4-8 years old get no more than 14.5 grams of sugar each day.) It can show up on your food label under a host of pseudonyms – high fructose corn syrup, glucose, honey, fructose, syrup – but we don’t want you to spend your time trying to read the ingredient list to find all of the hidden ways sugar has creeped into your food. Instead, we want to provide you with some general guidelines to help you make healthier choices!

Let’s start with milk! Any kind of cow’s milk naturally has some sugar in it (lactose), but not all milks are created equal. Flavored milks, often served in school cafeterias, can be loaded with sugar. Most soy milks contain added sugars to match the natural sweetness of cow’s milk. Thus, when looking for milk to buy for you and your family, you should be looking out for added flavors and added sugars. Here are some sugar contents (per cup) of various milks to put things into perspective:

  • White milk – 11 grams
  • Chocolate milk – 24 grams
  • Strawberry milk – 31 grams
  • Vanilla soy milk – 7 grams
  • Unsweetened vanilla soy milk – 1 gram

Keep in mind, 4 grams of sugar is roughly one teaspoon!

 Written by Emily Pia

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