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Five Sneaky Foods That are Full of Sugar

Susan Zogheib, MHS, RD, LDN
January 3, 2019 . 3 min read

It\’s no secret: Americans eat too much sugar. The typical American eats about 152 pounds of sugar a year, or about 6 cups a week. That\’s almost 1 cup of sugar every day, for every single American. The health effects of consuming this much sugar are devastating, both for adults and children. Obesity and diabetes rates are skyrocketing, and public health officials are counseling parents to cut back on the amount of sugar they feed their children to prevent the risk of long-term disease. If you\’re looking to reduce your kid\’s sugar intake, here are five popular foods that are full of hidden sugar.

1. High fructose corn syrup

High fructose corn syrup was developed as a less expensive sweetener than sugar derived from sugar cane or beets. Because it’s so cheap and people like sweet foods, manufacturers have found ways to slip it into everything from bread to frozen foods to all manner of packaged and processed foods. High fructose corn syrup has no nutritional value but is a significant source of extra calories. Learn how to read labels and eliminate foods that contain this ingredient near the top of the list.

2. Breakfast cereals

Most people know that “sugar cereals” are loaded with extra sugar, but did you know that many “healthy” cereals also pack a heavy dose of added sugar? Some of the worst offenders have as much as 40 grams of sugar per 1/2-cup serving. That’s about 8 teaspoons! Look for cereals that have no more than 4-10 grams of sugar per 1/2-cup serving.

3. Salad dressing

There’s a good reason your child might only eat salad after it’s been doused with salad dressing: many salad dressings are loaded with extra sugar. This goes for both the creamy dressings that kids like and more sophisticated vinaigrettes. Try making your own simple dressings at home with oil and vinegar, or skip the dressings altogether and sweeten your salads with fruit and dried fruit. Children may turn salads away at first, but be patient and keep offering them. Your child might eventually surprise you.

4. Soft drinks and soda

The amount of sugar in a typical 12 oz. can of soda can be mind-boggling. A single can of Coke has about 39 grams of sugar. That’s 8 teaspoons of sugar, mostly delivered in the form of high fructose corn syrup. And it’s not limited to Coke — most non-diet sodas are loaded with sugar. What about diet sodas? While they don’t have sugar, most experts recommend avoiding them for children so you don’t teach them to crave sweet foods.

5. Frozen meals

This one comes as a surprise to many parents. After all, you probably don’t cook with much sugar at dinner, so why would your quick, weeknight frozen meal be an issue? The truth is that frozen food makers have figured out that sugar helps sell all foods, including your child’s frozen dinner. Become a careful reader of nutrition facts panels, and avoid the brands with extra sugar.

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