A picture, as they say, is worth a thousand words, and I would like you to picture the amount of sugar hidden in some commonly eaten foods. All you need to know is that 1 teaspoon of sugar weighs 4 grams.
Refreshing lemonade must be better than sugar-loaded soda, right? Wrong. A modest 12 ounces of commercial lemonade contains 10 teaspoons of sugar. Can you visualize yourself adding 10 teaspoons of sugar to a drink? An easy alternative is to make your own with water and fresh lemon juice and sweeten with stevia or just 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar.
People reach for packaged oatmeal for convenience and oatmeal’s reputation for lowering cholesterol. A single-serving packet of oatmeal can have 3 teaspoons of sugar. That might not sound too bad until a bit more math reveals that almost one-third of the calories in the package come from sugar. There is packaged oatmeal with less sugar, so label reading is required. Better yet, make plain oatmeal and enhance the nutrition and flavor with walnuts, berries and a bit of maple syrup.
“Lite” salad dressing is often chosen to reduce fat intake. Sugar is the surprise ingredient and it isn’t light. Reviewing labels I found quite a few brands with sugar as the second item on the ingredient label and a 2-tablespoon serving with almost 2 teaspoons of sugar (7 grams). Can you visualize yourself adding 2 teaspoons of sugar to a healthy mix of greens? A simple homemade olive oil vinaigrette (allrecipes.com/recipe/balsamic-vinegar-and-olive-oil-dressing/) does not need sugar to add zing to a salad.
Finally, bars — cereal, sports, energy, whatever you want to call them — need to be approached with caution. Unfortunately, nutrition facts labels do not distinguish between natural and added sugars. Read the ingredient label, and if sugar, high fructose corn syrup, cane juice or maltodextrin are toward the top, visualize a product heavy in sugar.
Sheah Rarback is a registered dietitian on the faculty of the University of Miami Leonard M. Miller School of Medicine. Follow her on Twitter @sheahrarback.