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5 Sneaky Ways Sugar Is Hiding in Your Food (and How to Avoid It)

What’s worse than eating sugar when you’re trying to lose weight?

Eating sugar without you even knowing about it.

It’s easy to avoid table sugar, cake, doughnuts, and candy bars. But what if it’s hiding?

It’s unfortunate, but it’s made its way into virtually all our entire food supply. Even worse, it hides.

It happens because:

a) Food manufacturers have put it there – and hidden it from you, or

b) you’re eating natural sources of sugar, but your body can’t tolerate it in terms of weight loss.

Then, you wonder why these things happen:

  • You’re not losing weight, it’s not working.
  • You’ve hit a stall or a plateau, it’s stopped working.
  • The scale isn’t moving, or your clothes aren’t feeling loser.
  • Maybe you’ve even gained weight.

Could it be that you’re eating sugar and sabotaging your weight loss efforts without you even knowing about it?

Let’s find out.

Here are 5 ways sugar is hiding from you and how you can avoid it. 

1. In the box or package

Ideally, you’d want to eat whole foods in its natural state. Think vegetables in the produce section vs “vegetable” chips in the snack aisle.

Your first choice is always to eat foods closest to how mother nature intended them to look like. Cereals and bread don’t grow out of the earth looking like they do, they come out of a factory. Eggs, however, look exactly the same.

You want to eat whole, unprocessed to minimally processed food. This is best accomplished by cooking and prepping your own food at home.

But real life happens.

So if you have to eat out of a box or a package – you must check the label.

What are you looking for?

Names of sugar and their aliases.

Look at the Ingredients List. Always opt for food items where sugar or any form of starch is not listed as an ingredient at all. But if it’s on the list, Duke University Medical Center’s Lifestyle Medicine Clinic says to make sure it’s not listed as one of the first 5 ingredients.

If sugar is listed as one the first 5 ingredients, it means it has a lot of sugar for weight loss purposes – skip it.

Here’s a list of the most common aliases for sugar:

  • sucrose
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • maltose
  • lactose
  • glucose
  • high-fructose corn syrup
  • brown rice syrup
  • maltodextrin
  • molasses
  • evaporated cane juice
  • cane juice
  • fruit-juice concentrate
  • corn sweetener
  • corn syrup
  • palm syrup
  • molasses

Click on the link below if you’d like a more comprehensive list.

Can We Really Trust that Nutritional Label? 69 Sugar Aliases Food Manufacturers Use to Hide It from You 

2. In mother nature

This can be tricky because foods like:

  • honey,
  • maple syrup, and
  • agave nectar do come from nature after all.

They’ve even been touted to be super foods, rich in nutrients, and antioxidants.

But what do they all have in common?

They’re extremely sweet.

Which means they are indeed sugar – in liquid form.

Given that fat loss is your goal, eating them is pretty much equivalent to eating sugar itself. 

3. In fruit

This one’s not just tricky – it’s controversial.

You’ll hear objections like:

  • Where do you get your vitamins and minerals if you don’t eat fruit?
  • Fruit is a whole food and it’s got fiber, so it’s good for you even if it’s got sugar (fructose).

So let’s address them.

a) There are plenty of vitamins and minerals in all kinds of leafy greens and various colors of low carb vegetables you can consume without guilt.

b) Indeed, as a species we’ve evolved and are quite equipped to eat whole foods without harm, and that includes fruit. In its whole state, fruit comes with fiber as nature intended so that the harmful effects of the sugar in said fruit is cancelled.

But, you have to consider two things when it comes to fruit because it does contain sugar:

1) Your goals. Are you trying to lose weight or maintain it?

2) Your individual tolerance. How much fruit can you consume without causing a weight loss stall?

The great news is that even if fat loss is your goal, you can occasionally enjoy certain fruits because they have little impact on your blood sugar. The berries:

  • strawberries
  • blueberries
  • raspberries
  • blackberries 
4. In sauces

If the sauce is sweet, it’s probably got sugar. If the sauce is thick, it’s probably thickened with flour or cornstarch.

Common examples of sugared and starchy sauces are:

  • Teriyaki sauce
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Other ‘specialty’ sauces on meats, poultry, or seafood

This can be tough when eating out.

So order plain, grilled meats, poultry, or seafood and request that your sauce be omitted or served on the side. Ask that they cook it without glazing it with any sauces – just salt and pepper.

You can request any of the following on the side as your “sauce”:

  • Real butter (not margarine)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Sour cream
  • Avocado
  • Horseradish (creamy or raw)

The same is true for how vegetables are prepared.

If you’re cooking at home, here are some low carb options:

  • Use a dry rub (with no sugar) instead of barbecue sauce.
  • Use soy sauce instead of Teriyaki sauce. Kikkoman brand is low carb.
  • Use marinara sauce mixed with heavy cream and cheese. Rao’s brand is low carb. 
5. In salad dressings

If you’re eating out, stay away from the sweet dressings. If it’s sweet, it’s got sugar.

Common examples of high carb, sugared dressings:

  • Honey vinaigrette
  • Raspberry (or any fruit-based) vinaigrette
  • Peanut (or Asian) dressings

Common dressings that are low carb:

  • Blue cheese
  • Ranch
  • Caesar
  • Greek
  • Italian
  • You may also ask for extra virgin olive oil and vinegar as your dressing.

Common salads that are low carb:

  • Cobb Salad
  • Caesar Salad (no croutons)
  • Greek Salad

If you’re buying your own dressing, don’t buy “low fat, “low calorie”, or “light”. Buy the full fat-regular kind because they have less sugar. Food manufacturers replace the fat with sugar to make up for the lost flavor when they take out the fat.

Tessemae’s and Marie’s brand dressings are low carb options at the grocery store. 

The cost of hidden sugars

Weight loss stalls and plateaus are extremely frustrating.

It gets even more frustrating when you’re trying your best to make better food choices and then you realize you’ve consumed something you didn’t want to.

But if you know how sugar can hide in your food, you can steer clear of it even if it’s not clearly obvious:

  • Prepare home-cooked meals,
  • read the food labels,
  • understand how natural sugars can affect you, and
  • be vigilant about where hidden sugars can lurk.

So the next time you cook, prepare, buy food, or eat out you’ll know exactly how to avoid it – so you can break through a stall and see fat loss happen again. 

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