I ask you to do this now. Go to your pantry. Pull out all boxes of processed foods and look at the ingredient lists. Do they contain any of these terms?

Agave nectar
Agave syrup
Barley malt
Beet sugar
Brown rice syrup
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane sugar
Cane juice
Cane juice crystals
Carob syrup
Confectioner’s sugar
Corn syrup
High fructose corn syrup
Corn sugar
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup solids
Crystalized fructose
Date sugar
Diastatic malt
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Grape sugar
Grape juice concentrate
Invert sugar
Maple syrup
Raw sugar
Refiner’s syrup
Sorghum syrup
Turbinado sugar
Yellow sugar

Well, then they contain sugar. No news that sugar is the demon of the food world these days. With spots on 60 Minutes just last weekend and the recent documentary “Hungry for Change,” the evils of excessive sugar are evident for all of us to see. I am just as guilty of sugar eating – I try to limit it, but it creeps into my coffee in the morning via coconut creamer, into my occasional energy bar or into the dark chocolate I find myself indulging in too often.

The truth is, sugar is addictive. It can stimulate dopamines (feel-good chemicals) in much the same way as cocaine. We kiddingly refer to ourselves as “sugar junkies” – it isn’t so funny when you look at the facts. Obesity, heart disease, cancer, hypertension and high cholesterol can all be linked to sugar. Americans consume, on average, 1/3 pound of sugar DAILY!

Artificial sweeteners don’t help you reduce sugar as they continue to make you crave the sweetness – maybe even to a greater degree. Remember, added sugar is what we need to watch out for. When sugar is found naturally – as in plain milk or fruit – it comes with a load of other valuable nutrients that blunts absorption and has far less of a negative effect.

Your action plan to reduce sugar:

At Breakfast

1)      choose cereal without added sugars (shredded wheat, plain cheerios)

2)      opt for whole grain breads without honey or sugar and top with natural nut butter

3)      use raisins or shredded apples or natural peanut butter to flavor your oatmeal

4)      skip sweetened milks (including coconut, almond and soy), unsweetened versions of all of these are available

5)      avoid juice – this is like mainlining natural sugar

6)      get used to coffee with plain creamers/milks – it is supposed to stimulate the bitter taste buds!

At Lunch

1)      Check your bread or sandwiches for honey, high-fructose corn syrup or cane sugar – sprouted grain breads, often found in the freezer section, usually contain no added sugar

2)      Look at mayo and mustards for added sugar

3)      Replace your granola bar with a piece of fruit

4)      Skip the sugared or artificially-sweetened yogurt. Go for plain and add your own fruit. It is supposed to be tangy.

5)      Buy prepared soups without added sugar

6)      Skip the “candied” walnuts and sweetened cranberries on your salad

7)      Make peanut butter and banana, apple or pear rather than pb & j

At Dinner

1)      Check your sauces – ketchup, barbecue, salad dressings – often have added sugars.

2)      Drink water

3)      Watch out for “honey” or “sweet and sour” sauces

4)      Read the labels on frozen dinners and spaghetti sauces — sugar or one of its “aka”s is usually there

5)      Have fruit for dessert

Cocktail Hour

1)      Avoid the sugared peanuts at the bar

2)      Skip “mixed” drinks such as margaritas and sours.

3)      Wine, beer and straight-up is best, if you choose to drink


1)      Choose whole wheat crackers (Triscuits, for example) without added sugar and top with cheese (or vegan cheese)

2)      Ditch the cereal bars, granola bars and “healthy” snack bars.

3)      Replace sugary snacks with: celery or apple with natural peanut butter, a handful of nuts, low-fat cheese, hard-boiled eggs, trail mix (watch for sweetened dried fruit such as pineapple, blueberries and cranberries), veggie strips with hummus, half a sandwich on un-sugared bread, mixed berries or a slice of fruit, cottage cheese, low-fat string cheese


1)      Limit sports drink consumption to high-mileage endurance events. Go for unsweetened coconut water or plain water on a regular basis.

2)      Gels and chews have a place – at long distances – use them only when you absolutely need a convenient shot of glucose.

3)      Use bananas, dates and raisins for the majority of your pre-training fuel. Potatoes work as well.

4)      Stick to pre- and post-workout smoothies that mix fresh or frozen, unsweetened fruit with natural protein powders and plain milk or water. Watch commercially prepared ones that load up on the sugar.


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3 Responses

  1. jessica on 07 Apr 2012

    One thing i will say about the unsweetened soy etc drinks–when they take out the sugar, they crank up the sodium. I notice because I have to watch my sodium. they do this a lot in processed foods-take out one thing and jack up something else like sugar or sodium to make up for what they removed. It’s frustrating. I guess the only answer is a zero-processed food lifestyle. Time-consuming though.

    • admin on 07 Apr 2012

      Excellent point, Jessica. It is like when they take fat out – they up the sugar. Zero processed – yup. Hard, yes. Worth it for long-term health? Yes.

  2. […] and ingredients may surprise you. I have ranted on the problem with added sugar previously in “Where is Sugar Hiding,” “Sugar, Enough is Enough,” and “Is Any Sugar Healthy?” Also, if you think switching to […]

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