Jan. 4 2019
Jaclyn London is a Registered Dietitian (RD) and New York State Certified Dietitian-Nutritionist (CDN) who served as the senior clinical dietitian at The Mount Sinai Hospital. As Good Housekeeping’s nutrition director, she is responsible for the creation, execution, and oversight of all of the magazine’s nutrition-related content across media platforms and the Good Housekeeping Seal applications in the food space. She’s also the forthcoming author of Dressing on the Side (out Jan. 8 and now available for preorder!) and has appeared on national TV segments including the TODAY Show, The Rachael Ray Show, The Dr. Oz Show, WSJLive, and ABC News. While you might hear her qualifications and think she’s a stickler for health rules, Jaclyn quickly clears the air: “Sure, I’m a nutritionist, but I’m also a realist: I make a point of eating candy every single day. I like cream (and Splenda) in my coffee. I (sometimes) skip breakfast. I’d (almost) rather become a nun than go on a movie date without M&M’s. And if I owned a crockpot, I’d probably use it for shoe storage.” Jackie has made it her mission to conquer health misinformation through her lifestyle-first approach to nutrition and weight loss–which is how she’s helped clients lose anywhere from 10 to 100lbs. One of the biggest sources of misinformation Jaclyn’s encountered in her endless experience? Sneaky sources of added sugar. Below, this health guru exposes popular foods for the sugar sources they are.
Flavored lattes that sound healthy: Chai tea latte vs. regular latte
Not only is a sweetened tea latte almost triple what you’d get in a regular latte made with coffee, but just one measly 16oz chai is up to DOUBLE the amount of eating an entire bag of peanut M&Ms! CRAZY right?! Be wary about ordering at coffee shops; you’re better off having a more transparent treat like candy rather than drinking sugar you were unaware you were consuming (that’s non-nutritive—you won’t get ANY feeling of satiety). My advice for a go-to order? Have a small cappuccino with whole milk or low-fat milk. It’ll retain the flavor of whatever you’re drinking, but since there’s not all that much milk in there, you’re going to maximize flavor without having to worry about calories from more whole milk-heavy items. Last tip—flavor your traditional latte (unsweetened) with cinnamon stick, nutmeg, powdered cocoa, and vanilla powder to add flavor without worry about added sweetener.
Juice and smoothies: Bottled green juice vs. cotton candy
Bottled juice and smoothie beverages can pack up to 53g of sugar, which is almost double what you’d get from a bag of cotton candy. This is pretty typical for store-bought green juices! They get you on the “green” part. No matter which way you split it, these green health drinks are loaded with juice! Juices are a concentrated source of added sugar and we normally don’t consume it in the amounts we should be having – aka 6oz cup. You’re better off with fresh, whole fruit or frozen fruit and using it to flavoring in club soda or seltzer. Another fun little #protip: Use frozen fruit as “ice cubes,” or if you’re really going wild: Blend ‘em and add them to an ice cube tray to freeze, then use them as cubes in your H2O.
Tomato sauce and tomato-based products: Marinara vs. Nutella
Your favorite savory sauce may have added sugar—in fact, many of ‘em do. Manufacturers add it to bring out the natural sweetness of tomatoes in tomato sauces, or in condiments like BBQ and Ketchup, (each pack about two teaspoons of added sugar per 2T serving)—it’s one of the top ingredients (often water and sugar compete as the first ingredients!). Luckily, there are plenty of delicious options that don’t have added sugar; finding them at your grocery store may just require a bit of label sleuthing! Look for ones that don’t cite tomato puree, cane juice, cane sugar, or honey in the ingredients list—your goal is to find the best ones that are made from real, whole tomatoes. That said, they don’t always have to be fresh or homemade! You’re a-OK to buy canned diced tomatoes and make your own sauce by simmering the tomatoes with sautéed onions and garlic and a bit of salt—almost as easy as opening a jar!
Other condiments to really check labels on: salad dressings, jams, nut butters, teriyaki sauces & anything that says GLAZE.
BBQ sauce: Ribs vs. burger
Go for the burger. One traditional burger made from 4 ounces of extra lean beef (93 percent lean) is about 140 calories and 2 grams of saturated fat, while a rack of pork ribs will set you back around 320 calories, 6 grams saturated fat for the same portion. Since the burger can serve as a veggie-vehicle (add extra lettuce, tomato, sprouts, and even some fresh salsa if that’s on hand), you’re all set to have your burger. And eat the bun, too—one burger bun = calories 120 calories; 260 calories for the whole thing. 1 slice of cheese = about 100 calories, so you can still add a slice with your veggies and come out under the ribs, which “rack up” thanks to sugary BBQ sauce (1 serving = 2 tablespoons = 70 calories and 16 grams of sugar, about 4 teaspoons).
Chocolate-covered fruit vs. chocolate-covered nuts
This one may seem obvious, but one little fun fact about the fruit: In addition to chocolatey coating, the fruit option may also have added sugar built-in when it’s “dried” in order to make for a sweeter final product. Both are indulgences, but a standard bag of each (about 17 pieces) will pack some plant-based protein, which can help you fill up. Chocolate-covered fruit, like Raisinets will pack a double dose of added sugar. You’re better off eating grapes for fruit and treating yourself to the occasional chocolate-covered peanut, almond, or cashew for a more satisfying indulgence.
Fruit-based treats: Sorbet vs. ice cream
Go for the real deal ice cream. Sorbet and other fruity or lighter-seeming options are marketed as “better for you” than ice cream, but it’s often double the sugar than the regular stuff!
Booze-y cocktails: Gin and Tonic vs. Martini
Shaken or stirred, martini is your better bet. Despite being a “clear” beverage, tonic is mostly made from sugar! Your better bet is to go for a stronger drink—it both cuts back on calories from added sugar and cuts the hangover induced by spiking your blood sugar levels, which has the biochemical effect of having you wake up the next day feeling like garbage. My advice: Choose an expensive (or favorite!) spirit and sip it slowly on the rocks. You’ll savor the flavor, but since it’s too powerful to just chug, you’re more likely to nurse your drink over the course of a party rather than throwing back sugary drinks that taste great (but can set you back upwards of 300 calories a pop).
Protein or snack bars: Granola bar vs. candy bar
Hear me out: Some are better for you than others, of course. And in the case of granola bars, they may not have quite as much sugar as candy. But if you knew you could have a candy bar instead of that sad granola bar, wouldn’t you go for the treat?! If your answer is yes (I hope so!) then first things first: If you’re aiming to cut back on added sugar but also make a more nutritious, wholesome choice that closely resembles real food, you want that first ingredient to be a real food—nuts are usually the most nutritious first ingredient in a good-for-you bar, but a fruit or a 100 percent whole grain will also do the trick.
Bottom line: go for 4 grams each of protein and fiber for snacks with less sugar, 3 grams each when there’s not much around that you like and that also looks nutritious on the whole. Aim to limit saturated fat to 2–3 grams, max, and sodium (200 milligrams or less).
Sweetened mylks: Almond milk vs. regular milk
Plant-based milks should have 0 grams of added sugar as often as possible. Cow’s milk has 12 grams of naturally-occurring sugar, but it’s also got 8 grams of protein. The other types of plant milks consider sugar “added,” since there won’t be any in there naturally (almonds don’t have sugar on their own, people!). So unless vanilla almond milk is truly your sugar of choice for the day, look for plain versions to cut back where you can.