Sugar: If it's packaged, it's probably "added" and hiding in plain sight!

This article isn't about how refined, processed sugar is toxic, addictive, disease-causing, mood-depressing, the quickest route to over-fat, the cause of hangry cravings, and a major source of inflammation. Although, yes, sugar is all of these things, and then some. Rather, this post is to help you find all the “added sugars” hidden in your food so you can make an informed choice. Without knowing, it is estimated we consume 66 pounds of “added sugars” each year. That's 66 pounds in addition to all the sugar you intentionally consume. It adds up quickly. Let’s make sure we know what’s in the foods we purchase.

Typically not a day goes by that I don’t get a picture of a packaged food product sent via text: "Carol, is this ok?" Unfortunately, I always have to text back: "I need a pic of the ingredients." The nutrition info label and the marketing on the front of the package don’t tell me what’s actually inside! Often, the nutrition info label and package marketing intentionally hide or disguise what is really in the food. How is that possible? And why? The simple truth: the nutrition info label is misleading (I’m at the beach, so feeling very chill...). It’s Deceptive. That’s the right word.

The package marketing labels are easy to address (and, honestly don’t tick me off as much). It’s all about marketing. The company wants to sell more of their product (duh!) so they market to the current trend (whether it's low fat, enriched, non-GMO, gluten-free, zero sugar, all natural, protein rich, heart-healthy, etc) because they know you are more likely to purchase a product that looks like a healthy option. Fair enough. Food is big business. They aren't necessarily breaking any rules or flat-out lying through their marketing schemes, but it is incredibly misleading. Buyer beware if you don’t look under the hood, right?

Okay, now for the important part.  Let's talk about “added sugars” and nutrition info labels and why they are not the best information source. (That was nice, right?)

It is estimated that 74% of packaged foods contain “added sugars.” These “added sugars” have some recognizable names and many that are not so easy to spot. At present, the FDA does not require "added sugars" to be part of the total sugar gram count listed in the nutrition info label. Those grams of sugar you see on the label account for only naturally occurring sugar in the product. Food manufacturers, therefore, don’t have to include “added sugars” and the consumer can’t know if the nutrition info label is grossly under-reporting actual sugar content. (There is current pending legislation addressing this, but earliest roll out—IF approved—is 2020 and the fight is intense as to what will be included or not).

I want you to think about deceptive nutrition labeling for a minute and how it has warped our understanding of food. If all that the food manufacturers are required to report is NATURALLY occurring sugar, then is it really a surprise that we believe real food to be “bad” for our waistline and “diet” foods (Diet Soda, many protein bars, reduced sugar/fat anything, refined low-carb foods, many yogurts) to be “good” for our waistline? (And beyond the waistline, think about the cost to our overall health).

Food manufacturers, well aware of the FDA labeling rules and market trends, use multiple names for sugar so they can become "added sugars." Although these sugars must be listed in the ingredient list, many are often not recognized as sugar—they hide in plain sight—and, again, they DON’T have to be reported in the total sugar content. Yep. You buy the product, thinking you are controlling your sugar intake and doing the right thing, when you absolutely are NOT (66 lbs of added sugar a year)!!!

Insert rant here.

Let’s be clear, “added sugars" are sugar. These “added sugars” have the same negative impact on your body composition and health as reported sugars. And many, with so few long-term impact studies, are worse. “Health" foods are often the worst culprits because they are full of hidden, “added sugars”. And, foods marketed to the chronic dieter are the worst of the worst! The manufacturers know their customer: people avoiding sugar and fat. Their food products are full of “added sugars” so the marketing label can read: reduced sugar, low sugar, or zero sugar. Boom! Sold! And, if a more conscientious shopper turns the package over to double check the nutrition info label: 0 g total sugar then it’s a slam dunk sale.

Why deceive the consumer?

  1. Sugar is addictive. Food manufacturers want you to crave their products and purchase more.
  2. When you remove the fat (which many “health/diet” foods do) then you need to add flavor: enter “added sugars” (and sodium too) to make the product enjoyable... to sell more.
  3. If you believe the product aligns with your diet/fitness goals, then you will buy more because it still tastes good, is convenient, and you feel less deprived (almost every protein bar, low-fat yogurt, skim milk, low-fat cheese, amped-up protein anything, low carb, refined carbs).’s about selling MORE of their products. Got it. 

How do you ferret out the “added sugars?” Simple, if it’s packaged, then you must read the ingredients. Many packaged food items add more than one...often several. Here they are:

  • Agave nectar
  • Barbados sugar
  • Barley malt
  • Barley malt syrup
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered syrup
  • Cane juice
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Coconut palm sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner's sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Corn syrup solids
  • Date sugar
  • Dehydrated cane juice
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Free-flowing brown sugars
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Glucose solids
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar
  • HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltol
  • Maltose
  • Mannose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Palm sugar
  • Panocha
  • Powdered sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner's syrup
  • Rice syrup
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum Syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar (granulated)
  • Sweet Sorghum
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado sugar
  • Yellow sugar

Some are recognizable. Some not. I am not the food police and everyone gets to make their choices without guilt and bad feelings! I tell every client, my JOB is to educate, support and encourage. Not judge. I just want you to make an informed choice! My PASSION is to inspire you to prioritize your health and help you live your best life by fueling your body the majority of the time! My MISSION is to disconnect as many as I can from the deceptive diet culture and re-connect them to mindful, healthful eating. 

The easy route: eat an abundance of fresh veggies, fruit, lean/clean protein, and healthy Omega 3 rich fats... with little to no packaging (Fuel). The realistic route: become an “added sugar” detective and never skip reading the ingredients on packaged products (Food). I can promise, because my clients live it, a well-fueled body with a measured balance of soul-satisfying food simply feels better and no longer struggles with willpower.

“Added Sugars” take that!!!