In this day and age, marketing is everything when it comes to advertising “healthy” foods around the grocery store. While it’s a good thing that companies are picking up on some of the trends in the health and wellness world, it’s not such a good thing when they use those trends to scam you into buying their products. This is why it is so incredibly important to read labels.
If you walk around the grocery store, you will find hundreds of products with gimmicky labels like “added protein”, “low carb”, “no trans fat” etc. While sometimes these labels mean what they say, more often than not those labels have been stuck on a box in hopes that reading that them will make you put it in your cart without thinking twice. Not only do companies use these labels to help market their items, but they also use pictures, fonts, and colors that can truly make you think their product is “healthy” when in reality, it’s far from it.
I know many of us aren’t in the habit of reading nutrition panels, and I’m not saying it’s necessary to be a label nazi and read every single ingredient/nutrition fact/etc. However it is important to be aware of the parts of a nutrition panel that are worth scanning over before you put something in your cart – in this case – sugar. Sugar is in everything, even things you would never guess it might be in.
I want to preface this blog post by saying a few things – for those of you reading, please know I am not here to bash you for your dietary choices. I am far from perfect and there are times when I eat way more sugar than is necessary and there are definitely items in my refrigerator and pantry that contain amounts of sugar that I don’t care to admit. If you’ve bought some of the items below because you didn’t know any better, guess what, I’m right there with you. In fact, I’ve bought every single one of these items below that are the “worse option”. It wasn’t until I read an article about the many harsh effects added sugars have on your body, that I really started to pay attention to labels in the grocery store. Which is exactly why I’m writing this post!
My hope in writing this post is that it causes you to think twice the next time you pick up something at the grocery store marketed to be “healthy”, and think about choosing an alternative if it’s full of sugar.
Below are a few examples of items that seemingly look as though they’re “healthy” or at least marketed that way, when in reality, they’re packed full of added sugars. In each comparison, there are two items: the item on the left is the item that contains an excess of added sugars, on the right is a much lower sugar option that I would choose as an alternative.
- Quaker Steel Cut Oatmeal: 2.5g fat, 34g carbs, 4g protein, 12g sugar
- Always Old Fashioned Oats: 2.5g fat, 27g carbs, 5g protein, 0g sugar
12 grams of sugar is equivalent to eating over half of a Hershey bar for breakfast. I would venture to guess, if you’re reading this post, you would never wake up with that intention! Steel cut oats naturally have no sugar, so these are all added sugars. Go with the old fashioned oats, add a little bit of stevia and a handful of berries to sweeten it up and you’ve saved yourself a ton of sugar!
- Chobani Flip: 6g fat, 25g carb, 12g protein, 19g sugar
- Chobani Simply 100 Crunch: 1.5g fat, 14g carb, 10g protein, 8g sugar
Chobani is something a lot of people associate with the term “healthy” strictly because of the brand name. Even I was shocked when I picked up the “flip” version; I thought “What?! Chobani is supposed to be healthy!” While greek yogurt is usually a great option for a healthy snack, some greek yogurts contain as much sugar as a Snickers bar. Be careful, read the label. As you can see, these packages are the exact same size yet the “Simply 100” version has almost no fat, significantly less carbs, almost the same amount of protein, and less than half the amount of sugar.
- Noosa: 11g fat, 33g carbs, 12g protein, 30g sugar
- Dannon Light & Fit: 0g fat, 9g carbs, 12g protein, 7g sugar
YOU GUYS. This one shocked me. I know so many people who buy Noosa because it is definitely marketed to be “healthy” and it is so far from it. The serving size is one tub, and if you eat the entire tub, the sugar you are eating is equivalent to consuming 1.5 Snickers bars. Holy cow. While the the Dannon Light & Fit still contains more sugar than I would like, it’s a much better option for the exact same amount of protein, and less than a third of the sugar!
- Coffee Mate Natural Bliss: 1.5g fat, 5g carbs, 0g protein, 5g sugar
- Organic Valley Half & Half: 3.5g fat, 1g carb, 0g protein, 1g sugar
My first point with creamer is that unless you’re using a tablespoon or a scale to measure, the chances you’re only drinking 1 tablespoon are unlikely. However, even if you are, its only one tablespoon. That being said, for one tablespoon, 5 grams of sugar is a lot, especially if you’re over pouring and drinking more like 2, which I’m sure many people are. Coffee Mate does a great job of marketing their product to sound healthy by using terms like “natural” and “non GMO” which it very well might be, but there’s no reason you should be consuming that much sugar the minute you wake up! Stick with a half and half like this Organic Valley! This half and half, plus a dash of stevia, will do the exact same thing with so much less sugar.
- Nature Valley Protein Granola: 6g fat, 31g carbs, 10g protein, 14g sugar
- Purely Elizabeth Ancient Grain Granola: 7g fat, 18g carbs, 3g protein, 6g sugar
This is a prime example of a marketing scheme. I picked up the Nature Valley thinking this actually might be a great alternative for Purely Elizabeth, which is what I always buy at Whole Foods, since they’re both cranberry. Absolutely not. The macro differences are incredible. Yes, there is definitely more protein in the Nature Valley granola, but it contains 14 grams of sugar. If you were trying to eat a healthy snack, would you chop up 3 full size Reeses Peanut butter Cups to put on your yogurt? Yeah, me either. But if you buy this Nature Valley brand, that’s what it is equivalent to! Stick with Purely Elizabeth and you’re saving over half that amount of sugar!
- Silk Chocolate Cashew Milk: 2g fat, 18g carb, 1g protein, 16g sugar
- Almond Breeze Almond Coconut: 3.5g fat, 2g carb, 2g protein, 0g sugar
Almond milk is something I have never once associated with added sugars, and is definitely one of the sneakier places I’ve ever found such a high amount. Although I only use almond milk for smoothies, and on occasion when I run out of creamer for my coffee, I still drink a fair amount of it. I know I’m not the only one who was under the impression that almond milk was surely healthy and not loaded with sugar, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Don’t get me wrong, I realize the kind on the left is chocolate, but regardless, the cashew milk has a whopping 16 grams of sugar. Again, as much as 3 full size Reeses Peanut Butter Cups, or a full size Kit Kat … for a cup of almond milk! Like I said, I usually only use them for smoothies, but I can’t tell you the last time I thought it would be a good idea to grab an entire Kit Kat to dump in my smoothie (as much as I sometimes might like to!).
- Skinnycow Snickerdoodle Sandwich: 3g fat, 29g carbs, 4g protein, 24g sugar
- Halo Top Red Velvet Ice Cream: 3g fat, 16g carbs, 5g protein, 7g sugar
Again with the marketing. The Skinny Cow obviously has skinny in it’s name, and if you didn’t know any better, you’d probably think this is a more low calorie/healthy option when it comes to choosing an ice cream treat. However, you could eat 3/4 of the entire Halo Top pint, and still be eating less sugar than one Skinny Cow sandwich. Just because it’s labeled with the Skinny Cow name, definitely doesn’t make it healthy. Halo Top is the way to go, and in my opinion, it tastes a whole lot better anyway! I might be a tiny bit biased.
My point in all of this being, if you’re trying to make healthy choices, make sure you really are making healthy choices and are not being suckered into a marketing scam. Read the nutrition panel, not just the bold in-your-face-healthy-labels, and don’t let those beautiful bright colored pictures fool you either!
I really try to stick to foods containing 6-7 grams of sugar or less, and liquids with 3 grams or less. Does this always happen? No. I preach about balance and I definitely exercise that same balance when I’m at the grocery store. There are days when I choose the “worse” option just because I like it more, or because it sounds better, and that’s okay sometimes. But I really try to choose the alternative 80% of the time, and by doing this, I can tell you without a doubt there is a significant difference in how I feel. I could write a whole blog post on the effects of added sugars, but I encourage you to start watching the amount of sugar you eat, and see how you feel!
I’m off my soapbox for the day, but I hope this post has encouraged you to flip over that bag of granola to read the nutrition facts the next time you’re looking for one! As always, comment or let me know if you have questions/feedback, I love hearing from you guys!
Enjoy your weekend! XO, A