Smoothies, granola and low fat yoghurt – all healthy options that we choose when wanting a healthy, balanced diet. What most of us don’t realise, however, is that unless we choose carefully, these aren’t necessarily as healthy as we think.
“It’s alarming how much sugar some of these seemingly healthy products contain,” says registered dietician, Ezette Oosthuizen. “If you take granola as an example, some varieties contain more than 26g/100g sugar, while Canderel’s Granola offering has just 1g/100g sugar, by far the lowest on the market.”
It’s vitally important to understand the ingredients in products, what they mean, and what to look out for so that you can make choices that are better for you.
Watch out for these common culprits that often contain hidden sugars:
- Baked beans
- Low fat yoghurt
- Peanut butter
- Sauces, including tomato sauce, salad dressings, marinades and some ready-made pasta sauces
- Instant oatmeal
- Breakfast cereal
- Protein bars
- Cereal bars
- Sports drinks
- Flavoured sparkling water
- Ice tea
- Fruit juice
- Tonic water
- Bottled smoothies
- Yoghurt-based drinks
- Instant cappuccino sachets
Kids’ foods that are high in sugar:
- Flavoured milk drinks
- Malt-based products
- Fruit juice
- Breakfast biscuits
- Breakfast cereals – not only the rainbow coloured ones. Aim for a sugar content of less than 5g/100g.
- Sweetened yoghurt (Milk contains natural sugar so it is best to buy plain yoghurt and add fruit for sweetness.)
- Dried fruit, especially the sugar-coated ones (Limit your portion size of dried fruit – it’s easy to forget that it was once a whole fruit, which means you can easily over indulge in these snacks.)
- Gluten free, organic and all-natural products. Reading the labels on these products are really important.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
“Don’t always trust what the packaging says on the front – rather look at the ingredients listed on the back of the product before purchasing the item,” advises Ezette. “Companies have to list ingredients according to their weight in a descending order, so if sugar is listed as one of the first 3 ingredients, then you know the product is high in sugar. Other names for sugar include: cane sugar, honey, maltose, maltodextrin, dextrose, corn syrup, glucose, sucrose and high fructose corn syrup,” she explains. Also read the nutritional information per 100g or per 100ml. For a product to be low in sugar, it should have less then 5g/100g and in liquids, it should be 2.5g/100ml.
Sugar’s bad reputation
We all know that sugar has earned itself a bad reputation – and for good reason, too. In fact, there is no need to add sugar to your diet at all. The less you have, the healthier you will be. “Sadly, most of us far exceed our acceptable daily limit. According to the American Heart Association, men are allowed about 9 teaspoons of sugar per day and women 6 teaspoons per day. The South African guidelines state that less than 10% of our energy needs should be derived from sugar. That means 202 calories for women and 250 calories for men, based on the Department of Health’s recommended calorie intake. Those at higher risk (for example, if you’re overweight or pre-diabetic) should aim for half of that amount,” says Ezette.
Healthier options available
“As more and more companies introduce healthier alternatives, consumers really are able to make better choices,” adds Nargis Khan, brand manager at Incobrands. “Canderel is a great example of a brand leading the way in this regard. Through its range of sweeteners, chocolates and granola, consumers wanting to control their sugar intake can enjoy their favourites while caring for their health.”
More about the expert:
Ezette Oosthuizen is a registered dietician with a special interest in functional medicine. Her passion is to understand the root cause of the health condition that her patients present her with, through using specialised testing. Ezette is passionate about cooking and showing people how delicious healthy food can be. Learn more about Ezette Oosthuizen here.
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