Hidden Sugar

Wednesday April 26, 2017

A few weeks ago, Dave and I stumbled onto That Sugar Film while flipping through Amazon Prime. Have you seen it?

As two people who already thought we already quite healthily, we were totally thrown.

The movie follows Australian filmmaker, Damon Gameau, as he attempts to eat the typical amount of sugar per day as the average Australian. In this case, that’s 40 teaspoons.


The kicker is that most of this is hidden sugar. Sugar lurking in bread, health bars, juice, yogurt, and other foods you don’t think of as pure candy. Even though some of them have even more sugar than pure candy.

As you might expect, in Super Size Me style, he begins to gain large amounts of weight and his health quickly deteriorates. Even more interesting though, is the effect on his mood and energy. To stave off the sugar crash, he just eats more foods with sugar.

He argues, quite believably, that with all this hidden sugar all around us, that we are basically going from one sugar high to the next during the course of the day without realizing it.

The next day, I began analyzing what we were all eating on a daily basis. I had already cut out obvious sugars from our diets (this isn’t to say I don’t eat sugar — just that I prefer to come by my sugar honestly, in the form of cake and ice cream, not tomato sauce.)

You can play this game at home too. Four grams of sugar (listed in the nutritional content) equals one teaspoon of sugar.

That’s when I realized Bean was taking in 1 teaspoon of hidden sugar just at breakfast. Another 4 teaspoons accompanied lunch. What the hell. I had tried to make sure her diet didn’t include hidden sugar, and yet here we were. The “vanilla” ingredient in her rice milk turned out to be more in line with a pump of vanilla flavor at Starbucks, and not vanilla extract. Her (healthy, nut and seed) sandwich bread was full of sugar.

A couple days later, we went to the beach and I threw a couple Larabars in my backpack in case we got hungry. They only contained cashews and dates, no sugar listed as an ingredient. After our snack, I realized I actually felt CRUMMY with a foggy head and trouble focusing. Bean was also acting out of sorts. I checked out the nutritional content once we came home and realized the Larabar I gave her had as much sugar as a serving of gummy bears. Mine was nearly twice as much. (Sugar isn’t listed as an ingredient, but dates are. Nutritional websites now tell me pureed dates are apparently the closest food you can get to pure sugar without actually being sugar.)

To correct the rice milk situation, I actually had to special order rice milk online, because our supermarket didn’t include any sugar-free rice milk options. (We’ve even been to a nutritionist for Bean, due to her food intolerances, who specifically advised us to give her enriched rice milk.)

I’m now also making her sandwich bread once again from scratch, because that’s the only way to avoid hidden sugar in bread products.

And I tossed out the rest of the Larabars.

In the past few weeks, I’ve gotten thrown when buying crackers, yogurt (I knew yogurt was one of the worst offenders, but it is practically candy!), and even tomato sauce.

It is truly absurd that it is so hard to avoid eating sugar, even in savory and “healthy” foods. Especially since we already know diets high in sugar are directly associated with high blood pressure, heart disease, and obesity. It feels like an uphill battle.

Have you ever tracked how much hidden sugar you eat on a daily basis? Were you also shocked?


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