Sugar does much more than contribute to obesity. Whenever you consume especially refined sugar, you actually slow down your immune system, increase the inflammatory factors in your body, and reduce important minerals like calcium and magnesium. If your go-to stress reliever involves sweets, it is never too late to strive for a different option.
As you begin to pack lunches for another school year, watch out for foods whose sugar content may actually surprise you. Taking the time to ensure that your kids’ lunches are as healthy as possible now will pay off large dividends in the future. Here are 5 foods you should choose with care for the lunchroom and beyond:
1. Peanut butter
Not only does peanut butter often contain sugar, it also can be packed with unnecessary oils. Especially watch out for hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils in the ingredients list to avoid transfats, another healthy eating no-no. Also, if your peanut butter must have sugar, try to choose those sugars wisely. Molasses, for example, contains some nutritive value, as opposed to refined sugar.
Strive to avoid high fructose corn syrup. This popular sweetener is a sugar that has been altered by making it even more sugary. High fructose corn syrup is so sugary, in fact, that your body can’t actually process all the fructose in the product. The excess fructose goes to your liver, where it has the potential to become triglyceride cholesterol.
Look instead for the peanut butters that are only peanuts with perhaps a little salt. Also consider some of the other nut butters that follow a similar ingredient pattern, like almond butter or sunflower seed spreads.
2. Canned Soup
Did you know that a can of soup can have as much sugar in it as a small bag of M & M’s? Sugar actually helps prolong shelf life, so it can be found in many convenience soups. A soup you make at home, where you control the ingredients, would be a healthier choice. Still need convenience? A better choice for convenience soups should shoot for 6 gm of sugar per serving or less.
And while you are studying the label, don’t forget to check out the sodium content of that soup can as well.
With all the emphasis on probiotics, many people are increasing their intake of yogurt. However, a high sugar content in this potential source for probiotics can negate the potential health benefits of this product. Whenever you are choosing flavored yogurts, which have added fruits along with sugar, you increase the sugar content even more. Low-fat and nonfat varieties of yogurt can also have added sugars.
Plain yogurt is your best yogurt choice. It has naturally-occurring sugars from milk, around 12 gm per 6 oz., but usually can be found without added sweeteners. Fresh or frozen fruit, in moderation, may be added to the plain yogurt to give the snack some of the sweetness we all desire.
4. Fruit Leather
How much fruit is there, really, in this highly-processed snack? Watch out for ingredients like corn syrup and artificial coloring. Opt instead for the real deal. Fresh fruit provides fiber, as well as a more complete vitamin profile than a fruit leather will be able to do. If you are looking for something that can survive the backpack, consider dried fruits that are free of artificial additives, colors, or flavors, as well as sulfur.
5. Energy bars
These bars imply an element of healthy just with the name, but they can be some of the worst offenders on this list. Check the label for sugars like high fructose corn syrup and juice concentrates. Some bars have as much as 6 teaspoons of sugar in one 230-calorie bar.
Consider raw bars instead, which have fruit and nuts as their ingredients. Or, better still, consider unsalted almonds or cashews.
Concerned that no matter how well they eat, your kids might not be getting their best nutrition? Check out Betsy’s wide variety of children’s supplements to help you fill those nutrient gaps.
Make this school year healthy with food choices that avoid unwanted sugar. Your kids’ better health will thank you for it.
Reference: Delicious Living, Sept. 2013, “Sneaky sweets: root out hidden sugar in your kids’ food,” by Linda Knittel.
Betsy’s Note: This article is for educational purposes only. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease. Consult your healthcare provider.