There are a few things we've always taken as fact: A good blowout can end any bad day, at-home peels allow you to wake up prettier, and yogurt with granola is a healthy breakfast. Wrong. While the first two have yet to be disproved, the last is number one on a list of common "healthy" meals with a shocking amount of added sugar. And, as Farah Fahad, dietitian and founder of The Farah Effect, says, "Fat is not your enemy—sugar is."
Need more proof? "Food manufacturers add chemically produced sugar, typically high-fructose corn syrup, to foods and beverages including crackers, flavored yogurt, tomato sauce, and salad dressing," reports The Cancer Treatment Center of America. "Low-fat foods are the worst offenders, as manufacturers use sugar to add flavor." To narrow down the most commonplace, sugar-laden meals, we spoke with a few nutrition experts on the subject. Below find the five meals you should avoid and easy alternatives for each.
"It sounds light, healthy, and benign, right? It can be—but more often than not, yogurt and granola are riddled with sugar," reveals holistic nutritionist, Eve Lynn Kessner. "Opt for a healthier version like Siggi's, a yogurt very low in sugar, high in protein, and good for digestion." She adds, "Granola is super simple to make at home, and that way, you can control what goes in it. Start with some organic oats; add coconut oil, cinnamon, walnuts, and goji berries—then bake."
"They're absolutely in the health food realm, but smoothies can be loaded with unwanted sugar," says Kessner. "Many smoothie shops load up their drinks with sweeteners, but that defeats the purpose of trying to make a healthy choice! Instead make your smoothies from fresh fruits that are high in fiber to balance the natural sugar (think: bananas). Add kale or other greens for a nutrient-rich kick and some avocado for healthy fats. Add a nut butter for a great source of protein and you'll have a better, healthier option."
"Sushi is yummy, healthy, and clean—but only if done right," says Kessner. "White rice converts directly to sugar in your body, so ditch it. Try naruto rolls wrapped in cucumber instead or order sashimi (fish with no rice). If you're craving carbs, ask for brown rice, which has fiber and other nutrients to balance the starch and is just as satisfying as white rice. Also, hand rolls are a healthier rice-to-fish ratio."
"Many cereals have a ton of added sugars, like cane sugar and corn syrup," warns Abigail Kinnear, Siggi's in-house registered dietitian. "Always check the ingredients list when you purchase a cereal and opt for something with no added sugar. For something slightly sweet, make your own oatmeal and add a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon for flavor."
"Packaged pasta sauce has sugar added to sweeten it," notes Kinnear. "It may sound intimidating, but it's easy to make your own sauce from scratch and so much better for you. You can find a basic sauce recipe online, and it'll only require a handful of fresh, good-for-you ingredients."