Hidden Sugar


Food packages love to trumpet health claims on the front (and quasi-health claims, like “fat free!” on 100% sugar candy), but the most important information is in the nutritional information and the ingredients list. That’s where the package shows calories, fat, protein, and carbs per serving — and tells you how big a serving is. Does the package contain multiple servings?

One way food packaging can mislead us is by labeling a king-size package with a small serving size, and including “servings per package: 2” (or more) in the small print. Another way they can mislead is by using several names for the same ingredient. Because ingredients are listed in order of their weight in the product, breaking up one type of ingredient into multiple items is a way to hide how much of that ingredient is in the food, and the number-one ingredient hidden this way is added sugar.

The image above is the ingredients list for Wheat Thins. Wheat Thins are not particularly healthy choice — a savory cracker whose second ingredient is sugar? But it’s worse than that: Wheat Thins contain 3 different forms of sugar: “sugar,” “malt syrup,” and “invert sugar.” It’s hard to believe that if you added them together, they’d add up to more weight than the wheat! But even if they don’t, why does a wheat cracker need all that sugar in the first place?

Women’s Health has posted a list of different names for sugar. Reducing the amount of refined sugar you eat (especially while adding more protein- and fiber-rich foods) is one of the easiest ways to curb calories, improve your energy level, and feel fuller and more satisfied with your meals. So keep an eye out for added sugar — in all its forms — in the packaged foods you eat.

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