Hidden Sources of Sugar–Watch these sneaky items. . .
Sugar shows up in the most unexpected places. When we say, “It’s in everything,” we ain’t kidding! For our No-Sugar Challenge, here are some things to watch out for that may be on your grocery list. I’ve included recipes and links for many of them to help you avoid the sugar. Be sure to read the label on EVERYTHING, even “organic products that often have just as much “sugar” as conventional items. If it has any of the words on our list of sugars to avoid (see this post for a full list of both “natural” and artificial sugars to avoid, as well as a list of the allowed sweeteners), put it back and find an alternative. Part of this challenge is for you to see just how much sugar is in our food supply, and that’s exactly what you’re about to find out!
Bread, buns, and other yeasted bread products
As far as bread, buns, bagels, and the like go, this will most likely be your most difficult item. You may know that the order in which ingredients appear in the list indicates how much of that is in that food. For instance, the first ingredient listed means that food has more of that than anything else. These baked items usually have sugar or high-fructose corn syrup as one of the top 3 ingredients, meaning there’s quite a bit of it in there. I’ve even noticed some breads having the artificial sweetener acesulfame-K/acesulfame potassium towards the bottom of the list.
I’ll make things easy on this one and suggest a pre-made bread! Ezekial 4:9 bread is based on the scripture (from Ezekial 4:9, of course) where God told the prophet how to make bread. It is made from sprouted grains so it is flourless and comes in a couple different varieties. It can be expensive, but we get it fresh at Trader Joes for cheaper than anywhere else ($3.99). The only ingredients are the sprouted grains, and cinnamon and raisin in the Cinnamon Raisin flavor. No sugars, no preservatives, nothing else!
Here’s a soaked-dough whole wheat bread recipe for those with a kitchen-aid mixer. Soaking grains helps to begin break down the phytic acid in the wheat. This recipe is great for large families or for those who want homemade bread all week but only want to make it once since it makes four loaves. You can cut the recipe in half if you only want to make two loaves. I also use white whole wheat flour (Trader Joes! or freshly-ground white whole wheat berries in my Blendtec) so that I don’t have to use unbleached flour; I also make it by hand since I don’t yet own a wonderful Kitchen Aid stand mixer.
Catsup/ketchup, by definition, is sweetened tomato paste. Thus, sugar or high-fructose corn syrup is in every kind, even organic brands.
Amy @ Simply Sugar & Gluten Free has a great recipe for Homemade Crockpot Ketchup. You can make a big batch of it and freeze it in individual portions so you will always have some sugar-free ketchup on hand!
Nourishing Traditions also has a lacto-fermented ketchup recipe, which is the one I use.
Most, if not all, jarred salsas contain sugar. This one bummed me out the most. I love pico de gallo, but sometimes I need a more saucy salsa for recipes. There are plenty of recipes out there for this and if you have a food processor or blender, it takes an extra 2 minutes to make it homemade.
My quickest go-to salad dressing is 4 simple ingredients:
½ cup organic mayo (use your favorite mayo, just make sure it’s free of refined sugars!)
½ cup buttermilk, kefir, or yogurt
½ tsp Mrs. Dash’s no-salt vegetable seasoning
½ tsp garlic seasoning (I like Tastefully Simple’s Garlic Garlic)
Whisk mayo until smooth, then whisk in the buttermilk and seasonings. Keeps in the refrigerator for about a week. It is a dressing that is very reminiscent of Ranch. If you like more oil-based dressings, try this one that is my second go-to recipe:
Lemon Pepper Dressing
From Nourishing Traditions
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp raw wine vinegar
¼ tsp sea salt
½ tsp cracked pepper
Dash stevia powder (or I often use a Tbsp of honey)
1 clove garlic, peeled and mashed
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp flax oil (opt.)
Place all ingredients in a bowl and stir vigorously with a fork or whisk.
Canned stewed tomatoes
Not all canned tomatoes have added sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, but I have not found a stewed variety that does NOT. Consequently, I buy diced or whole canned tomatoes instead and add my own seasonings.
Even when we didn’t care about eating sugar, I never did like the taste of jarred spaghetti sauce. Something about sugar and Italian seasonings just doesn’t go well in my opinion. So here’s our quick and easy spaghetti sauce recipe. It’s not gourmet or anything, but it’s sugar-free and it tastes much better than jarred spaghetti sauce! (Oh–and beware–organic jarred spaghetti sauce also contains refined sugar!)
Coconut oil or butter for sautéing
1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 small onion, diced
½ green bell pepper, diced
¼ cup grated carrots (optional)
3 cloves garlic
1 Tbsp dried basil
1 Tbsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion, pepper, and carrots in a saucepan with heated oil/butter over medium heat until slightly softened. Stir in garlic and cook for another 30 seconds. Pour in untrained can of tomatoes and seasonings. Bring to a boil and then simmer covered for at least 15 minutes. The longer you let it simmer, the better it will taste.
Sweet-n-sour sauces, dips
We used to LOVE sweet-n-sour stir fry. But when our lifestyle changed, so did our stir-fry. But take heart–stir fry can still be delicious! Once I found this recipe from Nourishing Traditions, I haven’t looked back!
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
3 garlic cloves, mashed (I use a Pampered Chef garlic press.)
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1 Tbsp raw honey
½ cup soy sauce/tamari
Mix all ingredients together with a whisk and stir in cooked vegetables. (I sometimes also add arrowroot–a corn-free version of cornstarch–before putting it in the veggies to make it thicker.)
Some frozen fruits
Check the label. All of the frozen fruits from Walmart that specifically state “No Sugar Added” on the front are usually okay; as well as all frozen fruits from Trader Joes.
Some dried fruits
Raisins are usually okay; however, I don’t think I’ve ever found dried cranberries without added sugar. Bulk bins at natural food stores often have dried bananas, apples, and pineapple that do not have sugar added, but check the label!
Fruit juice cocktails
If a juice bottle or concentrate has the word “cocktail” on it, it either has high-fructose corn syrup or sugar. Put it back and grab one that says “100% juice.”
Almost anything labeled as “sugar-free” will have artificial sweeteners
Again, check the label. There are some exceptions to this, such as with “Unsweetened applesauce.” If the applesauce doesn’t say “unsweetened,” it usually has sugar added to it as well. But as far as things labeled as “sugar-free,” you will most likely find either aspartame (Equal/NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), acesulfame-K/acesulfame potassium (Sunett & Sweet One), Neotame, or saccharin (Sugar Twin & Sweet’N Low).