The average American eats about 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, but the American Heart Association recommends a limit of 5 teaspoons a day for women. Eek! But where is it coming from? Dessert isn't always the main culprit. Read on for more sneaky sources.
To suss out extra sugar, read labels and look for sugar, corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, honey, molasses, and any ingredients that end in –ose (ie: glucose, sucralose). The natural sugars in fruits and vegetables, however, have a free pass: They have fiber, which slows the absorption of sugar in your body to prevent blood sugar from spiking, said Kristin Kirkpatrick, R.D., of the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute—not to mention a bajillion nutrients you need to stay healthy.
Surprise: Your favorite savory sauce may have added sugar. Manufacturers add the sweet stuff to bring out the natural sweetness of tomatoes. Luckily, there are plenty of delicious options that don't have added sugar; finding them at your grocery store may just require a bit of label sleuthing. Or buy canned diced tomatoes and make your own sauce by simmering the tomatoes with sauteed onions and garlic and a bit of salt—almost as easy as opening a jar!
Whole wheat bread
Yup, added sugar can hide even in products marked "whole wheat." Scan labels to suss out sugar sources like honey, molasses or high-fructose corn syrup. For toasts and sandwiches, we like Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain Bread, which has 0 grams of sugar compared to 4 grams in other supermarket whole-grain breads.
Even the healthiest-sounding breakfast cereals and granola can add a dozen grams of sugar to your tally before you even leave the house in the morning—that's about the same amount of sugar as a serving of chocolate chip cookies! To play it safe, switch to plain oatmeal or unsweetened cereal and add fresh fruit and spices.
The last thing you want is to drench your healthy greens in sugar, but some food manufacturers add it to dressings, especially low-fat ones, to improve flavor. Skirt the issue entirely by making your own dressing: Combine equal parts fresh lemon juice and olive oil in a jar with a bit of dijon mustard, salt, and pepper, then shake to combine. It will stay fresh in the fridge for a week.
Fruit-flavored yogurts are often sweetened with extra sugar, not just fruit. A six-ounce serving of raspberry-flavored nonfat Greek yogurt has 140 calories and 19 grams of sugar—but its plain counterpart has just 100 calories and 7 grams of sugar. Make it DIY by stirring 1/3 cup of fresh raspberries into plain yogurt—you'll add just 2 grams of sugar.
Packaged oatmeals with innocuous sounding names like "cinnamon and spice" can have 11 grams of sugar, compared with the big, fat "zero" grams of sugar in plain oatmeal. We're not suggesting you eat boring plain oats every morning—that's enough to put anyone right back to sleep. Instead, start with plain oatmeal and add your own, sugar-free flavorings. Try pre-made spice blends like Apple Pie Spice or Pumpkin Pie Spice.
Beef and turkey jerky can be surprising sources of added sugar: They're often marinated in a sugar-and-salt solution to add flavor before being dried. Teriyaki is an especially sugar-rich variety. Look for a sugar-free brand or go for other protein-rich snacks like dry-roasted edamame, canned tuna, or nonfat Greek yogurt to get plenty of protein for very few calories.
Flavored soy, rice, and almond milk are often sweetened with cane sugar or evaporated cane juice. Unlike lactose, the natural sugar in dairy products, these sweeteners can have an effect on your blood sugar. So go for the unsweetened versions instead.
This article originally appeared on Self.com.