Grocery Store Strategies: Reducing Sugar

Grocery store visits are often accompanied by a list, maybe even some coupons. But usually grocery shopping strategies end there.

What if the next time you go to the grocery store, you went equipped with a different kind of strategy? A strategy that will help you save your health, in addition to saving money with your list and coupons.

Sugar is hiding in just about every product on grocery store shelves. It provides no nutrients or lasting energy, yet it is full of calories, which many health professionals refer to as “empty calories.”

Below, you’ll find many common items on regular grocery lists, with tips on how to purchase these items while reducing your sugar intake.

Healthy Life, Sugar Free, 100 percent Whole Wheat Bread: This bread is sweetened with the artificial sweetener Splenda, so it can be labeled sugar-free. It is 100 percent whole wheat, so you lose none of the nutrient value.

Sara Lee 100 percent Whole Wheat Bread: If you like the health benefits of whole wheat, but prefer real sugar to artificial sweeteners, this is the product for you. It contains only one gram of sugar per serving.

If you haven’t tried tortillas as a substitute for bread altogether, you are missing out. Per serving, most brands are lower in sugar, calories and carbs when compared with two slices of bread. You can make breakfast burritos, peanut butter and no-sugar-added jelly wraps, or fill them with anything you would put between bread. Just make sure the tortillas you grab are 100 percent whole wheat.

This is the dangerous aisle, where sugar is lurking everywhere. When looking at cereal labels, or any label for that matter, keep in mind that every four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon. So if your box of cereal contains 24 grams of sugar, you are really eating six teaspoons every morning. No wonder you are hungry again before 10 a.m. Pick your cereal sticking to the “Rule of Fives,” which is finding a box that has at least five grams of fiber per serving, with less than five grams of sugar per serving as well.

Dairy Section
Yogurt is another product that can be part of a healthy diet but can also be loaded with either sugar or sugar substitutes. My pick for yogurt would be nonfat, plain Greek yogurt. For a half-cup serving, you get 4.5 grams of natural sugars and 12 grams of protein. If you hate the sour taste of plain Greek yogurt, you can mix in a little honey or agave nectar to make it a little sweeter. Just don’t go too crazy with it, otherwise you might have been better off getting the sugar-filled yogurt instead.

Low-fat Cottage Cheese
This is another great dairy find. Per half-cup serving, it contains four grams of natural sugars and 12 grams of protein. Most people find that they don’t need to add anything to cottage cheese to make it taste good, so this is a great alternative to yogurt.

Peanut Butter
Choose natural peanut butters. Make sure sugar isn’t listed in the ingredient section of the food label. Natural peanut butter may take some getting used to, as your taste buds are probably more familiar with the sugary taste of other peanut butters. Add celery to your list and spread a tablespoon of natural peanut butter inside for a healthy snack you can bag and take with you on-the-go.

Sabra Classic Hummus Singles
These single-serve cups of hummus are delicious, nutritious and great to keep handy for another grab-and-go snack. Keep pre-cut veggies in the fridge, such as carrots, cucumber and celery, and you’ll get a yummy snack full of protein and nutrients with zero grams of added sugars.

Stacy’s Simply Naked Pita Chips
These pita chips are a non-veggie option for dipping in your hummus or snacking in general. If you need to add crunch to your afternoon snack, grab a bag of these. Per serving, there is less than one gram of sugar. Just make sure to stick to one serving … these tasty chips can be addictive!

Other Aisles
When finding the other items on your list, keep in mind that four grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon. Try to imagine a teaspoon of sugar in your mind when picking out items and making the decision to put them in your cart or not.

Also, remember that sugar can be hiding on food label ingredient lists in disguise. Corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, sucrose, fructose and glucose are some hidden sugar names that companies are using on labels.

Keep in mind that you can get everything you need on your grocery list while cutting back your sugar intake if you take your time, read the labels and pay attention while in the grocery store. Shopping for food is the first step you take toward a healthy diet, so why not take the time to make sure you are getting the most nutrients and least amount of sugar for every dollar you spend and calorie you purchase?