5 hidden sources of sugar we had no idea about.

Sugar. It’s like the mosquito of your diet. Just when you think you’ve eliminated all the major sources for it to enter your house, you notice that somehow more have crept in. But unlike the mosquito’s buzz, and its very visible bite, food companies want to keep quiet about their hidden intruder.

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Consider this your fly swat. Dietician Lyndi Polivnick, has your back when it comes to identifying exactly where sugar is secretly lurking. Clue: it’s probably not where you think.

1. Muesli and oats

We all know that unhealthy cereals are loaded with sugar. The bad news? Even the apparently healthy ones can have a tonne of the stuff. Fruit-flavoured instant oats have a lot of added sugar, and approach with caution any cereals that market themselves as containing the three Cs: Crunch, Crisps and Clusters. Beyond the catchy alliteration, these words basically translate as, ‘held together by sugar and fat’. It’s better to create the crunchy texture yourself by adding a small handful of unsalted roasted nuts or seeds.

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2. Fruit and flavoured yoghurt

Yoghurt can be a very healthy food, providing calcium, protein and naturally occurring sugars from milk. However, flavoured and fruit yoghurts rarely fall into this category – often being packed with added sugars. Replace them for a small portion of plain or Greek yoghurt (which generally have more protein and are naturally lower in sugar than more processed, flavoured varieties) and add fruit if you want extra sweetness.

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3. Stir-through sauces

Pre-packaged sauces may taste savoury, but don’t let that deceive you. A two-tablespoon serving of BBQ sauce can contain as much as 12 grams of sugar, for example. Homemade varieties tend to be much healthier as you can control exactly what goes in.

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4. Reduced-fat foods

Many manufacturers remove the fat from products – including peanut butter, salad dressings, cookies, yoghurt, crackers and cakes – to create low-fat varieties that appeal to consumers. But to compensate for the flavour and texture lost, extra sugar has to be added. The result is a low-fat product with lots of hidden sugar. This is particularly problematic because of the ‘health halo’ effect created by claims such as 'low-fat'. (Post continues after gallery.)

Psychological studies show that we overeat products when they have labels like low-fat, sugar-free and gluten-free because we believe they’re healthy and therefore it’s fine to eat more of them than usual. But rather than eating low-fat varieties, it’s often better to opt for a small portion of full-fat (or reduced fat). Always check the ingredients list to see if sugar has been added during the food manufacturing process.

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5. Salad dressing

Dressing can make eating your daily five serves of vegetables easier, but you don’t want to undo your hard work with a high-sugar condiment. Store-bought, low-fat salad dressings typically contain a lot of added sugar to provide extra flavour. Sweet dressings, such as raspberry vinaigrette, Italian dressings and anything ketchup-based (ie Thousand Island) all fall into this sugary camp. The healthiest option is to make your own dressing from extra virgin olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. If you want more sweetness in your salad, add fresh mango, pomegranate or other fresh seasonal fruit.

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TIP! Don’t always trust the front of the packet.

Before taking it for gospel that a product is healthy, always read the ingredients list. Sugar can be listed under many names, including some less obvious ones, such as: corn syrup, dextrin, invert sugar, maple syrup, corn sweeteners, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, malt, molasses and turbinado sugar, to name but a few.

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