Samantha Heller, a dietitian and nutritionist based in Connecticut, said that "we are turning our home kitchens into junk-food havens."
While sugar per se is not evil, too many added sugars increase the risk for obesity, diabetes, high triglycerides, high cholesterol, heart disease and more, she said.
"Whoever is the gatekeeper for the family food supply needs to take a good, hard look at their choices. Obviously, junk foods, cookies, desserts and sodas are high in sugar and non-nutritive calories," Heller said.
But added sugars lurk in unexpected places such as dried fruit snacks, instant iced teas, banana chips, fruit punch, boxed dessert mixes, fat-free caramel popcorn, chicken nuggets, ketchup, BBQ sauce, tartar sauce and fat-free salad dressings, she noted.
Ways to reduce sugar intake include buying fewer prepared, frozen and boxed processed foods; making baked goods from scratch and using less sugar; having water, fat-free milk and flavored seltzers on hand; making your own salad dressing; and having cut-up fresh fruit available for desserts and snacks, Heller advised.
She also recommended reading the ingredient list on foods and checking for hidden sugars such as: brown rice syrup, dextrose, fructose, molasses, sucrose, corn sweetener, barley malt syrup, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, cane juice syrup and sorghum.
Another expert, Dr. David Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine, said that "added sugar can increase insulin levels and inflammation, and provides no real nutritional value."
He added, "Given the notoriously high levels of chil
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