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Finding the hidden sugars

 

A very popular "health" snack are helath bars. These bars have an image that practically screams ‘health food’, many of them marketed as low-fat, healthy snacks. Do yourself a favor and have a close look at the label. Here are the real ingredients of some of the health bars: Sugar (sucrose), rolled oats, dextrose (another sugar), wheat flakes, rice, dried lemon (sulfited), soybeans, fructose (and another), corn syrup (yet another), partially hydrogenated peanut and soybean oil (industrially processed fat), non-fat milk, almonds, malt (more sugar), sorbitol (and yet more) and flavouring.

If you buy that as a health bar, you must be willing to buy almost anything. So, how can you protect yourself, and your family, against unwanted sugar in your diet?

Get label-conscious. By law, a manufacturer has to list the ingredients on a product by weight. Whatever ingredient is listed first is the predominant ingredient in the product. In the case of the above ‘health’ bar, it's a no-brainer, you're eating sugar and processed fats in a warm, fuzzy wrapper.

But food manufacturers are tricky. They know that people are reading labels to find out how much sugar is in the product. So they mix in a small amount of lots of different sugars. That way, no single kind of sugar is the main ingredient by weight. Add them all up, and sugar outweighs anything else in the recipe.

Here are some of the many 'disguises' of sugar: honey, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, sorbitol, fruit juice concentrate, galactose, lactose, polydextrose, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, maltodextrin and turbinado sugar.

In the past few years, we've been so busy looking at the fat content of our foods that we haven't noticed that a lot of those fat calories have been replaced with equally unhealthy alternatives. Sugar, and ingredients that convert to sugar quickly in the body, raise insulin levels quickly too. Chronically elevated insulin leads to insulin resistance, obesity and, in many cases, diabetes.

If you think you don't eat a lot of sugar, it's time to take another look at labels on processed foods. You’ll probably be surprised. The 'real' health food is the kind that you prepare and cook yourself from fresh, preferably organic, ingredients. For an energy giving snack, you’re better off eating a piece of cheddar and an apple or a handful of raw nuts and seeds than a sugary, fatty, over-processed time-bomb in a pretty rustic wrapper.

 

Break the bingeing cycle


We all have moments we have to and want to eat everything in sight. Somehow a whole bag of chips, a pack of cookies and a carton of icecream just disappears. Afterwards we feel guilty and go on a diet for a couple of days or worse... Take before and after pictures to stay motivated!

 

Emotional eating


If you are eating because of emotions and not hunger, then you’re bingeing. A binge is often followed by a purge – perhaps restricting food intake, increasing exercise (calisthenics) or even inducing vomiting. We all use these behaviours at some time or another, but how often we use them and to what extent are key. Restricting food intake by dieting can often set off a binge. Others use bingeing as a way to calm or soothe themselves in emotionally charged situations.

 

Can you figure out why you are bingeing?


Does it happen only at certain times, after specific events, with certain situations, in specific places? Many of us use bingeing as a response to something happening in our lives that we just don’t know how to handle. If we can figure out a different way of dealing with a situation, we won’t need to binge. This may sound simple, but it really can take quite a bit of work both to understand the reasons behind bingeing and to then substitute another behaviour. A therapist can often help sort out the situation.

 

Books to read


There are some great books that talk about why we eat and why we choose certain foods. Check out Intuitive Eating by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch, or The Diet-Free Solution by Laurel Mellin. They can help you understand the reasons behind bingeing and give suggestions for how to stop.

 

Other tips that may be helpful


Set a goal to eliminate the goal of weight loss; it’s next to impossible to focus on both losing weight and preventing binge eating. Identify an alternative behaviour to replace your bingeing. For example, someone who binges when they are under stress could try stress reduction techniques such as relaxation, yoga or meditation. Try different kind of workingout programs. One that you might try and which I recommend is Bar brothers workout program.  Remember to listen to your body and eat when you are physically hungry. If you deny yourself food, it’s much easier to fall into a binge.