Avoid Added Salt & Sugar in Common Foods

Every once and again, I like to write a post about easy ways to make your life healthier.

Let me first me clear: I love sugar.  I will try every baked good, pastry, and cookie from here to kingdom come.  Unless you have health problems or diabetes, I think everyone can safely limit their sugar intake and have a healthy life.  Moderation is key, as in all things.

For me, I have at least one dessert item per day.  C'mon, I bake for this blog - it's inevitable.  I've also been going to the gym at least three times a week to attend Body Pump and spinning classes.  It helps me stay in check.  I also give a lot of my baked goods away.  I definitely do not eat everything I bake.

This post is about avoiding added sugar and salt in processed foods.  I want to be purposeful with my sugar consumption.  If I eat a cookie, I know that it has sugar in it.  If I eat a spoonful of peanut butter, I don't expect to eat added sugar.  Sadly, you do need to be vigilant about reading labels.

I don't eat a ton of processed foods, but often it's unavoidable.  Sometimes I do make my own nut butters, but I like to have a jar of peanut butter in my pantry for emergencies.  I often make my own sauces, but it's nice to have a back-up jar of pizza sauce on hand.

My goal with this post is to get you to investigate the food in your pantry and teach you the importance of reading labels.

How to Avoid Added Salt & Sugar in Common Foods

Ahhhh this is a tough one for people.  I gave up most sweetened drinks long ago.  I drink both hot and cold tea (mostly herbal) without sweeteners.  It's definitely an acquired taste, but I encourage it if you can manage it.

To ween yourself off of sugary drinks, I suggest picking up some organic liquid stevia to put in iced tea and sparkling soda.  Right now, I'm borderline obsessed with Wegmans brand sparkling soda in Black Cherry Vanilla and LaCroix brand sparkling soda in Coconut.  I put about 5-7 drops of liquid stevia in a can and treat myself.  Although the Black Cherry Vanilla (tastes somewhat like Dr. Pepper!) has a small amount of sodium, I look at it as a good trade off for not drinking regular soda.  By the way, I always have good luck finding Coconut LaCroix at most Target stores.

Another piece of advice to make you think: years ago, I read an article that said that you shouldn't drink your calories.  If you're trying to lose weight, this is an easy way to start!  Plus, stevia is calorie-free!

In addition to the sparkling water and unsweetened tea, check the label on your non-dairy milk.  If you're making your own, that's awesome.  But if not, you don't need to buy the sweetened ones.  Personally, I think the taste difference is negligible.  

Nut Butters
I know there are peanut butter fans out there!  This tip requires some label reading.  When the "no stir" peanut butter first made it's debut, I was totally against it (as a high schooler).  How dare they make me stir my peanut butter!  Ugh!  But what I didn't realize is that peanut butter separates naturally.  If it's not separating, the company has put some type of chemical or stabilizer in the butter.  

The only thing that should be in your natural peanut butter?  Peanuts.

Check your labels.  Many companies put in added sugars and salt to add flavor.  As a person who doesn't eat a ton of salt, I'm okay with having a little in my peanut butter, but for health reasons, some people can't have that added salt.  When I buy mine, I look for ingredients that only include peanuts and "1% or less of salt" (Trader Joe's brand has a label like this).  That way, you can be sure you're not eating a mountain of sodium.  This is the same for cashew butter, almond butter, and all the other nut butters.

Sauces and Spreads
These sugars are sneaky.  Take pizza sauce or spaghetti sauce, for instance.  You could be eating lots of added sugar, salt, and corn syrup.  Although it may sound unreasonable, making your own sauces can be your best option.  That way, you can control the amount of sugar and salt added. 

If you can't make your own, your best bet is to buy organic and/or local.  They should have fewer scary ingredients in them.  This applies to ketchup, teriyaki sauce, etc.  Remember to read the labels.

If you take anything away from this post, it's to read the labels on the processed foods that you buy and make sure that there aren't any sneaky ingredients hiding in them.  Be purposeful about the sugar and salt that you eat.  It could make the difference in your waistline - and in your life!