Fat and Sugar Hide-and-Go Seek

Sugar and fat are notoriously hidden in packaged foods. Here are a few visuals to get you to see what your food is really made of.

By Reader's Digest Editors
Fat and Sugar Hide-and-Go Seek© iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Sugar and fat are notoriously hidden in packaged foods. Here are a few visuals to get you to see what your food is really made of.

Hidden Fat

Few of us would consider a pat of butter on some toast healthier than a granola bar but that just might be the case. Your innocuous looking afternoon snack may indeed be hiding more fat. Consumer Reports looked at the grams of fat in common supermarket foods and compared them to a tablespoon of butter. Here are some frightening comparisons.

The benchmark: 1 pat of butter (about a teaspoon) has 4 grams of fat

1 Nature Valley Roasted Nut Crunch Almond Bar = 13 grams of fat

1 serving Progresso New England Clam Chowder = 9 grams of fat

1 ½ cup America’s Choice Banana Chips = 10 grams of fat

2 tablespoons Brianna’s Home Style Zesty French Dressing = 15 grams of fat

The outcome: The shocking thing here is that the seemingly healthy choices are actually fattier than the creamy soup, and all have more fat than a pat of butter. The message is to check the fat grams in a product before assuming that the numbers are low. Seeing every 4 grams of fat as a pat of butter is a good visual. If you notice those pats of butter adding up? Skip the food.

Also, beware of the fat that you do not see. Butter is easily avoided by just not putting it on something, while the fat within these products is still effecting your diet and calorie count, and you probably can’t even taste it. So why do you even want it?

Hidden Sugar

Sugar can play at this game too. Take a typical teaspoon and fill it with sugar. That is 4 grams of sugar. How do the products above stack up?

The benchmark: 1 teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams

1 Nature Valley Roasted Nut Crunch Almond Bar = 6 grams of sugar

1 serving Progresso New England Clam Chowder = 2 grams of sugar

1 ½ cup America’s Choice Banana Chips = 11 grams of sugar

2 tablespoons Brianna’s Home Style Zesty French Dressing = 4 grams of sugar

The outcome: As you can see, the soup still comes out on top of the others in terms of fat and sugar consumption, while the healthy sounding banana chips fail miserably on both counts. Although it is likely that sodium is playing a role in the soup’s palatability (a serving contains 890 milligrams), it also seems more like a complete meal than the other choices.

The healthy snack fix:

For the granola bar: Have a handful of almonds for 14 grams fat, only 1 gram of sugar and 6 grams of protein. The fat here is also healthy, naturally occurring as opposed to added fat.

For the soup: Keep total fat and sugar low, but also get low sodium varieties.

For the banana chips: This one is easy. Eat a banana. A small banana has 12 grams of sugar and no fat. Also try Brother’s All Natural Fruit Crisps for a zero additive, crispy banana treat.

For the salad dressing: Stick with a teaspoon of oil and a squeeze of lemon or vinegar. Skip the preservatives, extra oils, and sugars.

See more food comparisons at ConsumerReports.com.

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