Before you order that orange-mango smoothie, check out the nutrition information. Many 12- and 16-ounce fruit smoothies have nearly a 1/4 cup, or 12 teaspoons of sugar. A few have as much as 18 teaspoons. That’s as much sugar as in a milkshake.
How does so much sugar wind up in smoothies? Some of it is from natural sugars found in fruits. But some store-made smoothies are made with a lot of juice, flavored syrups, or even sorbet. That adds sugar and calories without the benefits of fiber that you’d get from a smoothie made with only frozen fruit chunks and ice. The fiber in fruit helps keep you and the kids feeling full.
When your family is craving something fast and fruity, reach for a piece of fruit.
If smoothies are a must every now and then, make them at home to save money and calories. Blend fresh or frozen fruit, ice, plain yogurt, and a teaspoon of honey.
People who have celiac disease, a disease where gluten from wheat damages their digestive system, need to follow gluten-free diets to stay in good health. But if you don't have celiac disease, there's no need to go gluten-free.
Experts say many gluten-free foods -- especially processed ones -- are another sugar trap.
"Taking out the gluten removes much of the taste," Lemond says. "Sugar is added to make it taste better."
Eating many gluten-free foods can also mean skimping on some nutrients.
"Removing wheat, rye, oats, or barley often removes the B vitamins, minerals, and fiber," Lemond says. The bottom line: Don't go gluten-free for your health unless you can't digest wheat, barley, or other grains. Your doctor can test your or family members for celiac disease.
If you have celiac disease, see a registered dietitian to make sure you eat a balanced diet. If you don’t need to go gluten-free, remember whole grains are better than refined. Read ingredients lists. Buy breads, pastas, or crackers that list a whole grain first.
Kids and parents sometimes think sports drinks are “healthy” because they see famous athletes on TV drinking them. But unless you or your kids are exercising very hard for an hour or more, you don't need a sports drink. You'll be fine just drinking water.
Why skip them? In addition to electrolytes like salts and minerals, sports drinks also have sugar added. Why drink those empty calories you and your family worked so hard to burn?
A single serving of a sports drink or vitamin water may have about 3 teaspoons of sugar. But people don't usually drink one serving.
"Most bottles contain nutrition information for one serving only, but the bottle itself often contains 2 or more servings," Cheung says. "So you have to do the math to find out how much sugar you’re really drinking."
For an average 20-ounce bottle, that's 32 grams or more of sugar.