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Sugar in food

Last night we went out for the first time to a restaurant which has been in town for a couple of years. It is a franchise outlet of a Louisiana small chain, D'Angleo's. I ordered a sausage and pepperoni calzone and the filling had ricotta which had obviously been heavily sweetened with sugar. I found it really unpleasant. We no longer follow a low fat diet, it was too unhealthy for us and after cutting out sugar and white flour and products made there with I've become really sensitive to sugar.

I was also watching Food Network and today's programing seems to be all about eating "healthy". I was watching Barefoot Contessa in particular and was just wowed by the amount of sugar was going into her so called "healthy" food or was in it to begin with. Anyone else have an issue with this? We definitely won't be going back to that restaurant.

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  1. I've been trying to cut refined sugar from my diet for quite a while now.

    I definitely notice the difference... excluding desserts (where you'd expect sugar most of the time) foods with added sugar are not only noticeable, but make me feel grumpy afterwards.

    What's good about your situation is now you know never to go back to that restaurant again! If you were still eating sugar you might have never noticed...

    1. You do become really sensitive to the taste of added sugar once you cut it. I have blood sugar issues, and when I'm following a proper diet (...not over the holidays (face of shame)...), it is really hard to find the right food.

      We went to, oh, shoot, what's that place? McAllister's, I think it was. I selected the chili thinking it was the safest of all the choices. I could not eat it. The first bite tasted like a spoonful of sugar.

      One of my best friends laughed at me when I had sugar-free cookies on hand for sweet tooth emergencies. She thought they were unpalatable. Funny, not too long ago, she decided she had to lose 5 or 10 pounds and reduced her carbs. She now has sugar-free cookies in her pantry and has described them as delicious. hahaha

      1. I haven't noticed it too often at restaurants because I don't eat out that often but I darn well notice it at the grocery store when I read labels...there is NO reason to put sugar in potato salad in my opinion! Yet, bang, there it is on the label--really bad. That horrid high fructose corn syrup is in everything known to mankind now too. I guess when someone claims that a food is "healthy" we all need to say: "Prove it...show me how it's healthy."

        4 Replies
        1. re: Val

          The store was out of usable avacados and I mas making carnitas one night. DH ran out to the store and bought some brand of prepared guacamole. I took a good look at the lable and OMG the sugar in that crap! It went right in the trash.

          But you are right with "healthy? Prove it to me". I don't know where the masses got the idea that butter is bad and sugar, and other simple carbs were a healthy way to eat. The low fat cooking mags depend too much on pasta and Cooking Light you know is going to have a dessert on the cover 8 out of 12 issues.

          1. re: Candy

            I don't know if you've ever tried AvoClassic - wholly guacamole. It's refrigerated - and delicious. I will buy their regular guacamole and doctor it up to make it closer to mine. I've practically stopped buying avocados for guac (sometimes have to buy them fresh for slicing.) Avo has several varieties, including guacasalsa, which we love, and a spicy salsa. I haven't tried all the varieties, but the ones I have tried are good.

            Anyhow, point being, I don't think they have sugar. Their guac is avocados, onions, and spices. Even in our podunk town (with two pretty pitiful grocery stores right across the street from each other & owned by the same family), they carry some of the AvoClassic products. At Whole Foods, they are in the refrigerator section (back by yogurt, eggs, vegetarian "meat" products, etc.) or in one of the "portable" fridge sections. At our local grocer, it's in the produce section.

            1. re: luv2bake

              Oh, and did I mention it's like $3ish for a package that contains the equivalent of 5 avocados? And guaranteed to not be stringy, nasty, brown, etc. :)

              1. re: luv2bake

                I know I can get Calavo pre-made stuff in the dairy area of my store, the stuff my DH got was in with the chilled salad dressings in produce, but I really do like to make my own. I know what is in there and I like it kind of chunky.

        2. I remember seeing somebody on the Food Network one day add sugar to a boiled corn dish. I certainly would not prepare a dish like that for my own tastes. If a guest wants to add sugar to a vegetable dish like that at my table, I would never stop them but it won't start with me.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Velma

            Corn in and of itself is a sugary vegetable... there is definitely no need to add sugar to corn but I do remember seeing people add sugar to corn on the cob while it is cooking, totally ridiculous.

            1. re: Velma

              A neighbor of mine had to go to the school to complain because they put sugar in all their veggies. Her son is diabetic and couldn't eat much at school because they added sugar to everything. (Hello - who's the dietician at the school?! Somebody's daughter? Good grief.)

              Anyhow, she was told that was the "tradition" and that some people wouldn't dream of fixing their veggies without sugar. (I do think they stopped doing it, though, because of the health issues she raised. Not positive, though.)

              Diabetes on the march!

            2. It isn't any surprise that her food is loaded with fat and sugar. Just look how fat she has gotten.

              This is not everyday cooking. I use sugar and salt and butter when cooking, but not all the time in large quantities in everything.

              Moderation is the key, and a modified low carb diet is extremely healthy for everyone.

              1. Processed foods generally equal lots of sodium, fats, and sugars. The simplest response is preparing most food yourself and controlling the basic ingredients. Sorry to sound preachy and on a high horse. We eat some eat red meat and still consume carbs, but basically don't consume anything processed/pre-prepared to the point that not reading the ingredients on the back is suicide.

                1. americans in general are developing a sweeter tooth. all those energy drinks, flavored mega-lattes, giant sodas, juice boxes and artificial sweeteners have dramatically upped what folks think of as "sweet".

                  equal is 180 times sweeter than sugar. sweet-n-low is 300 times. splenda is 600 times sweeter. i've seen customers put 2 or 3 packs of these in cups of restaurant coffee.

                  in the wine business, we say, "americans talk dry, but drink sweet." hence the success of all that aussie shiraz.

                  frequently on here, people will add sugar to savory recipes where i never would. i guess it's what you're used to. i know i don't like it.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    i agree with the sentiment but lets make sure that people understand that 1 pack of splenda is not 600 tiems as sweet as sugar. Those are all packaged to contain the same total sweetening power as a packet (1 teaspoon, 15 cals) of sugar.

                    1. re: amkirkland

                      You are right. One packet of Splenda = one tsp Sugar.

                      I put 3 or 4 in my Starbucks Latte. I like it sweet.

                  2. I can't stand diet soda, because of the artificial sweetener aftertaste (haven't found any artificial sweetener that doesn't have at least some aftertaste that I find objectionable). But here lately I'm not drinking a whole lot of the sugar-sweetened stuff, either, because I can't stand how my mouth feels like it's coated with goo afterward. Don't know if that's that HFCS or if I've just gotten out of the habit of drinking soda.

                    1. I started noticing this with cereal. Not just the sugary cereals. Granolas and other cereals advertising such things as oats and brans are way too sweet. The wierd thing is that although its unpleasantly sweet, it causes a craving to have more.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: amkirkland

                        That's the curse of sugar!

                        Whenever I cut back on my sugar (as I should all the time), I can hardly eat anything with sugar in it. I mean, I can taste the sugar almost before it hits my tongue. But when I gradually ease it back into my diet (not on purpose like I need to ease it back in but rather "one bite of cookie will be ok" kind of way), I quickly become readdicted.

                        A friend of mine laughed at me when I complained about how sweet things were (I mean, we're good friends and have shared a pint - no, not beer but ice cream - with two spoons! So she knows I can do sweet!) A few months ago, she decided to cut sugar after she gained a little weight due to surgery & not being able to exercise. She stopped laughing and could totally relate.

                        I'm easing my way back into the no-sugar zone. Slowly, deliberately, and a little sadly. But I really like the smaller pants zone, too. If only there was a physical addiction to THAT!

                        1. re: luv2bake

                          One way I've found useful to cut back on sugar is to avoid fake sugars, because then I'll use it more responsibly. I have the habit of sweetening my outmeal with splenda. when i use sugar i use less, and have less sugar cravings in general. I still indulge in the occasional diet soda though, no one's perfect.

                          1. re: amkirkland

                            Yes, I do try to avoid anything sweet other than fruit, but there is that occasional indulgence. :)

                        2. re: amkirkland

                          HFCS and fructose actually do cause us to crave more food, especially sugars. They don't stop the hormone ghrelin, that tells us we're hungry; but they do stop the one that tells us we're full, leptin. And not only that, but when our blood sugar gets spiked from refined sugars and starches, it will later plummet, causing low energy and the desire for another quick sugar fix.

                        3. Thank you for bringing this up. I've been consciously attempting to cut sugar out of my diet after I found my frail 88 year old grandfather has just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

                          I went through my pantry and found that sugar (or its cheap filler cousin high fructose corn syrup) had infiltrated so many innocuous items in my pantry like:

                          oyster sauce,
                          seasoned rice vinegar,
                          chicken soup stock,
                          peanut butter,
                          pickled radish,
                          barbecue sauce,
                          and the list goes on.

                          I threw out the offending items and vowed to never buy them again. My grandpa NEVER ate sweets but he got so much sugar from all the sneaky processed product he ate. I don't wanna end up like him.

                          1. It is so nice to see this kind of discussion become commonplace and not an invitation for a lengthy debate. I started low-carbing 8 years ago and for quite a while *any* mention of cutting back on refined carbs was just such an opening. My standard response was that "no one ever died from cutting out Twinkies."

                            While I don't necessarily "low carb" as well as I should any longer (bad, bad girl with a little more belly-jelly to show for it!) I do still watch some of the obvious offenders in a mostly successful attempt to maintain the original weight loss, and HFCS makes me crazy, because Big Food seems to be sneaking that junk into everything in an attempt to keep the addictive cycle going.

                            I just read a report that not only has childhood obesity (and therefore diabetes) risen dramatically, now morbid obesity in infants is on the rise as well. Out of curiousity I googled "similac ingredients list" and found that it's like 6-8% corn syrup.)

                            One other thing I've said to people that believe our bodies are made to function 'best" on a high carbohydrate diet; just back away from the stuff for a while, and really watch how your body reacts. Most people have an unpleasant surprise for the first two to three days... withdrawals with symptoms ranging from headaches to nausea to exhaustion. But if your skin starts looking fresher, energy levels go up and moderate naturally through the day with no after-breakfast/lunch drowsiness, sleeping habits improve, IBS & just plain old gas diminish, cravings diminish & weight loss occurs... it's hard to argue with. And as everyone's stated on this thread, your taste for sugar doesn't just diminish, it becomes downright unpleasant to many people.

                            But slide back into a bit here and a bit there, and the cycle starts all over again. (Said the woman who just had maybe my 10th bowl of cereal in about 8 years. It was Grape Nuts Trail Mix Crunch - and everything in me felt like adding sugar to it, like I used to do to Cheerios as a kid.)

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: shanagain

                              My father lost a ton of weight low-carbing in the early 80s. (He wanted me to write a diet book with him - that was well before the big "low carb" wagon rolled out.) He has kept it off all these years (still low-carbing).

                              I can use the weight loss, unfortunately. But my reasons for watching (simple) carbs are primarily health. (Not that weight loss doesn't contribute to good health; I just mean mine isn't motivated by weight loss.) I do not by any means think the only healthy diet is low-carb, and I do tend to think that balance is key. But for some people, it's all or nothing. It's too hard for some to work in "just a little." Others have health issues. Others don't realize what has carbs & what doesn't. (My step-father and occasionally my husband amuse my mom & me with, "Oh, there are carbs in this _______?" like potato chips!! hahahaha)

                              I don't have a problem with the complex carbs. It's the simple ones that Americans in general seem to go out of control on, and those cause the biggest problems.

                              I think a balanced, healthy diet with an occasional splurge is ok for most healthy people. If some people find that in a low-carb program, good for them. But I, like you, am glad to see that there's conversation and not attack. No adults should have to explain why they've chosen a particular dietary regimine. (My mom gets attacked by people for being a vegetarian. Why is it their business?!) I'm not big on fad diets, but some of the less radical ones can be lifetime and healthy. I think if someone found one that works for him, no one else should bug him about it. I simply prefer to do mine without a "fad" guide. I was doing low carb before it was "the thing." It could be a pain finding certain foods, especially at restaurants. It's really been nice that it has become a fad thing because selections (whole wheat pasta, for instance) are much nicer when a great portion of the country is demanding it!

                              I get the eye-rolls & lectures when I'm being diligent with my diet (which I am not, unfortunately, often enough). Bully for them if they can eat whatever they want whenever they want in any quantities they want. I can't, and I recognize that. I don't understand why some people feel the need to lecture & criticize others. I mean, if I were trying to convert them to a low-carb diet, I'd be asking for it. But I'm ordering my meal, minding my own business, and they can order whatever they want, no lectures or comments from either side. Why can't it be that simple?!

                              1. re: luv2bake

                                LOL about the diet book! Remember when "diet plates" at the diner used to be a plain hamburger patty & cottage cheese on lettuce? (In the 80's, that was generally amended to include a pear half.)

                                Each of the "community" cookbooks I inherited from my Grandmother (ok, I begged her for them long before she passed on because they are SO fun to read!) has a recipe for "diabetic" meatloaf - which uses no bread.

                                BTW, they're lecturing & criticizing because they're "RIGHT." ;-)

                                1. re: shanagain

                                  THAT restaurant, with THAT diet plate is the NEW restaurant in my grandparent's town... and they RAVE about it. Of course, grandpa, who eats his poached egg on toast, didn't change a thing when we had cinnamon toast.

                                  1. re: shanagain

                                    They're right?! Yay - does that give me permission to eat whatever, whenever, and how-much-ever I want? Thank you, shanagain! I'm headed to the kitchen to bake a German Chocolate Cake right now and promptly devour! :)

                                    PS Can I have the doctor call you when I've gained weight & my sugar is thru the roof? hahaha

                                    1. re: luv2bake

                                      :::snort::: They're not MY "food-pyramid-accepted" rules, Luv, don't blame me!

                                      BTW, I think you and I are in the same boat... love to bake, hate the extra weight & other misc. effects from a higher carb diet. It stinks, doesn't it? There's nothing I enjoy making for my family than bread (except enchiladas - those are supremely satisfying to make for some reason) but then I either "can't" eat it, or feel guilty because I have.

                                      Some days I'd rather be fat and unhealthy than know that carbs don't sit well with me. At least back then I could b*tch and moan about how "there was no fat on that bread, or butter on my french toast with syrup so why am I still gaining weight and have high cholesterol?"

                                      Ignorance really was bliss. (If you've ever decided that yes, pork rinds can indeed be ground into 'flour' to make an excellent 'french toast/pancake' recipe, you might just know what I mean by ignorant bliss.)

                                      You know, parentheses aside, here's a funny thing - you really can make an absurdly good "french toast" with pork rinds, and if you've ever had salmon croquettes from canned salmon, I can blow your mind with a better version using ground pork rinds instead of corn meal/bread crumbs. Crazy - and I bet Anthony Bourdain would rather eat warthog butt than admit pork rinds can be used as an ingredient. ;-)

                              2. I severely cut back on refined sugar a couple of years ago, and for myself, I taste it most heavily in commercial salad dressings. Sugar or corn syrup is the second or third ingredient is most bottled dressings.

                                Actually, although I do use actual sugar (or more often honey or maple syrup) when I am using a sweetener in cooking, I very rarely use artificial sweeteners now. I did when I first started cutting back, but my taste buds adjusted, and now in the once in a while I need a sweetener, I'd rather use the real thing.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: sidwich

                                  Ken's Steakhouse dressing - Balsamic & Basil Vinaigrette is really good. My latest really good, anyhow, if you need store-bought. It's got a gram of sugar per 2 Tablespoons.

                                  1. re: luv2bake

                                    I haven't bought salad dressing in a very long time but I do remember Ken's being very, very good about not having sugar where it didn't belong.

                                    That said, I can't eat dressed salads in restaurants now unless it's oil and vinegar, because everyone uses the Giant Tub O' Dressing which I swear is half sugar. After the better part of a decade making dressing (usually shallot, mustard, vinegar or lemon, and oil, with salt, pepper and herbs) it ALL tastes sweet.

                                2. Reading through this thread I see two distinct points: 1) the actual sweet taste introduced by sugar, which is aversive to some, and b) the problem of carbs in general, which includes the use of refined flour etc.. I can't imagine what people did before retail food products were required to carry nutritional labeling---it's essential to give careful attention to these labels. In addition, I recommend Trader Joe's for a number of products on their own label that are more reasonably constructed than much of the mainstream stuff. In general, beware of fruit juice, which is a pot of sugar but seldom provides fruit's fiber to slow down metabolism of the carbs, and ready-to-eat cereal, virtually all of which has a shameful amount of sugar. Read nutritional labels not as a habit but as a compulsion. BTW google "USDA Nutrient Database" for a comprehensive searchable tool.

                                  1. When people who have been eating poor mainstream diets tell me they are trying to improve by choosing sugar-free and low-fat alternatives, I warn them to read the ingredients because low-fat items are so often high in sugar, and sugar-free foods tend to be high in fats. Increasingly we see ridiculous laudatory claims, such as I did today on a box of fresh berries boldly advertised "Fat Free!". What's next, "fat-free" spring water and "sugar-free oil?" Actually, we could use a lot more of the latter in the salad dressing aisle, especially since women in the U.S. get as much as 50% of their calories from salad dressing that contains HFCS.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: BellaCalabrese

                                      I picked up a loaf of Sara Lee "heart-healthy" bread the other day and looked at the ingredients. HFCS was like the third one. Why is this necessary? They actually offer another alternative that says it's low sugar, and it doesn't have any HFCS, it's whole grain, and sugar is way down the ingredient list. But it doesn't say "heart-healthy." So people who shouldn't be eating HFCS are, if they don't read the label.

                                    2. I'm a serious label-reader. Takes me forever at the grocer. I'll bet other shoppers think I'm nuts, but do I care? If you do it right, you end up with food that tastes so much better anyhow!

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: luv2bake

                                        I actually bought a dedicated pair of reading glasses in a prescription stronger than normal so that I could read the super small print they generally use for ingredients. When I know I'm going to be doing a lot of exploring for new items, I make sure to go to the market at the least busy hours; having a 24-hour Safeway nearby helps on that score.

                                        I searched the web to find a comprehensive list of foods containing HFCS; the best list I could find was from 2005, but it's still interesting: http://www.accidentalhedonist.com/ Click on the HFCS Product List link on the left.

                                        1. re: luv2bake

                                          This is why I cook, and why I cook from whole ingredients -- you wouldn't BELIEVE the stuff sugar gets into. Why on EARTH does alfredo sauce need any sugar? Or -- this one KILLED me -- you know the prepared tuna salad at the market? SUGAR!

                                          I like sugar -- don't get me wrong, I'd rather stir a packet of sugar into coffee than a packet of Splenda, which I swear makes me moody -- but keeping it where it belongs (desserts) is a real challenge.

                                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                            I no longer trust anything much unless I can learn the ingredients. Makes eating out less exciting, though occasionally I live dangerously if it seems irresistible or there are no appealing alternatives, figuring I can afford it since I otherwise eat so healthfully.

                                            Coffee is the only thing I use sugar in at home. It's really the single beverage I truly love, and I haven't found any other sweetener that doesn't distort the taste in a way that makes it not worth drinking. But the fact that I do like it sweet has made me limit myself to a cup or two, unlike the old days when I'd swig it down from dawn till dusk!

                                        2. I agree that the use of sugar is far too common in processed foods and in much of the fare served at restaurants--particularly if the restaurant is of the "chain" variety. A couple of months ago, my SO and I had dinner at Maggiano's (overpriced, with obesity-inducing portion sizes), and I found that the Minestrone was as sweet as a dessert. A soup that is made with a variety of vegetables should have more than enough taste on its own, so that the addition of an alien ingredient, like sugar, is not necessary.

                                          While we're on the topic of sugar being added to restaurant food, what about the astronomically high sodium levels of so many restaurant dishes? When I eat a restaurant meal, I frequently find that the sodium levels border on the distasteful. Maggiano's was definitely in that category, so it makes me wonder about their food if the management thinks that a huge amount of sugar and salt is necessary for it to taste good.

                                          All in all, if one wants to avoid ridiculous amounts of sugar and salt in his diet, it is a good idea to prepare the food yourself, at home. And, if that is not possible, try to avoid the chain restaurants whenever possible. A Mom & Pop place may be less likely to overload everything with sugar and salt--particularly if you specify that you don't want your food prepared that way.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: Ted in Central NJ

                                            Salt is the next frontier for me, having tried and failed to cut back over the years. I sampled a few salt substitutes and spice alternatives that didn't cut it. But switching to the milder Kosher salt, as a result of some other Chowhound posts, has been a step in the right direction toward reducing salt cravings.

                                            But I guess I'm now digressing to what should rightfully be a new post, another helpful healthful topic for 'hounds.

                                          2. Avoiding HFCS is an easy way to avoid lousy food in general. They use it because it is cheap.

                                            Sugar is a seasoning, not a main ingredient. To me, a possible spoonful in a soup, sauce or stew is part of "adjusting the seasoning."

                                            How people consume artificial sweetener is one of the greatest mysteries I know. It has always tasted toxic to me.

                                            1. Said it above, and I'll say it again (as many of you have implied or stated): stay away from processed foods and you solve most of the problem. Basically the only sugar--besides naturally occuring--we consume comes from what we add as sugar in what I prepare.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                                                I'm discovering how bad it's got, as we're packing to move -- since I only have one pot at the moment, I was going to try and take some 'shortcuts' with things like jarred pasta sauce.

                                                Forget it. No. I'll unpack the damn box so I can have a second pot to make sauce in.