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KIND Calls Out Food Industry for Hidden Sugar Content

KIND Calls Out Food Industry for Hidden Sugar Content

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“We aren’t trying to demonize sugar but make sure companies are being transparent.”

Snack bar maker KIND launched a campaign on Wednesday urging other members of the food industry to be more transparent in disclosing the sugar content and sweeteners used in their products.

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The site’s National Snacking Index also lists the sugar content and sweeteners used in of dozens of KIND's competitors: Popular brands of snack bars, cereal, granola, and yogurt, as well as their own products. This may be the most surprising information to those who view many of these foods as healthy.

“We aren’t trying to demonize sugar but make sure companies are being transparent,” Keri Glassman RD, a nutritionist for KIND, told Cooking Light. “Even educated consumers can still get tripped up by the multitude of sweeteners out there. We just want to make sure consumers can make an informed decision—whether that’s finding a healthy snack or enjoying an occasional sweet treat.”

Looking through the multitude of sweeteners listed on the site can feel overwhelming: Caramel and honey are easy to spot, but what about lucuma or sucrovert? Glassman acknowledges it isn’t really easy to put together a list of the worst ones, but advises steering clear of high fructose corn syrup and any artificial sweeteners when possible.

Interested in learning more about the different types of sweeteners out there?

Glassman notes artificial sweeteners are especially deceiving, as a nutrition label may not necessarily disclose how much of an artificial sweetener is added to a product, and they can still be present in products advertising "zero grams of sugar” on the label.

While a product with artificial sweeteners may seem like a better choice, even naturally derived artificial sweeteners produce an insulin response that makes you hungry later on (or crave the actual sugar your body was tricked into thinking it was consuming), and it can even disrupt your microbiome.

KIND’s products are indeed made with a variety of added sugars, but Bridgit Kasperski, Integrated Communications Specialist for KIND, says the sweeteners the company chooses to use in their foods are as natural as possible and claims they are less processed than other varieties. Some of the sweeteners the company uses are cane sugar, molasses, brown rice syrup, and honey—which Kasperski said is also useful as a natural preservative.

However, whether you’re using a natural source of added sugar, such as organic brown rice syrup or a more processed source like refined table sugar, one really isn’t healthier than the other.

“Sugar is sugar to your body,” says Cooking Light’s nutrition editor Lisa Valente MS, RD. “So while some less refined sweeteners, like maple syrup, have antioxidants—your body is processing them the same way.”

Once sugar reaches your small intestine—regardless if it’s honey or cane sugar—the body will store it as fat if there is too much sugar in your system at once. The only major benefit you’re getting from the natural options is missing out on some of the artificial ingredients that often go into refined sugar products.

The exception here is whole fruit, because it doesn’t contain added sugars—the sugar is naturally occurring. Most whole fruit provides a good source of fiber (which balances out the sugar) and some essential vitamins and minerals as well. Adding whole fruit to a snack bar as a sweetener instead of a sugar, syrup, or other form of sweetener actually slows down digestion due to its fiber content, making it the best choice for curbing your sweet tooth.

While understanding sugar content isn’t easy, Glassman says to look at the product as a whole when deciding if it’s healthy or not. She says nutrition facts are only one side of the story, as knowing the ingredients is just as vital.

This is good advice, and one that's mildly contradicted in the KIND campaign media. For example, one of their infographics notes that Larabars have a sugar content similar to a serving of Oreos. However, the sugar content comes primarily from the natural sugar in dates (the first ingredient), whereas the Oreos contain table sugar and high fructose corn syrup.

In 2016 KIND became the first major snack brand to publish added sugar content, and last month the company petitioned the FDA to change current nutrition label regulations to emphasize nutrient quality over quantity. Glassman says that as more and more people are eating processed, packaged foods, there need to be policies to protect the consumer and help them make better choices—and she hopes this campaign empowers consumers to do just that.

Our nutritionist agrees that making good choices is important, but wishes the campaign was a little clearer. “Sugar is just one nutrient, and it's important to be mindful of how much you're consuming.” says Valente. “I don't love that this campaign includes dates and milk sugar lumped into one because added sugar and natural sugar aren't the same. I wouldn't compare an apple to a pile of gummy bears.”

The current USDA dietary guidelines advise consuming no more than 10 percent of daily calories from added sugars, and the AHA recommends capping added sugar intake at six teaspoons for women and nine for men. Fruit sugar isn’t included in this category, as it is naturally present in the fruit itself and should be considered healthy when eaten 1-3 times a day, as advised by our dietary guidelines.

High-fiber whole fruits, such as apples, can actually help promote satiety and keep you full until the next meal—unlike sugary packaged foods, which spike blood sugar and leave you feeling hungry a few hours later.

Bottom Line: “Sugar tastes good, but it doesn’t fill you up or provide important nutrition the way other snack foods might,” Valente says. “Opting for nutrient-dense snack foods can help you stay satisfied and limiting sneaky added sugars in your diet helps make room for real treats that you can enjoy—like a brownie.”

Inside the food industry: the surprising truth about what you eat

O n a bright, cold day in late November 2013, I found myself in the dark, eerie, indoor expanses of Frankfurt’s Blade Runner-like Festhalle Messe. I was there undercover, to attend an annual trade show called Food Ingredients. This three-day exhibition hosts the world’s most important gathering of ingredients suppliers, distributors and buyers. In 2011, when it was held in Paris, more than 23,000 visitors attended from 154 countries, collectively representing a buying power of €4bn (£2.97bn). Think of it as the food manufacturers’ equivalent of an arms fair. It is not open to the public. Anyone who tries to register has to show that they work in food manufacturing I used a fake ID.

While exhibitors at most food exhibitions are often keen for you to taste their products, few standholders here had anything instantly edible to offer. Those that did weren’t all that they seemed. Canapé-style cubes of white cheese dusted with herbs and spices sat under a bistro-style blackboard that nonchalantly read “Feta, with Glucono-Delta-Lactone” (a “cyclic ester of gluconic acid” that prolongs shelf life).

A pastry chef in gleaming whites rounded off his live demonstration by offering sample petits fours to the buyers who had gathered. His dainty heart- and diamond-shaped cakes were dead ringers for those neat layers of sponge, glossy fruit jelly, cream and chocolate you see in the windows of upmarket patisseries, but were made entirely without eggs, butter or cream, thanks to the substitution of potato protein isolate. This revolutionary ingredient provides the “volume, texture, stability and mouthfeel” we look for in cakes baked with traditional ingredients – and it just happens to be cheaper.

This is the goal of the wares on show, something the marketing messages make clear. The strapline for a product called Butter Buds®, described by its makers as “an enzyme-modified encapsulated butter flavour that has as much as 400 times the flavour intensity of butter”, sums it up in six words: “When technology meets nature, you save.”

Exhibitors’ stands were arranged like art installations. Gleaming glass shelves were back-lit to show off a rainbow of super-sized phials of liquids so bright with colouring, they might be neon. Plates of various powders, shaped into pyramids, were stacked on elegant Perspex stands bearing enigmatic labels – “texturised soy protein: minced ham colour,” read one.

Manufacturers who need their tomato sauce to be thick enough not to leak out of its plastic carton – and just a little bit glossy, so that it doesn’t look matt and old after several days in the fridge – were sold the advantages of Microlys®, a “cost-effective” speciality starch that gives “shiny, smooth surface and high viscosity”, or Pulpiz™, Tate & Lyle’s tomato “pulp extender”. Based on modified starch, it gives the same pulpy visual appeal as an all-tomato sauce, while using 25% less tomato paste.

The broad business portfolio of the companies exhibiting at Food Ingredients was disconcerting. Omya, based in Hamburg, described itself as “a leading global chemical distributor and producer of industrial minerals”, supplying markets in food, pet food, oleochemicals, cosmetics, detergents, cleaners, papers, adhesives, construction, plastics and industrial chemicals. At Frankfurt, Omya was selling granular onion powder, monosodium glutamate and phosphoric acid. For big companies such as this, food processing is just another revenue stream. They experience no cognitive dissonance in providing components not only for your meal, but also for your fly spray, scratch-resistant car coating, paint or glue. The conference was the domain of people whose natural environment is the laboratory and the factory, not the kitchen, the farm or the field people who share the assumption that everything nature can do, man can do so much better, and more profitably.

Tired after hours of walking round the fair, and, uncharacteristically, not feeling hungry, I sought refuge at a stand displaying cut-up fruits and vegetables it felt good to see something natural, something instantly recognisable as food. But why did the fruit have dates, several weeks past, beside them? A salesman for Agricoat told me that they had been dipped in one of its solutions, NatureSeal, which, because it contains citric acid along with other unnamed ingredients, adds 21 days to their shelf life. Treated in this way, carrots don’t develop that telltale white that makes them look old, cut apples don’t turn brown, pears don’t become translucent, melons don’t ooze and kiwis don’t collapse into a jellied mush a dip in NatureSeal leaves salads “appearing fresh and natural”.

For the salesman, this preparation was a technical triumph, a boon to caterers who would otherwise waste unsold food. There was a further benefit: NatureSeal is classed as a processing aid, not an ingredient, so there’s no need to declare it on the label, no obligation to tell consumers that their “fresh” fruit salad is weeks old.

Somehow, I couldn’t share the salesman’s enthusiasm. Had I eaten “fresh” fruit salads treated in this way? Maybe I had bought a tub on a station platform or at a hotel buffet breakfast? It dawned on me that, while I never knowingly eat food with ingredients I don’t recognise, I had probably consumed many of the “wonder products” on show here. Over recent years, they have been introduced slowly and artfully into foods that many of us eat every day – in canteens, cafeterias, pubs, hotels, restaurants and takeaways.

Food engineers can now create a ‘natural’ mature cheese flavouring within 72 hours. Photograph: Franck Allais/The Guardian

You might find it all too easy to resist the lure of a turkey drummer, a ready meal, a “fruit” drink or a pappy loaf of standard white bread. You might check labels for E numbers and strange-sounding ingredients, boycotting the most obvious forms of processed food. And yet you will still find it hard to avoid the 6,000 food additives – flavourings, glazing agents, improvers, bleaching agents and more – that are routinely employed behind the scenes of contemporary food manufacture. That upmarket cured ham and salami, that “artisan” sourdough loaf, that “traditional” extra-mature cheddar, those luxurious Belgian chocolates, those speciality coffees and miraculous probiotic drinks, those apparently inoffensive bottles of cooking oil: many have had a more intimate relationship with food manufacturing than we appreciate.

When you try to dig deeper, you hit a wall of secrecy. For at least the past decade, the big manufacturing companies have kept a low profile, hiding behind the creed of commercial confidentiality, claiming they can’t reveal their recipes because of competition. Instead, they leave it to retailers to field any searching questions from journalists or consumers. In turn, retailers drown you in superfluous, mainly irrelevant material. The most persistent inquirers may be treated to an off-the-peg customer reply from corporate HQ, a bland, non-specific reassurance such as, “Every ingredient in this product conforms to quality assurance standards, EU regulations, additional protocols based on the tightest international requirements, and our own demanding specification standards.”

I spent years knocking on closed doors, and became frustrated by how little I knew about contemporary food production. What happens on the farm and out in the fields is passably well-policed and transparent. Abattoirs undergo regular inspections, including from the occasional undercover reporter from a vigilante animal welfare group, armed with a video camera. My growing preoccupation was instead just how little we really know about the food that sits on our supermarket shelves, in boxes, cartons and bottles – food that has had something done to it to make it more convenient and ready to eat.

Eventually, contacts within the industry provided me with a cover that allowed me to gain unprecedented access to manufacturing facilities, as well as to subscriber-only areas of company sites, private spaces where the chemical industry tells manufacturers how our food can be engineered. Even with 25 years of food chain investigations under my belt, it was an eye-opener.

Anything that comes in a box, tin, bag, carton or bottle has to bear a label listing its contents, and many of us have become experts at reading these labels. But many of the additives and ingredients that once jumped out as fake and unfathomable have quietly disappeared. Does this mean that their contents have improved? In some cases, yes, but there is an alternative explanation. Over the past few years, the food industry has embarked on an operation it dubs “clean label”, with the goal of removing the most glaring industrial ingredients and additives, replacing them with substitutes that sound altogether more benign. Some companies have reformulated their products in a genuine, wholehearted way, replacing ingredients with substitutes that are less problematic. Others, unconvinced that they can pass the cost on to retailers and consumers, have turned to a novel range of cheaper substances that allow them to present a scrubbed and rosy face to the public.

Imagine you are standing in the supermarket. Maybe you usually buy some cured meat for an antipasti. Picking up a salami, even the most guarded shopper might relax when they see rosemary extract on the ingredients list – but rosemary extracts are actually “clean-label” substitutes for the old guard of techie-sounding antioxidants (E300-21), such as butylhydroxyanisole (BHA) and butylhydroxytoluene (BHT). Food manufacturers use them to slow down the rate at which foods go rancid, so extending their shelf life.

Rosemary extracts don’t always have to carry an E number (E392), but the more poetic addition of “extract of rosemary” makes it sound like a lovingly made ingredient – especially if that salami is also labelled as natural or organic. And the extract does have something to do with the herb, usually in its dried form. The herb’s antioxidant chemicals are isolated in an extraction procedure that “deodorises” them, removing any rosemary taste and smell. Extraction is done by using either carbon dioxide or chemical solvents – hexane (derived from the fractional distillation of petroleum), ethanol and acetone. Neutral-tasting rosemary extract is then sold to manufacturers, usually in the form of a brownish powder. Its connection with the freshly cut, green and pungent herb we know and love is fairly remote.

Not sure what to have for dinner? How about a chicken noodle dish? If you noticed that it contained an amino acid such as L-cysteine E910, your enthusiasm might wane, especially if you happen to know that this additive can be derived from animal and human hair. But a range of new-wave yeast extracts is increasingly replacing E910. One supplier markets its wares as “a variety of pre-composed, ready-to-use products that provide the same intensity as our classical process flavours but are labelled as all-natural. Ingredients are available in chicken and beef flavour, with roasted or boiled varieties, as well as white meat and dark roast.” All can be labelled as “yeast extract” – a boon for manufacturers, because yeast extracts have a healthy image as a rich source of B vitamins. Less well known is the fact that yeast extract has a high concentration of the amino acid glutamate, from which monosodium glutamate – better known as MSG, one of the most shunned additives – is derived.

What else is in your basket? Suppose you are eyeing up a pot of something temptingly called a “chocolate cream dessert”. You read the ingredients: whole milk, sugar (well, there had to be some), cream, cocoa powder and dark chocolate. It all sounds quite upmarket, but then your urge to buy falters as you notice three feel-bad ingredients.

This is the domain of people whose natural environment is the laboratory, not the kitchen people who share the assumption that everything nature can do, man can do so much better and more profitably. Photograph: Franck Allais/The Guardian

The first is carrageenan (E407), a setting agent derived from seaweed that has been linked with ulcers and gastrointestinal cancer. It is now regarded in food industry circles as an “ideally not” (to be included) additive. The second of these worrying ingredients is a modified starch (E1422), or to give it its full chemical name, acetylated distarch adipate. It started off as a simple starch, but has been chemically altered to increase its water-holding capacity and tolerance for the extreme temperatures and physical pressures of industrial-scale processing. The third problematic ingredient is gelatine. This is anathema to observant Muslims, Jews and vegetarians, and even secular omnivores may be wondering what this by-product of pig skin is doing in their pudding.

Fortunately for the manufacturers of your chocolate cream dessert, there is a Plan B. They can remove all three offending items, and replace them with a more sophisticated type of “functional flour”, hydrothermally extracted from cereals, that will do the same job, but without the need for E numbers.

Another possibility for cleaning up this dessert would be to use a “co-texturiser”, something that would cost-effectively deliver the necessary thick and creamy indulgence factor. Texturisers, just like modified starches, are based on highly processed, altered starch designed to withstand high-pressure manufacturing – but because they are obligingly classified by food regulators as a “functional native starch”, they can be labelled simply as “starch”. Again, no E numbers. So, out come two additives and one ingredient that many people avoid, to be replaced by a single new-generation ingredient, one that is opaque in its formulation (proprietary secrets and all that) but which won’t trigger consumer alarm.

The history of food processing is littered with ingredients that were initially presented as safer and more desirable, yet subsequently outed as the opposite. Hydrogenated vegetable oils, or margarine, were actively promoted as healthier than the natural saturated fats in butter. High fructose corn syrup, once marketed as preferable to sugar, has now been identified as a key driver of the obesity epidemic in the US.

Is the clean-label campaign a heart-and-soul effort by manufacturers to respond to our desire for more wholesome food? Or just a self-interested substitution exercise? The lines are deliberately blurred: as one executive in a leading supply company put it, “Ingredients that give the impression that they originated in a grandmother’s kitchen and have not been processed too harshly are of great appeal to consumers.” Meanwhile, there is no evidence that manufacturers are using greater quantities of the real, natural ingredients consumers want. Clean labelling looks less like a thorough spring clean of factory food than a superficial tidy-up, with the most embarrassing mess stuffed in the cupboard behind a firmly shut door – where, hopefully, no one will notice.

From water-injected poultry and powdered coagulated egg, to ultra-adhesive batters and pre-mixed marinades, the raw materials in industrial food manufacturing are rarely straightforward. In fact, they commonly share quite complicated back stories of processing and intervention that their labels don’t reveal.

In the same way that you will never see a stray onion skin lying around a ready-meals factory, you’re extremely unlikely to see an eggshell, either. Eggs are supplied to food manufacturers in powders, with added sugar, for instance, or as albumen-only special “high gel” products for whipping. Liquid eggs will be pasteurised, yolk only, whites only, frozen or chilled, or with “extended shelf life” (one month) – whichever is easiest. They may be liquid, concentrated, dried, crystallised, frozen, quick frozen or coagulated. Manufacturers can also buy in handy pre-cooked, ready-shelled eggs for manufacturing products such as Scotch eggs and egg mayonnaise, or eggs pre-formed into 300g cylinders or tubes, so that each egg slice is identical and there are no rounded ends.

These hard-boiled, tubular eggs are snapped up by sandwich-making companies. Manufacturers can also take their pick from bespoke egg mixes, which are ready to use in everything from quiches and croissants to glossy golden pastry glazes and voluminous meringues. And there is always the cheaper option of using “egg replacers” made from fractionated whey proteins (from milk). No hurry to use them up: they have a shelf life of 18 months.

The food industry has embarked on ‘operation clean label’ – removing the most glaring industrial ingredients and replacing them with substitutes that sound natural and benign. Photograph: Franck Allais

Food engineers can now create a “natural” mature cheese flavouring by blending young, immature cheese with enzymes (lipases or proteases) that intensify the cheese flavour until it reaches “maturity” – within 24 to 72 hours. This mature cheese flavouring is then heat-treated to halt enzymatic activity. Hey, presto: mature-tasting cheese in days rather than months. (Traditional cheddar is not considered truly mature until it has spent between nine and 24 months in the maturing room.)

A factory pantry looks nothing like yours. When the home cook decides to make a Bakewell tart, she or he puts together a lineup of familiar ingredients: raspberry jam, flour, butter, whole eggs, almonds, butter and sugar. The factory food technologist, on the other hand, approaches the tart from a totally different angle: what alternative ingredients can we use to create a Bakewell tart-style product, while replacing or reducing expensive ingredients – those costly nuts, butter and berries? How can we cut the amount of butter, yet boost that buttery flavour, while disguising the addition of cheaper fats? What sweeteners can we add to lower the tart’s blatant sugar content and justify a “reduced calorie” label? How many times can we reuse the pastry left over from each production run in subsequent ones? What antioxidants could we throw into the mix to prolong the tart’s shelf life? Which enzyme would keep the almond sponge layer moist for longer? Might we use a long-life raspberry purée and gel mixture instead of conventional jam? What about coating the almond sponge layer with an invisible edible film that would keep the almonds crunchy for weeks? Could we substitute some starch for a proportion of the flour to give a more voluminously risen result? And so on.

We all eat prepared foods made using state-of-the-art technology, mostly unwittingly, either because the ingredients don’t have to be listed on the label, or because weasel words such as “flour” and “protein”, peppered with liberal use of the adjective “natural”, disguise their production method. And we don’t know what this novel diet might be doing to us.

A disturbing 60% of the UK population is overweight a quarter of us are obese. Are we leaping to an unjustified conclusion when we lay a significant part of the blame for obesity, chronic disease and the dramatic rise in reported food allergies at the door of processed food? There are several grounds for examining this connection.

Food manufacturers combine ingredients that do not occur in natural food, notably the trilogy of sugar, processed fat and salt, in their most quickly digested, highly refined, nutrient-depleted forms. The official line – that the chemicals involved pose no risk to human health when ingested in small quantities – is scarcely reassuring. Safe limits for consumption of these agents are based on statistical assumptions, often provided by companies who make the additives.

Manufactured foods often contain chemicals with known toxic properties – although, again, we are reassured that, at low levels, this is not a cause for concern. This comforting conclusion is the foundation of modern toxicology, and is drawn from the 16th-century Swiss physician, Paracelsus, whose theory “the dose makes the poison” (ie, a small amount of a poison does you no harm) is still the dogma of contemporary chemical testing. But when Paracelsus sat down to eat, his diet wasn’t composed of takeaways and supermarket reheats he didn’t quench his thirst with canned soft drinks. Nor was he exposed to synthetic chemicals as we are now, in traffic fumes, in pesticides, in furnishings and much more. Real world levels of exposure to toxic chemicals are not what they were during the Renaissance. The processed food industry has an ignoble history of actively defending its use of controversial ingredients long after well-documented, subsequently validated, suspicions have been aired.

The precautionary principle doesn’t seem to figure prominently in the industry’s calculations, nor – such is their lobbying power – does it loom large in the deliberations of food regulators. If it did, then steering clear of manufactured products would be a lot easier.

The pace of food engineering innovation means that more complex creations with ever more opaque modes of production are streaming on to the market every day. Just last month, a dossier for a new line of dairy proteins dropped into my mailbox. Alongside a photo of a rustic-looking, golden pan loaf, the explanation read: “Many bakers are now turning to permeates, a rather new ingredient in the food ingredients market. Permeate is a co-product of the production of whey protein concentrate (WPC), whey protein isolate (WPI), ultrafiltered milk, milk protein concentrate (MPC), or milk protein isolate (MPI).”

Permeate, apparently, “contributes to the browning of baked goods” and produces bread that “retains its softness for a longer period of time and extends shelf life”. How clever. But I would prefer that my bread was browned solely from the application of heat. I’m prepared to accept that it will stale over time, rather than eat something that owes its existence to ingredients and technologies to which I am not privy, cannot interrogate and so can never truly understand. Am I about to hand over all control of bread, or anything else I eat, to the chemical industry’s food engineers? Not without a fight.

10 Best Brown Sugar Substitutes That'll Taste Just as Sweet

Borrowing a cup of sugar from a neighbor is easier said than done&mdashespecially these days&mdashand when you&rsquore right in the middle of baking Ree Drummond's delectable Brown Sugar Oatmeal Cookies, the last thing you want is to run out of the star ingredient. But we all know that things happen: Maybe you forgot to buy a backup bag of brown sugar, or perhaps you have some stashed in the back of your pantry that&rsquos turned into a rock-hard mass. But don't worry&mdashthat&rsquos where these best brown sugar substitutes come in handy. These swaps are so easy to make that you can get back to baking without running to the store or bothering your neighbors. Depending on what you're making, you may want to choose one sub over the other, but the good news is that there&rsquos a brown sugar alternative for just about any recipe. Whether you're baking a batch of Monster Cookies, crisping up some candied bacon, making a sticky monkey bread, or preparing a sweet-and-savory BBQ sauce, these brown sugar substitutes will save the day.

What makes brown sugar so special, anyway? Aside from adding sweetness, the moisture from brown sugar is what gives cookies their classic chewy quality. The packable sugar provides baked goods with richness and a soft texture, but here's a little secret: Brown sugar is actually just regular sugar mixed with molasses!

Recipes usually call for either dark brown sugar or light brown sugar. The difference is just the amount of molasses. With light brown sugar, there&rsquos about 3.5% molasses compared to the 6.5% in dark brown sugar. That means that dark brown sugar tends to have a slightly stronger caramel flavor (perfect for gingerbread cookies). Luckily, if you&rsquore in a pinch, the two sugars can be used interchangeably. The other route is to use one of these sugar alternatives. You&rsquoll find common pantry substitutes, healthy new ingredients, and even a recipe to make your own brown sugar&mdashthe options are plentiful!

Nutrition per 18.5 fl oz bottle, 547 mL: 180 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 46 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 46 g sugar, 0 g protein
Nutrition per 408 mL: 134 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 34.3 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 34.3 g sugar, 0 g protein

You stop at Whole Foods on your way home from the gym, and your eyes catch sight of that chilled, refreshing bottle of iced tea near the checkout counter. "You might be justifying your purchase because tea is rich in free-radical-fighting antioxidants, but that doesn't mean all teas are created equal," says Kelly Choi, author of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse. Downing just one of Pure Leaf's generously-portioned bottles can drain your daily recommended sugar intake. If you can't fight the urge for a fruity-flavored tea, go with Tazo's Berryblossom White tea—it boasts the lowest amount of added sugar in a pre-packaged fruity tea—but picking a plain green tea with no added sugar will be your best weight loss buddy.

Friendly's Clam Strips Platter

Courtesy of Friendly's

Unless you're getting ready to host a party or split this for the table, there's no rhyme or reason to ever order a menu item that contains the word "platter." More often than not it's code for "way too many calories, carbs, and fat." Don't believe us? This bland bowl of beige serves you more fat than six servings of McDonald's greasy, oil-coated French fries.

Soft Peaks, Not Stiff Peaks

Remember, whip the egg whites into soft peaks. (Pictured above.) Soft peaks don’t hold a stiff shape. Instead, they “wilt” back into the mixture after a few seconds. Soft peaks are the optimum consistency because they’ll continue to expand in the oven. Stiff peaks, on the other hand, means that the egg whites have been over-whipped for angel food cake and will likely collapse in the oven.

Important to remember: Don’t let a drop of egg yolks into the mixing bowl. Any lingering fat could prevent the egg whites from forming peaks at all. Crack eggs over an egg separator into a small bowl, then add the whites one-by-one into the mixing bowl. This way if the yolk breaks, it doesn’t break directly in the mixing bowl.

Sift the dry ingredients over the beaten egg whites in a few additions, gently folding together after each addition. The goal is to retain as much of the whipped volume as possible. Pouring the dry ingredients on top all at once will quickly deflate the egg whites.

How To Decide Baking Temperature When a Recipe Doesn't Mention It

You can't just close your eyes, turn the dial to 350 degrees, and pull out your goods after 30 minutes. Baking is a science. There are several solvable variables that determine baking times for your cookies, cakes, and baguettes. The kitchen lab coats at Stack Exchange offer advice on oven use when your recipe is only half baked.


On what factors do temperature settings depend?

For example: How much hotter or cooler do I have to set the oven for plain cake vs. banana cake?

Answer: Find a Balance

Cooking temperature and time are determined by a number of factors. The idea is to get the inside of the product properly cooked before the outside dries out, becomes tough, or becomes unpleasantly dark or even burned. At the same time, you usually want the product to get nicely browned (adds flavor and looks nice) before the inside is overcooked. So it's about finding a balance.

Factors which influence appropriate temperature and time include:

- Ingredients: High protein ingredients (like meat or eggs) easily become tough when overcooked. High sugar or starch recipes will tend to brown or burn more easily.

- Moisture level: For some products, such as popovers or many kinds of pastry, steam is an important leavening agent, and a high temperature is called for. In other products, like cookies, one of the goals of baking is to drive off excess moisture. And in still others, moisture is absorbed into the other ingredients.

- Shape: A fat, round loaf will usually need a longer cooking time and lower temperature than a thin, flat pizza or a long, skinny baguette because it takes longer for the center of the loaf to heat up. ( See how to make a cake lift equally .)

- pH: Changing the pH of the product will change how it browns.

- Leavening: Some chemical leavening, like double-acting baking powder, activates at a certain temperature.

- Personal preference: At the end of the day, the most important factor is whether you like the way the product turned out. If you like a crispier crust, change the temperature and/or cooking time to suit your taste.

Any baking recipe should specify the temperature and cooking time, unless perhaps it's from a book that specifies those things for a number of recipes at once. If not, find a similar recipe and use the temperature specified there, but keep a close eye on the product during the baking process. Learn how to tell when the product is done. For cakes, go by color for the outside, and by temperature or using a toothpick or wooden skewer for the inside.

And then there's the toothpick trick ( and a few alternative doneness tricks ): poke a wooden toothpick into the center of a cake if it comes out with wet batter, keep cooking if it comes out clean and dry, it's probably overcooked if it comes out with a few crumbs stuck to it, it's probably perfect.

Answer: It's All About Sugar

When determining baking temperature, always consider sugar content. The crust color of any baked good from cakes to breads to biscuits is a result of the caramelization of sugars on the surface of the product. The higher the sugar content, the lower the temperature should be.

For example, when I make banana bread, I bake at 350 F (177 C). If the bananas I use are very ripe (high in sugar), I knock the temperature down.

In essence, you want to make sure that the entire product bakes through before you burn the surface.

Also, a good rule of thumb is that cakes are lower temp (high in sugar)—around 325-350 F.

Yeast goods like lean french breads (yeast goods lower in sugar, that is)—you want at least 400, otherwise you get a very ugly light crust color. A higher sugar yeast product like a cinnamon roll would bake around 370.

And it does matter what kind of sugar you use when baking.

Answer: Use Caution

If you are looking at a recipe, and you're not sure about baking time or temperature, rather than guessing, find a few similar recipes that are complete, and use the time and temperature from them.

And be wary in the first place about a recipe that leaves out such a key piece of information as temperature or time. Who knows what else was left out?

Think you know how to determine baking temperature? Upvote an answer, submit your own at Stack Exchange or leave it in the comments here. Stack Exchange is a place to freely trade expert knowledge on diverse topics from software programming to cycling to scientific skepticism . and plenty in between.

Why is sugar bad for you?

Why is sugar bad for you, and what is the recommended daily allowance? Nutritionist, Kerry Torrens discusses the most common sources of hidden sugar and easy ways to reduce your intake.

There is increasing research to suggest that it’s the sugar rather than the fat in our diets that is the major contributing factor to our obesity epidemic. Nutritionist Kerry Torrens explains the ‘hidden’ sugar you may not know you’re eating and how to spot it on food labels…

How much sugar should I be eating per day?

Recommendations from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UK’s official nutrition advisors are that only 5% of your daily calorie intake should consist of added, or ‘free’ sugars. This means:

  • Adults should have no more than 30g a day (approximately seven sugar cubes).
  • Children aged 4-6 years old should have no more than 19g a day (five sugar cubes).
  • Children aged 7-10 years old should have no more than 24g a day (six sugar cubes).

Find out more about your recommended daily sugar allowance in our guide on ‘how much sugar should I eat’. Looking for a sweet alternative or want to know your fructose from your sucrose? Find out more in our sugar hub.

Types of sugar

Sugar is a carbohydrate found naturally in a host of different foods, from lactose in milk to fructose in fruit and honey. There are two types of sugar: naturally occurring sugar (such as the lactose in milk) and added or ‘free’ sugars that include refined table sugar (sucrose) as well as concentrated sources like fruit juice, honey and syrups. Health organisations including the NHS advise we cut back on these ‘free sugars’.

Why is sugar bad for you?

Consuming too much sugar can lead to health issues such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease and tooth decay.

If you’re very active and exercise regularly some sugar in your diet helps supply ready energy to fuel your muscles and keep your brain active. The problem for the majority of us is that many of the processed foods we eat – in particular, those marketed to children – have added sugar that supplies energy in the form of calories, and very little else, so we end up consuming more than we need. This can lead to:

  • Energy slumps: a high intake of sugar causes our blood sugar levels to shoot up, giving us that feel-good ‘high’ followed by a crashing slump that leaves us tired, irritable and craving more sugary foods. This vicious cycle is then likely to compound other health problems.
  • Weight gain: which can in turn increase your risk of health conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
  • Fizzy drinksand sugary snacks have been linked to rising tooth decay in children.

In recognition of these issues, the government has released guidelines for the food industry to reduce the amount of sugar in packaged products.

Hidden sources of sugar

The instant ‘lift’ we get from sugar is one of the reasons we turn to it at times of celebration, or when we crave comfort or reward. However, even those of us without a sweet tooth may be eating more than we realise because so many everyday processed foods, from cereals and bread to pasta sauce and soups, contain sugar.

  • ‘Low-fat’ and ‘diet’ foods often contain extra sugar to help improve their taste and palatability and to add bulk and texture in place of fat.
  • Even savoury foods, like ready-made soups and sauces may contain added sugar.
  • A can of soft drink, on average, contains the equivalent of seven teaspoons of sugar.
  • The natural sugar in some fruit, including apples, has increased as new varieties (including Pink Lady, Fuji and Jazz) are bred to satisfy our desire for greater sweetness.

What to look for on food labels

Discover how much sugar is in your food by doing these simple checks:

  • Look at the ‘carbs as sugars’ on the nutrition panel. This includes both natural and added sugars. Less than 5g per 100g is low, more than 22.5g per 100g is high.
  • Check the ingredients list for anything ending in ‘ose’ (glucose, sucrose, fructose, lactose, maltose). These are all forms of sugar, as are honey, agave, molasses and syrups like corn and rice syrup. The higher up the ingredients list these are, the more sugar the product contains.
  • Know your substitute. For example, xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol. These occur naturally in small amounts in plants and fruits and are often used in low-calorie products to provide sweetness but with fewer calories. Xylitol can be used in home baking as a replacement for regular sugar (ratio 1:1) although your bakes won’t brown as much and xylitol can’t be used where yeast is the raising agent.

Useful resources for cutting down on sugar:

Like this? Now read…

This page was reviewed on 11th September 2020 by Tracey Raye.

All health content on is provided for general information only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of your own doctor or any other health care professional. If you have any concerns about your general health, you should contact your local health care provider. See our website terms and conditions for more information.

Whether you’re looking for sweet substitutes, sugar-free baking guides or simply want to find out your recommended daily amounts, find all the answers in our sugar hub.

75 Delicious Cake Recipes for Every Kind of Situation

There are times&mdashbirthdays, holidays, anniversaries&mdashwhen a nicely decorated cake is a must-have part of the celebration. And then there are the random Saturday afternoons when you just want to treat yourself, and/or your family to something nice, and it feels like making a cake would be a good way to while away the time. This roundup is for just that moment, when you want to make a cake for any reason, or for no reason at all. From whimsical homemade cake decorating ideas and cupcake decorating ideas to quick, simple flavor ideas, there's something here to spark your imagination and get you in the baking spirit. We've got homemade birthday cake ideas, Texas sheet cake recipes, amazing fall cakes, and every kind of cake that will keep you busy all year.

Still, you might be thinking: "I've already got my go-to recipe. Why should I switch it up?" Well, for starters, our extraordinarily beautiful cake recipes are an easy way to learn new skills and tricks in the kitchen, which you can incorporate into your existing recipe book for an upgraded version of the desserts your family already knows and loves. Never made a Boston cream pie before? How about an upside-down cake? Now's your chance!

But these cake recipes aren't just intended to get you to think outside the box&mdashthey're also just plain delicious. Test kitchen-approved and beloved by bakers around the country, these are light, fluffy, moist, and all-around crowd-pleasers. They're filled with the tastiest custards, and topped with fantastic homemade icing, too. Just be warned: After slicing into these cakes, your dinner guests will be asking for seconds!

Food Labels: How to Spot Hidden Sugars

Try finding out how much sugar has really been added to your yogurt, cereal, bread or energy bar, and watch the hours fly by!

Although the FDA (and the USDA) has certainly acknowledged and tried to define the term "added sugars," or those sugars that aren't naturally occurring in foods (for example, fruits), the government is leaving it up to us to be food detectives and learn all the various names for sugar and, more importantly, how much of it we're actually putting in our mouths.

Sugar masquerades under a variety of guises, such as dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, invert sugar and maltose, but trying to figure out what percentage of calories these sugars represent in a packaged food product is akin to scoring a concert ticket to Lady Gaga -- it's pretty much impossible.

That's because the FDA has refused to add an "Added Sugars" line (in grams) within the "Sugars" section on the nutrition facts label. Instead, added sugars are only mentioned in the ingredient list -- and only in decreasing weight order, not by percentage of calories.

Realizing this loophole, some food companies seem to be taking some extreme liberties. Not only are they using some of those tricky sugar synonyms in the ingredient list, but they're also using several of them, in a single product. Added sugars are added sugars. No matter what you call them, they do pretty much the same thing to food (make it taste sweeter). So by dividing the total amount of added sugars into three or four different sugar names instead of using just one type of sugar, companies are able drop their added sugars further down the list (the less the weight, the lower the rank on the ingredient list).

So for example, if a manufacturer wants to sweeten up a certain brand of crackers, it can either do this using 15 grams of "sugar" or, 5 grams of "malt syrup," 5 grams of "invert sugar" and 5 grams of "glucose". Some manufacturers seem to be choosing this divide and masquerade method, placing these ingredients lower down on their products' lists, making us believe that the amount of sugar in the product is smaller than it is. Bingo!

Here are four examples of foods that have divided their total added sugar content between several confusing synonyms (note where these names are positioned on the ingredient list).

Chocolate Chip Bars
Granola (whole grain oats, brown sugar, crisp rice (rice flour, sugar, salt, malted barley extract), whole grain rolled wheat, soybean oil, dried coconut, whole wheat flour, sodium bicarbonate, soy lecithin, caramel color, nonfat dry milk), corn syrup, semisweet chocolate chips, brown rice crisp, sunflower oil, oligofructose, polydextrose, corn syrup solids, glycerin. Contains 2 percent or less of water, invert sugar, salt, molasses, sucralose, natural and artificial flavor, BHT, citric acid

Nutrition Bars
Soy protein nuggets, Yogurt coating (sugar, palm kernel oil, nonfat fry milk solids, Yogurt powder, soy lecithin, salt), corn syrup, milk protein isolate, fructose, almonds, palm oil, water

Wheat Thins
Whole grain wheat flour, unbleached enriched flour, soybean oil, sugar, cornstarch, malt syrup, salt, invert sugar, monoglycerides, leavening, vegetable color

Club Crackers
Enriched flour, soybean oil with TBHQ for freshness, sugar, contains two percent of less of: salt, leavening, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, cornstarch, soy lecithin

Why should we be concerned about added and refined sugars anyway? Because we're getting way too much of it, and all those extra, nutritionally empty calories can contribute, in many diets, to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and risk factors for heart disease, according to the American Heart Association. As noted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), people who consume diets high in added sugars consume lower levels of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and other nutrients, and by displacing these protective nutrients, added sugars may increase the risk of osteoporosis, certain cancers, high blood pressure and other health problems.

What can you do? 1. Educate yourself. I've included a list of sweeteners below for you to reference when you're checking labels. 2. You can write the FDA or call your congressperson and demand more transparency in food labeling for added sugars and join organizations such as CSPI that have been petitioning for these rules for the last several years.

  • The average American consumes at least 64 pounds of sugar per year, and the average teenage boy at least 109 pounds.
  • Per capita consumption of added sugars has risen by 28 percent since 1983.
  • Americans consume 22 teaspoons of added sugars a day, teens 34 teaspoons.

Common sweeteners:
corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice concentrates, glucose, high-fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, lactose, maltose, malt syrup, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar syrup, cane crystals, cane sugar, crystalline fructose, evaporated cane juice, corn syrup solids, malt syrup.

Pooja Mottl is a healthy living advisor and candidate of the Chefs Program at the Natural Gourmet Institute. She holds a certificate in Plant Based Nutrition from Cornell University in conjunction with the T. Colin Campbell Foundation as well as an NSCA-CPT certification in fitness.