Being healthy today can be difficult. For example, our society loves sugar. And, no, I’m not talking about natural sugars found in fruit and vegetables. The real problem is added sugar. Just a few years ago, studies found that Americans were consuming over 60 pounds of sugar a year. Sixty pounds! That’s around 70 grams per day. We should be eating less than half of that daily and, although sugar consumption has gone down, we have a long way to go.

A huge issue is food labeling. Sure, we can check for ‘sugar’ in ingredient labels, but do you know all the names for sugar? It turns out that added sugar hides in plain sight with over sixty different labels. Additionally, labels won’t tell you what of the sugar in a product is natural or added.

Pick up your favorite energy bar and look at the ingredients. Do you see ‘sucrose?’ What about ‘barley malt’ and ‘high fructose corn syrup,’ or maybe ‘brown rice syrup?’ Most of these don’t sound too devious – ‘brown rice syrup’ even sounds healthy! However, every single one of these is a fancy way of saying ‘added sugar.’

In order to maintain a healthy diet, you have to be vigilant about understanding nutrition labels. That ‘healthy’ Greek yogurt you eat for breakfast with fruit at the bottom is most likely hiding over ten grams of added sugar. Granola bars by companies like Nature Valley are deemed healthy, but they contain a ton of added sugar! This excess consumption of sugar can lead to weight gain, liver damage, heart disease, diabetes, and more.

So, how do we keep track of all of the forms of sugar out there? The easiest way to avoid added sugar is to choose foods with simple ingredients. If you’re looking for a healthy granola bar, try an RX Bar made with simple whole foods ingredients. Craving chocolate? Make it 85% or more. How about grains? Stick with whole grains like brown rice.

Additionally, pay close attention to nutrition labels! New labels, like the one featured at the top of this post, are coming out that show added sugar per serving, which is a HUGE step forward. Knowing the amount of added vs natural sugar in products means there is no excuse to eat junky food. Becoming more aware of what you put in your body will help you lead a more mindful and healthy life.