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Hidden Artificial Sweeteners

Loading up on artificial sweeteners is not the healthiest way to reduce calories. While research is ongoing, some studies show that due to their intensely sweet flavor, these additives can change the way you taste food. Over time, this could influence the ability of fruits to satisfy sweet cravings and make other healthy foods taste less appealing. If you want to reduce your intake, read ingredient labels closely, and avoid foods that contain artificial sweeteners.

Types of Artificial Sweeteners

The first step to identifying artificial sweeteners is to know the many names that they go by. There are five approved for use in the U.S. Keep your eye out for acesulfame potassium (K), aspartame, neotame, saccharin, and sucralose.

Where to Look for Artificial Sweeteners

As these sweeteners became more popular, they were added to a variety of foods. Even foods that are not labeled “diet” or “sugar-free” may contain artificial sweeteners. Though many consumers seek to reduce intake, they still remain in some unexpected places.

Chewing gum. A “sugar-free” label often indicates that a product contains an artificial sweetener.

Calorie-free flavored water. There are many sparkling and non-sparkling water options that are calorie-free with natural fruit flavors, but read labels closely. Many use artificial sweeteners similar to diet sodas to sweeten the drink without adding calories.

Salad dressings. It's easy to check the ingredient lists on salad dressing bottles at the supermarket, but when you order a salad at a restaurant, the ingredients are less clear. Some dressings contain artificial sweeteners, even if they don't taste overly sweet. Ask about ingredients when dining out or look them up online before you go.

Fruit juice. When drinking juice, choose 100 percent fruit juice without added sugar. It's tempting to save calories with "light" versions of juices, but many contain artificial sweeteners. Try mixing half a serving of juice with sparkling water for a refreshing, low-calorie spritzer.

Frozen yogurt. Many frozen yogurts and ice cream bars contain artificial sweeteners, so take a close look at food labels. When you swing into a shop for a treat, keep an eye out for no-sugar-added varieties, which often means that artificial sweeteners have been added.


Lori Rice, M.S., is a nutritional scientist and author with a passion for healthy cooking, exercise physiology, and food photography.
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