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Hiding in Plain Sight: Sugar in the Campus Center

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Sugars, sweeteners, and additives, oh my! The healthy options at the University at Albany’s Campus Center might not be as healthy as you really think; many are packed with “hidden” sugars.

At the 17 different food venues in the Campus Center, added sugar is in the ingredient list of a variety of what many students might consider a healthy option for a meal.

At Nikos, a staple dining option in the Campus Center which makes its food and beverages from scratch, a 32 oz. cup of lemonade has 150 grams of added sugar content.

“We add a half cup of sugar into the lemonade to start, and then add about a fourth cup into the fruit puree as well,” explained Katerina Kitt, a student manager at Nikos.

According to recommendations by the American Heart Association, that’s about 6 times the daily recommended added sugar intake set for women, which is marked at 25 grams.

For men, Niko’s lemonade is still about 4 times the daily recommended added sugar intake, which is set at 38 grams by the AHA. And, that’s the more obvious added sugar.

According to Linda Mayerhofer, a biology professor at UAlbany specializing in nutritional studies, sugar often tends to be masked in our foods with alternate names, especially in processed foods.

Mayerhofer provides that some of the common alternate names for sugar include caramel, buttered syrup, caramelized syrup, fruit juice, and honey.

Some of these doppelgangers can be found at Star Ginger, which serves Asian cuisine dishes, and Stocks and Stems, which serves soups and salads.

Overconsumption of sugar can lead to several long and short term problems, such as weight gain, obesity, type 2 diabetes and heart disease, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control’s website.

Stocks and Stems is known by most students as one of the healthier options in the

Campus Center, but both soups of the day, Carrot Ginger and Quinoa Sweet Potato Chili with

Black Beans, listed sugar, honey, and orange juice in the ingredients.  

According to Kettle Cuisine, the supplier of soup for Stocks and Stems, a single 8 oz. cup of either soup came out to about a third of the daily recommended added sugar for women, and about a fourth of the daily recommended added sugar for men.

Opposite of Stock and Stems in the Campus Center sits the Star Ginger restaurant, serving a pho broth which, according to the website of its broth manufacturer Campbell’s Reserve, has 4 grams of sugar  per every one fourth cup of the broth in the serving size.

On campus, a serving, based from an on-site observation by the ASP, is one full cup, or16 grams of sugar.

This is more than half the daily recommended intake of added sugar for women, and almost half of the daily recommended intake of added sugar for men, as per the AHA.

The sugar content of dining options in the Campus Center is not displayed physically at the site of these venues.

According to Michelle Bowen, Senior Director of Marketing and Communications at University Auxiliary Services at Albany, there are no rules in place at UAlbany Dining that make it mandatory to have general nutritional information available on site in the Campus Center.

However, in compliance with federal legislation, caloric information is displayed on the menu.

UAS adds that they are currently in the process of upgrading their menu managment system which, once it is complete, Bowen said would feature full nutritional information – including added sugar content — for all Sodexo/campus retail brands on an app called BITE.

In meantime, watch out for those pesky hidden sugars.

Michelle Mullen is a staff writer for the Albany Student Press.

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