5 Unexpected Foods That Are Full of Sugar

yogurt full of sugar
By: Rachel Gargano MS, RD, LDN, CSSD

Three-fourths of the packaged food in our grocery stores are pumped with sugar, so it’s hard to avoid the sweet, white stuff. Plus, there are 61 different names for sugar, making finding it in our food even more difficult.

Here are some sugary names to watch out for in the ingredient list: Barley malt, beet sugar, cane juice, coconut sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dehydrated can juice, dextrose, fructose, fruit juice, glucose, honey, malt syrup, muscovado, panocha, refiner’s syrup, brown rice syrup, sorghum syrup, sucrose, treacle, and turbinado.

Food manufacturers use multiple types of sugar so that they fall lower on the ingredient list. This trick makes it look like there isn’t a lot of added sugar. But we’ve caught on! If there are more than one or two types of sugar in a product, look for an alternative. Even healthy-looking foods can be laden with the sweet stuff, so be your own food detective to ensure you’re eating quality foods.

Watch Out for These Sugar Tip-Offs

  • ‘Natural’ or ‘organic’ labels: These foods may have just as much added sugar. Added sugar is added sugar, whether it’s organic or not!
  • ‘No high fructose corn syrup’: There are likely other added sugars to replace it.
  • ‘Fat free’: When fat is taken out, food companies will often add more sugar to maintain taste.

When it comes to the amount of added sugar, the American Heart Associate recommends no more than nine teaspoons (38 grams) of added sugar per day for men and six teaspoons (25 grams) per day for women. For children the range is three to six teaspoons (12-25) depending on their age and calorie needs. This can add up quickly as you’ll see below!

*To determine how much sugar is in your food, divide “Sugar” by four. This will equal the number of teaspoons of sugar.

Hidden Sources of Sugar:

1. Cereal: Okay, maybe this one you already knew! But even some of the ‘healthy’ cereals are laden with sugar. For example, bran cereal with raisins has up to four teaspoons of sugar in it. Many granola cereals have between three and six teaspoons sugar. Plus, how often do we eat only one serving? This means we’re taking in more sugar than what the label tells us.

What to do? Look for cereal with no more than 5 grams of sugar per serving as well as with 3 grams of fiber or more.

 2. Spaghetti Sauce: Want some added sugar on your spaghetti? I didn’t think so. Tomatoes and other vegetables contain natural sugar, so the nutrition label will never say “0” grams sugar. For this reason, go by the ingredient list to determine added sugars. Many sauces have an additional two teaspoons of sugar per serving.

What to do? Re-shelve any sauces with sugars in the ingredient list.

 3. Yogurt: Yogurt is a popular food in our diet and yet most yogurts have quite a bit of added sugar. Added sugars in yogurts may come from the ‘fruit’ mixture — which is often nothing more than refined juice with a small smash of sugar-logged fruit (or other add-ins). These yogurts (both Greek and regular) can have two to four teaspoons of added sugar in them.

What to do: Plain Greek yogurt will have about four to five grams of natural sugar in it, while plain regular yogurt has about 11-12 grams of sugar, so anything over those amounts is added. Go for the plain yogurt then add your own fresh fruit and cinnamon!

4. Condiments: Catsup, barbecue sauce, fat free salad dressing, relish. All of these have added sugar. And while they may only have an added one to two teaspoons, the problem is we eat more than the recommended serving — about one tablespoon.

What to do: If you’re going to use condiments with added sugar, try to stick with only one serving.

5. Energy Drinks: Setting aside other potential dangers of consuming energy drinks (addiction, withdrawal, heart palpitations, high blood pressure and unknown effects of herbal ingredients, etc), most energy drinks have seven to 13 teaspoons of added sugar. Thirteen teaspoons!

What to do: If you really need a caffeine boost, go for coffee with minimal added ingredients; or green, black, or white tea.

Isn’t it sneaky how much extra sugar you’re taking in — even if you’re not directly putting a teaspoon in your morning coffee or tea, or having dessert? No wonder if can be so hard to break through the cravings.

If you’re eager to break free from a sugar addiction, consider signing up for our special 30-Day Guided Reboot for Sugar Addiction. The program kicks off on September 29, and I’ll be there with you every step of the way, from explaining why sugar is so addiction to showing you strategies to undo your cravings. During this 30-Day program, you’ll commit to five days of eating, blending and juicing only whole fruits and vegetables, followed by 25 days of consuming only juice. We offer daily online support as well as five live webinars to check in with your nutritionist — that’s me! — at key moments during your Reboot.

Rachel Gargano MS, RD, LDN, CSSD

Rachel is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics, and received her bachelors in Exercise Science and masters in Nutrition Communications from Tufts University. Rachel currently resides outside of Boston with her son and husband, and when not working with Rebooters she works as a nutrition consultant as well as sees clients in her private practice.

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