Hidden Sources of Sugar in Your Diet
Nutrition May 16, 2018
Hidden Sources of Sugar in Your Diet

You likely already know that too much added sugar is bad for your health. But do you know how much sugar you’re actually consuming?

If you want to cut back on how much added sugar you’re eating, it’s helpful to be aware of where sugar is lurking that you may not expect.

We tend to think that added sugar is easy to find. We assume it’s in candy, cookies, cakes, ice cream and other foods that taste sweet. But in reality, it’s hard to know where that added sugar is hiding. Almost three-quarters of packaged foods have added sugar in them. Foods that don’t taste sweet, such as pasta sauce, peanut butter and bread, can be loaded with sugar.

In 2016, plans were put in place to update the Nutrition Facts label that appears on packaged foods. This change was designed in part to make it easier to determine how much added sugar was in food. Without this information listed, it is difficult to figure out how much added sugar is in any food because current food labels show total grams of sugar but do not distinguish between naturally-occurring sugar and added sugar. Add to that the fact that there are at least 61 different names for sugar that can be listed on food labels and it makes it hard to determine how much you’re consuming.

Food manufacturers were originally given until July 2018 to comply with the new food label requirements, with smaller manufacturers given an additional year to comply. But those requirements have now been indefinitely delayed so don’t expect to see the added sugar content displayed on many packaged foods any time soon.

So how can you avoid consuming too much added sugar? You can start by filling your diet primarily with whole fresh foods and limiting the amount of processed food you eat. But if you do plan on consuming packaged foods, here are 20 places you’ll likely find added sugar in addition to the obvious sweet stuff:

  1. Bread
  2. Flavored yogurt
  3. Energy and granola bars
  4. Cold cereal and instant oatmeal
  5. Crackers
  6. Ketchup
  7. Sauces and marinades (pasta, barbecue, teriyaki, etc.)
  8. Salad dressing
  9. Nut butters
  10. Frozen meals
  11. Canned meats
  12. Bacon
  13. Dried fruit and fruit snacks
  14. Soda
  15. Sports drinks
  16. Juice
  17. Flavored water
  18. Non-dairy milks
  19. Protein powder
  20. Gummy vitamins

Added sugar has been shown to be one of the leading contributors of obesity. Studies have also linked added sugar to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit added sugars to no more than 6 teaspoons a day and men don’t exceed 9 teaspoons a day. But most Americans consume a lot more than that.