We all know that donuts, cakes, soda and candy are full of sugar, and if we want to eat healthily we avoid them. However, you probably don’t expect to find sugar lurking in everyday foods including yogurt, white bread, ketchup and instant oatmeal.
Sugar is added to a lot of unexpected foods, so it’s wise to read the labels before you buy. You don’t have to worry about the natural sugar in fruit, it’s the sugar added by manufacturers that you have to watch out for. The American Heart Association recommends keeping your sugar intake to under 100 calories a day for women, (around 6 teaspoons) and 150 calories a day for men (around 9 teaspoons).
Here are 18 foods that are surprisingly full of sugar:
Flavored yogurts may seem like a harmless, low-sugar treat, but they are actually full of sugar, calories and other additives. While a container of strawberry flavored yogurt has 22 grams of sugar, a plain one has 11 grams of natural milk sugars.
Natural yogurt can taste very bland and unappealing on its own, so nutritionists advise adding things to modify the taste and texture. You can use chia seeds for crunchiness, add vanilla, mint or almond extract for flavor without sugar, or add a teaspoon of melted unsweetened nut butter for creaminess. A date chopped into the yogurt gives it a fruity chewiness.
2. Marinara Sauce
Tomatoes can often taste bitter when cooked, so manufacturers add sugar to balance the flavor. A ½ cup serving of ready-made pasta sauce has 6.5 grams sugar in it, but you will have to read the labels because sugar content differs wildly depending on the manufacturer.
Buy jars that say “no added sugar” or make your own at home. Buy a couple of cans of fire-roasted tomatoes and add your own herbs and garlic while heating them. To give you an acidic kick, add a squeeze of lemon juice, and for sweetness grate a couple of carrots into your sauce.
3. Commercially Made Trail Mix
Store-bought trail mix is convenient and tasty, but is also very sugary. To cut down on the sugar, make your own trail mix. Get some raw nuts, and add berries, such as goji berries which are lower in sugar than raisins or cranberries. You can lightly toast the nuts to make them crunchier and tastier.
4. White Bread
Manufactured white bread really doesn’t have a lot going for it nutritionally. It’s stripped of fiber, vitamins, minerals and healthy fats during processing, and it’s one of those foods that encourage you to want more as soon as you have finished one piece.
Nearly all manufactured breads contain sugar, so check the ingredients list. Try switching to whole grain or whole-wheat varieties instead.
When you add ketchup to your burger or fries, you’re essentially spooning sugar over the top of them. A tablespoon of ketchup can have nearly 4 grams of sugar, and when it comes to condiments, we tend to be very free with our serving sizes.
Look for “low sugar” or “no added sugar” types of ketchup, or try tomato paste instead.
6. Peanut Butter
Natural peanut butter is full of protein, fiber and heart-healthy fats, but the commercial type contains sugar and other additives, such as preservatives. Some peanut butters contain 3 grams of sugar in 2 tablespoons, so check the label for alternative names for sugar, like evaporated cane juice, corn syrup solids, high-fructose corn syrup, molasses and honey.
A natural peanut butter should only say “dry roasted peanuts” and maybe sea salt on the label. Don’t pick low fat varieties either – healthy oils are replaced with sugar and fillers.
7. Coffee Drinks
If you enjoy your Starbucks Frappucino, finding out it contains 61 grams of sugar in a grande size cup is likely to break your heart! That’s not counting the whipped cream and whole milk fat, either.
Try your coffee with a dash of milk, or order a latte instead – unsweetened, naturally. If you need some sweetness, try adding Stevia.
The ingredients that go into granola, such as oats, berries, fruits, seeds and grains are fabulously healthy. Unfortunately, the glue that binds granola together is lots of added sugars like honey, molasses and maple syrup.
Read the labels to find which brands have more fiber and less sugar.
9. Honey-Roasted Peanuts
Nuts are good for you, but eating them covered in salt and glazes isn’t. A serving of honey-roasted peanuts can contain 4 grams of sugar per serving.
If you don’t like nuts plain, try mixing plain nuts with cinnamon, cayenne or chili pepper. If you love the honey-roasted taste, try dry roasted peanuts instead, which have no oil added to them.
10. Instant Oatmeal
Instant oatmeal is beloved by those who need to eat and run, but they contain a fair bit of added sugar per small portion. One packet of oatmeal can contain 12 grams of sugar. Try unsweetened types and add flavor yourself. Add cinnamon, nuts or nut butter, Stevia, chia seeds, flax seeds and fruits.
11. Breakfast Cereal
A lot of kid’s cereals are crammed with sugar, but so are the grown-up versions. Some popular brands contain 20 grams of sugar in a ¾ cup serving, so read the labels to see how much is in your favorite brand.
12. Dried Fruit
Some people are misled because dried fruit has the word “fruit” in the name. Fruit is healthy, right? Only if it’s not dried, apparently. A ¼ cup of dried cranberries was found to contain 29 grams of sugar, which is nearly 6 teaspoons.
People also tend to overeat on dried fruit, because it’s so compact it’s easy to eat more than you realize.
Dried prunes are a good choice if you can’t give up your dried fruits. A serving of 4 or 5 prunes contains 3 grams of fiber, and only 100 calories.
13. Milk Alternatives
Soymilk can contain 10 grams of sugar in one cup, and a cup of sweetened vanilla-flavored almond milk can hold 15 grams.
Choose unsweetened milk alternatives, and add your own flavorings, such as cinnamon, vanilla or almond extract.
14. Barbeque Sauce
Coating meat in sugary barbeque sauce negates the benefits of grilling instead of frying. One tablespoon of this sauce can contain 6 grams of sugar.
Why not make your own instead? Marinate the meat in fresh citrus – lemon, orange or lime – then add spices based on the flavor you want.
You could also replace barbeque sauce with hot sauce, because it has 1 gram of sugar per teaspoon.
15. Salad Dressings
Nearly all manufacturers add sugar to their salad dressings for flavor, so it’s better to make your own. To make a dressing that lasts for a few days, whisk together one cup of grape juice with 1/8 cup red wine or white vinegar, and 1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil.
16. Canned Soup
A convenient staple at lunchtime or as a starter, canned soup has a surprising amount of added sugar, especially the tomato, sweet potato and butternut squash varieties. The broth-based soups tend not to have sugar added to them. Always check the label.
17. Canned Fruit
Some of us like the convenience of canned fruit, but it’s usually full of high-fructose corn syrup. One cup of canned fruit has a massive 37 grams of sugar! If you need to buy canned fruit, choose those types canned in water, or get frozen fruit.
18. Sweetened Applesauce
One container of applesauce was found to contain 22g sugar. Go for the unsweetened varieties, and use them in place of fat and sugar in home-baked goods, as well as with your pork dishes.