7 places added sugars are hiding in your diet

Sugar can be hidden in plain sight in foods you wouldn't typically think of as sugary. How much added sugar do you get in your diet? Here are seven foods that might be contributing more than you think.

Sugar can be hidden in plain sight in foods you wouldn't typically think of as sugary. How much added sugar do you get in your diet? Here are seven foods that might be contributing more than you think. (Alexander Prokopenko, Shutterstock)

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SALT LAKE CITY — Added sugars are abundant in the food supply today. Some are pretty obvious, such as in soda and desserts, but others may be harder to detect. You might be surprised to find added sugars in some things you consume on a regular basis, even foods that aren't super sweet.

Added sugar vs. natural sugar

Before we dive into the world of hidden added sugars, let's clarify the difference between added sugar and natural sugar. Natural sugars do not count toward added sugar intake. They are, as the name implies, naturally occurring in foods. This includes sugars found in fruits and dairy products such as milk and plain yogurt.

Fruits and dairy products, while containing natural sugars, also contain other beneficial nutrients. For example, many fruits provide dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Milk contains calcium, vitamins A and D and protein.

Added sugars are those added to a food, such as in sugar-sweetened beverages, desserts, candy, sweet snacks, etc. This might be in the form of table sugar, corn syrup, honey, pure maple syrup, molasses, fruit juice concentrates, along with many other names and forms — all count as added sugar.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025 recommend that less than 10 percent of daily calories come from added sugars. For a 2,000-calorie diet, this would be no more than 200 calories, or about 50 grams (12 teaspoons) of sugar. It is not recommended for children under 2 years of age to be fed foods and beverages with added sugars at all.

Hidden Sugars

Now to get down to the nitty-gritty. Where are added sugars hiding in your diet — aside from the obvious soda, cakes, cookies, ice cream, pastries and candy? Read on to see if anything that makes a regular appearance in your diet made the list.


Ketchup, barbecue sauce, teriyaki sauce and honey mustard are among some condiments with the highest amounts of hidden sugars. For example, 1 tablespoon of ketchup has about 4 grams of sugar, and a typical barbecue sauce contains around 6 to 7 grams of sugar per tablespoon. Considering that many people don't eat just 1 tablespoon of sauce, these hidden sugars can add up quickly.

Breakfast cereal

It might seem obvious that breakfast cereal that is chocolatey, has marshmallows in it, or is literally coated in sugar, contains added sugars. However, you might be surprised to find out just how much sugar is in other, supposedly "healthful," breakfast cereals.

Granola cereals, in particular, may have up to 10 to 18 grams of added sugar per serving. Others such as some bran- or oat-based cereals may also have many added sugars as your child's fruity-flavored cereal. Next time you're in the cereal aisle, make sure to read the nutrition facts panel and ingredients label so you know what exactly is inside the box.


While plain yogurt does not have any added sugar, many flavored yogurts have an overabundance of sugars. It can be deceiving with fruit-flavored yogurts, as any actual fruit pieces do not count as added sugars, but many have additional sugars, syrups and flavorings mixed in.

Some flavored yogurts may have up to 16 grams of added sugar, not counting the natural sugars from the plain yogurt itself. Even low-fat yogurts, while lower in fat, can pack in added sugars. To keep your added sugar intake low while still enjoying some yogurt, look for low-sugar varieties or choose plain yogurt. You can add your own fruit pieces, and perhaps a sprinkle of cinnamon to add some flavor.

Salad dressing

Salads are healthy — right? Yes, they can be packed with many good-for-you nutrients; but when you drizzle the dressing on, you could be adding a bunch of added sugars, as well. French, raspberry vinaigrette, and Catalina dressings are among those with the most added sugar — about 4 to 8 grams in only 2 tablespoons.

To keep the added sugars to a minimum on your salad, find a low-sugar variety such as a balsamic vinaigrette. Another option is to make your own dressing. Try your own variation of simple ingredients such as olive oil, vinegar, garlic and/or lemon juice.

Granola bars

Oats, fruit and nuts often make up the base of many granola bars. These are wholesome ingredients that can be part of a healthy, balanced diet. However, the ingredients binding all these wholesome foods together usually come in a form of added sugar — corn syrup, brown sugar, honey and brown sugar syrup — to name a few.

If you have chocolate chips mixed in, or a yogurt or chocolate coating, the added sugar counts increases. There may be 7 to 12 grams of added sugar lurking in your granola bar. For low-sugar granola bars, look for those with dates or other fruit as the base with other whole food ingredients like nuts, nut butter, oats, chia, or quinoa.

Dried fruit

Fruit is surely healthy for you. However, many manufacturers add sugar to dried fruit to keep it tasting sweet instead of sour, depending on how the fruit is prepared. For example, dried cranberries can have up to 26 grams of added sugar in just one-fourth of a cup. The same goes for many other dried fruits, such as mango, pineapple and cherries.

When shopping for dried fruit, beware of the term "sweetened," as this usually means there is sugar added to the fruit. To be sure, read the ingredients list and the nutrition facts label to check for added sugars. Look for dried fruits that only have the fruit listed in the ingredients.

Low-fat packaged snacks

When looking through the snack aisle, it might be tempting to grab the low-fat version of your favorite snack. However, many diet, low-fat, or reduced-fat items contain more sugar than the original. Extra sugar is often added in place of the fat that was removed to help improve the taste and palatability of the product. To help reduce the amount of added sugars from your favorite snacks, simply buy the original variety and watch portion sizes.

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Brittany Poulson is a Utah registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator. She shares her passion for health, food and nutrition on her blog, www.yourchoicenutrition.com, where she encourages people to live a healthy life in an unique way.


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