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How to Spot Hidden Sugar

How much sugar do you eat in a day? Probably more than you think. Read on to find out where sugar hides.

May 20, 2016 | HF Healthy Living Team

Sugar is sneaky! It hides in places you don’t expect. It can also cause obesity, diabetes, and even depression when you eat too much of it. So how do you outsmart sugar? Start by knowing what it looks like.

What is Added Sugar?

“Refined” or “added” sugar is sugar that doesn’t occur in nature. Fruit, dairy milk, potatoes, and other whole foods have natural sugar in them. Candy, cookies, and packaged foods have added sugar. This kind of sugar can hurt your health. Read more about how too much sugar can be dangerous for you and your family here.

Sugars in Food Nutrition Facts
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The amount of sugar in food can be found on the nutrition label. Added sugar is listed in grams. Every four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon.

Teaspoon of Sugar
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The American Heart Association recommends that most adult women eat no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day, and adult men no more than nine. Eating more sugar than this regularly can cause a range of health problems.

Sugar Recommendations for Men and Women
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These amounts are equal to 24 grams of added sugar for women and 36 for men.

How much is 24 grams of sugar? Think about this—there are 28 grams of sugar in one can of soda, and 57 grams of sugar in a Snickers bar.

In answer, it is very easy to eat far more than 24 grams of extra sugar in a day!

Where Does Sugar Hide?

Candy bars, sodas, and desserts have a lot of sugar. But so do many foods that seem healthy. Here are some of the “healthiest” places sugar hides.


Amount of Sugar in Yogurt
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A single serving of yogurt can hide as much as 30 grams of sugar, mostly from added fruit flavors made with high fructose corn syrup. Keep your yogurt healthy by choosing plain and adding your own fruit.

Cereal and Granola

Sugar in Cereal and Granola
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Both boast whole grains and fiber, but sugar makes up a lot of the flavor in these so-called healthy breakfast foods. Choose oatmeal instead, and keep sugar levels in check by adding a teaspoon of maple syrup yourself.

Fruit Juice

Sugar in Fruit Juices
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Fruit juices are filled with fructose (fruit sugar), with none of the fiber that helps your body manage it. Some juices even contain added sugar on top of that! Add your own lemon or orange slices to water to make a healthier, fruit-flavored drink.


Sugar in Sauces
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Bottled tomato sauces, ketchup, salad dressings, and barbecue dips are loaded with sugar to increase shelf life and improve taste. Look for condiments with no sugar added, or better yet, try making your own at home.

Low-fat Foods

Low Fat Foods
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Watch out for any food that says “low-fat” or “no-fat” on its label. Reduced-fat foods seem like healthier options, but more often than not, added sugar makes up for the great taste that is lost when fat is removed. And calories from sugar convert to body fat faster than calories from fat, so low-fat foods are a health trap.

Other Names for Sugar

Want to guess what all of these food ingredients have in common? They are all different names for sugar:

• Agave
• Brown sugar
• Corn syrup/High fructose corn syrup
• Honey
• Maple syrup
• Molasses
• Anhydrous/Crystal dextrose
• Glucose, Maltose, Sucrose, Dextrin

Watch out for these guys! They are no better for you than other kinds of sugar, and they can make you just as sick. The closer to the top of a list of ingredients each of these appears, the more of it there is in your food.

Remember, always read nutrition labels so that sugar doesn’t sneak up on you!


© 2016 HF Management Services, LLC.

Healthfirst is the brand name used for products and services provided by one or more of the Healthfirst group of affiliated companies.

This health information or program is for educational purposes only and not intended to treat, diagnose, or act as a substitute for medical advice from your provider. Consult your healthcare provider and always follow your healthcare provider’s instructions.

“9 Hidden Sources of Sugar in Your Diet,” Huffington Post. April 11, 2015.

“How Much Sugar is in Your Food and Drink?” Medical News Today. June 8, 2015.

“Sugar 101,” American Heart Association. Accessed October 27, 2015.

“The Truth About Sugar,” Good Food. Accessed October 27, 2015.

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