Surprise! There’s More Sugar in Your Diet Than You Realized


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We all know that cookies and candy are laden with sugar—not news. But what is surprising (and a little disturbing) is just how much of the sweet stuff is in everything else! You may think you’re being healthy, but you may as well chomp down on a Snickers bar. Foods labeled fat-free or low-calorie are particularly prone to having high amounts of sugar because when fat is taken out of the equation, sugar is often added in to compensate for flavoring. (Rude, we know!)

No one wants to become a sugar addict, but even those of us trying hard to avoid it may fall victim because of the amounts of hidden sugars found in our foods. Marci Clow, MS, RDN of Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems breaks it down for us by highlighting some of the foods most people think are healthy but are actually big old no-nos. It’s OK if you cry after reading this.

  • Dried Fruit: With all the water removed, the sugar in dried fruit gets concentrated, but the bigger issue is those dried fruits which add sugar to make them even sweeter. Look for unsulfured dried fruits that don’t contain added sugar.
  • Tomato Sauce: Some have over 2 teaspoons per 1/2 cup serving, about the same as a chocolate chip cookie. Read the label or make your own — it’s easy!
  • Energy Drinks: The sugar and caffeine — some have up to 25 grams of sugar per serving.
  • Instant Oatmeal: Can have up to 3 teaspoons per packet; you can get reduced sugar options or use plain oatmeal and add some fresh fruit to sweeten it up.
  • Salad Dressing: Sweet dressings like French and raspberry vinaigrette have more sugar with approximately 5 to 7 grams of sugar per tablespoon — opt for oil and vinegar instead.
  • Fruit Canned in Syrup: Mandarin oranges in light syrup have almost 40 grams of sugar. Drain the fruit or look for options packed in water if fresh fruit is not an option.
  • Bottled Tea: Many popular brands of lemon-flavored iced tea have more than 30 grams of sugar per bottle. Opt for unsweetened or flavored with mint or stevia if you have to have it sweet. 
  • Juice That Is Not 100 Percent Juice: Juice is a concentrated source of naturally occurring sugar, some juices (like cranberry) are often blended with sweeter juices like apple or white grape to sweeten them up; other juices add high fructose corn syrup. If you’re a juice drinker, opt for one cup (8 ounces) of 100 percent juice; then it qualifies as a serving of fruit.
  • Ketchup: It has about 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon; you can get ketchup without added sugar, so look at the label.
  • BBQ Sauce and Other Marinades: They have a big range of added sugar. BBQ sauce contains about 2 tablespoons per ounce. Look for low-carb or no added sugar brands.
  • Peanut Butter: Some popular brands are loaded with added sugar. Look for brands which contain peanuts only. Same goes for jam/jelly — 100 percent fruit ones taste great!