6 Hidden Sources of Sugar

Find out which everyday foods hide a shockingly high amount of sugar.

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When you think of sugary foods, things like cookies, cake and ice cream probably come to mind. But some foods that you think are healthy may have more sugar than a glazed Krispy Kreme doughnut! Why is that a problem? Eating foods with a lot of added sugar can up a person’s risk for major health issues such as diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and obesity. Click through our list to discover six foods with a shockingly high sugar count.

Thirty percent of people who have diabetes don't know it.

Medically reviewed in October 2018.

1. Tomato Sauce

2 / 7 1. Tomato Sauce

The next time you’re planning pasta for dinner, skip the store-bought sauce and make your own with crushed, canned tomatoes. Ready-made pasta sauces can have as much as 10g of sugar per half cup. The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugars to between 100 and 150 calories per day, the equivalent of 25g to 38g of sugar. Just one half cup of store-bought tomato sauce can eat up a fairly large portion of your daily sugar allotment.

2. Canned Fruit

3 / 7 2. Canned Fruit

Fresh fruit is an important part of any healthy diet—it’s loaded with vitamins, minerals and natural occurring sugar called fructose. Fruit is also packed with fiber, which helps slow down sugar absorption in the body. Processed fruit, on the other hand (the kind that comes in a can or plastic cup), may contain sweeteners like corn syrup or fruit juice concentrate, which brings the health value down and the sugar content up. Even a fruit cup in light syrup has about 7g to 11g of total sugar. If you can’t buy fresh fruit, look for products packed in water or with “no added sugars” on the label.

3. Yogurt

4 / 7 3. Yogurt

Yogurt, a source of calcium and protein, can be a nutritious part of any healthy eating plan. A 6 oz serving of plain Greek yogurt only has about 6g of natural occurring sugar in the form of lactose. But it’s easy for a good-for-you food to go bad. Many leading brands of fruit-flavored yogurts or ones with fruit-at-the-bottom can have more than 30g of sugar total. Your best bet is to choose plain, low-fat or nonfat yogurt and stir in slices of fresh fruit at home.

4. Barbecue Sauce

5 / 7 4. Barbecue Sauce

Who doesn’t love the tangy flavor of barbecued ribs or chicken? What you probably don’t know is that just 2 tablespoons of this popular sauce typically has between 12 and 16g of sugar. While barbecue sauce ingredients vary widely, most include sugar, molasses or high-fructose corn syrup. Check labels carefully for sugar code words. If they’re listed among the first two or three ingredients, you can bet the sauce is a secret sugar bomb.


5. Breakfast/Snack Bars

6 / 7 5. Breakfast/Snack Bars

Reaching for a breakfast bar in the morning might seem like a great idea when you’re in a hurry. The trouble is, many cereal and breakfast bars tend to skimp on fiber and bulk up on the sweet stuff. Even those that seem healthier, such as granola bars, can contain between 8 and 19g of sugar. As an alternative, try this recipe for homemade breakfast bars—it gets its sweet flavor naturally, from fruit.

6. Frozen Meals

7 / 7 6. Frozen Meals

It’s hard to resist heating up a frozen entree at the end of a long day or when you’re short on time. But heavily processed foods like pizza and microwavable dinners tend to have a lot of hidden sugar. Even the ones that say “organic” or “natural” (which simply means the product doesn’t contain added colors, artificial flavors or synthetic substances) often contain a good amount of high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar or cane sugar. The frozen meals that are marketed as being lower in calories and fat tend to have the most added sugars since it’s used to enhance flavor. As always, check the label before you buy.


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