Sneaky Sugars and How to Find Them

Sep 28, 2018 10:36:00AM

A woman is at a street produce stand. The stand is selling several fruits including pineapples, limes, oranges, apples, pears, and tomatoes. The stand is set up using green plastic crates. The male stops owner stands on the other side of the stands from the woman. They are are both dressed on grey or black coats. The images reads: "Out of 600,000 grocery food items, 80% contain added sugar!"


80% of grocery foods have added sugar! Most of these foods are mainstream or easy foods such as Mac’n Cheese. But there are other foods you wouldn't think have added sugar. These are sneaky sugar foods that slip right by you.

I like to think of them like gnats. They are so small they often get missed, but once you see them you cannot unsee the annoying little bugs. They are also very hard to get rid of.

Similarly, these sneaky sugar foods often slip by us unnoticed, but once we do see them, they are difficult to get rid of for many reasons. But there are healthier versions of these sneaky sugar foods or healthy alternatives.

Sneaky sugar foods often fly under the radar because it is undercover. Many terms to look out for on a nutrition label that mean sugar (or worse, harmful artificial sweeteners) are molasses, high-fructose corn syrup, can sugar, evaporated cane juice, dextrose, maltose, Splenda, aspartame, glycerin, fructose, fruit concentrate, xylitol, maltitol, and so much more.

By reading the labels you can avoid these sneaky foods be even healthier.

1. “Organic” Cane Sugar

The first “gnat” is organic sugar cane. Although cane sugar is often labelled as natural, it is processed from juice extracted from sugar cane to make it granular, the same as refined sugar. Cane sugar is less processed than refined sugar, but it is still chemically the same.

More importantly, the body treats cane sugar and refined sugar the same way. The body separates the two parts of sugar, fructose and glucose. Glucose can be beneficially for the body, but too much can lead to inflammation and other side effects. Fructose simply isn’t good for you.

Organic cane sugar is still sugar. The term “organic” can sometimes be misleading as is the case with organic cane sugar.

Sugar is not good for you. But there are good sugar alternatives. One is monk fruit, which is powered by antioxidants rather than sugar.


3. Organic Maple Syrup

Like “organic” cane sugar, “organic” maple syrup is also misleading. Organic does not mean sugar-free.

Even though both contain natural sugars (which is healthier that added sugar), natural sugar is still sugar. Eating too much sugar can make you feel sluggish and tired even if everything else you are eating is healthy.

Naturally, maple syrup has a lot of sugar. In fact, maple syrup is about 66% sugar.  Organic maple syrup, especially, has some vitamins and minerals, but only in small amounts. You would need to consume lots of maple syrup to get a beneficially amount of the nutrients. But in consuming that much, you would consume an extremely unhealthy amount of sugar.

Not worth it!

2. Low-Fat Yogurt / Flavored Yogurt

All food needs one of the three macros: fat, protein, or carbs. When fat was labelled as bad, most fat was replaced with sugar. The sugar is often used to enhance flavor. This is the case with low-fat yogurt.

Be sure to look at yogurt labels to see how much sugar is in it and choose the one with no added sugar: plain yogurt! Then you can eat it plain or add fruit or golden Lakanto to spice it up!

4. Sauces and Dressings

Sauces and dressings such as BBQ sauce, ketchup, mayo, seasoning packets, and salad dressing generally have a lot of sugar. This makes sense, these sauces and dressing enhance flavor.

Oftentimes, we are quite generous with our helpings of sauces and dressings. What’s the point of a healthy salad or all-natural chicken, if it’s drowned in sugary sauces and dressings?

5. Fruit Juice / Jamba Juice / Smoothies / Juice cocktails/ Dried Fruit

Like maple syrup, fruit juice does have some vitamins and minerals, but they are heavily outweighed by the sugar content. When the juice is created, whether fresh pressed or not, most of the fiber of fruit does not make it into the juice. But sugar does.

The fiber in fruit has many health benefits including helping you to not overeat.

Since fiber is not in the juice, you tend to drink more than you should. Not to mention, it takes a lot of fruit to make an adequate amount of juice, meaning there is a cumulative amount of sugar in juice.

Another version of fruit generally thought of as healthy is dried fruit. 1 oz of dried fruit contains 16 grams of sugar. 1 oz is generally the amount of dried fruit in a package of dried fruit. The natural sugar within the fruit remains when it is dried. Also packaged fruit has preservatives within it, mostly likely including added sugar.

6. Spaghetti Sauce

Spaghetti sauce is an example of a sugar food that is not sweet.

Spaghetti sauce, naturally, has low amounts sugar from tomatoes. But many have added sugars. The sugars increase the taste and help the sauce stay good for a long time.

7. Sports Drinks/ Protein Drinks / Mineral Water / Fruit- Infused Water

Sports drinks and protein powder contain lots of sugar for a specific reason. Carbs are great to helping you get energy quickly which is great for very active athletes.

Sports drinks are designed to hydrate and fuel athletes for long, intense workouts. But if you are not working out for several hours a day, these drinks might be providing too many carbs.

If you have too many carbs, they will store in your body, creating fat. A 20 oz sports drink has about 32 grams of sugar and 159 calories. That is a lot to work off.

Water is the better option for most people’s work out schedules.

Additionally, protein bars are not good either. Many of them contain similar amounts of sugar to candy bars. An egg or something like that is better.

Mineral Water and Fruit-Infused water are not specifically sports drinks, but they do have more sugar than is healthy.

8. Granola/ Granola Bars

When people think of a healthy snack or breakfast, they think granola. They are right to think that. The oats are great. They provide good vitamins and nutrients and fiber.

What makes granola not as healthy as we think is what comes with it. Granola often has nuts, honey, dried fruit, and other sources of sugar. Overall, granola tends to have about 6 teaspoons (100 grams) of sugar per serving.

9. Pre-made Oatmeal, Soups, and Other Packaged Foods

One thing everyone wants is a quick meal. Sometimes we do not have time to cook a meal or simply don’t have to the motivation. We turn to pre-made meals and frozen meals as a solution.

Even though some label themselves as healthy, they generally are not.

Any food that needs to be preserved has a lot of ingredients added. The most common preservative is salt, but sugar can also be used. Common packaged foods that have sugar are lunch meat, hamburger patties, chips, and some natural peanut butter.

Again, pay close attention to the labels.

10. Bread

Bread? Really?

There are some breads, like a cinnamon swirl, that obvious has sugar in it. But some whole-wheat and multigrain bread have sugar.

Just look at the label to make sure you are getting healthy food.

Now, you know some foods to avoid to enhance your healthy lifestyle. Keep in mind the different names sugar might hide behind and to look for them on labels. Also, keep in mind the serving size. The whole label is made around the serving size. Try to keep to the serving size and not overeat.

Another easy way to avoid sneaky sugars is to make food yourself. It is rather difficult to sneak sugar into natural food.


Cook's Illustrated. (2014, November). Is Natural Cane Sugar a Good Substitute for Sugar? Retrieved September 25, 2018, from

Gunnars, K. (2013, December 02). 6 Healthy Sugars that can Harm You. Retrieved September 25, 2018, from

Jhaveri, A. (2018, February 23). 15 "Healthy" Foods You Won't Believe Are Full of Added Sugar. Retrieved September 25, 2018, from

LeafTV Editor. (n.d.). Cane Sugar Vs. Refined Sugar. Retrieved September 25, 2018, from

Smith, S. (2017, October 09). 20 Surprising Foods with More Than 20 Grams of Sugar. Retrieved September 25, 2018, from

 West, H., RD. (2016, July 18). 18 Foods and Drinks That Are Surprisingly High in Sugar. Retrieved September 25, 2018, from


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