Surprisingly High-Sugar Foods

package label by refrigerator

Where Sugar Likes to Hide

It’s a good idea to keep an eye on the amount of sugar in your diet. Natural sugar, the kind found in apples or potatoes, is better for you than added sugar, which is in soda and baked goods. It is recommended that no more than 10% of calories each day should come from added sugars. This equals to about 200 calories or 12 teaspoons based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Food labels list the amount of total sugar, but check the ingredients to see if sugar was added. (Look for words like “fructose,” “sucrose,” or “corn sweetener.”)

ketchup and mustard diptych

Ketchup or Mustard?

pouring ketchup into bowl


Mustard has only a tiny amount of sugar. So if you’re on the fence about whether to put ketchup or mustard on your hot dog, this might help you decide.

1 ketchup packet + = 1.91g sugar;

1 mustard packet = 0.05g sugar

soft drink and apple juice diptych

Soft Drink or Bottled Apple Juice?

apple juice and apples

Bottled Apple Juice

There are 36 grams of sugar in a 12-ounce serving, compared with 39 for a typical soft drink. But the sugar in soda is added — not from a natural source like apples. If you crave that apple goodness, have a splash of juice with sparkling water and a squeeze of lime. Or better yet, eat an apple: A medium-sized one has lots of fiber and nutrients and 18 grams of natural sugar.

12 oz Apple juice = 35.8g sugar

12 oz coca cola = 39g sugar

1 medium apple = 18.9 g sugar

dried cranberries and gummy bears diptych

Dried Cranberries or Gummy Bears?

dried cranberries close up

Dried Cranberries

Surprise! This dried fruit has 50% more sugar than the same amount of gummy bears.

But before you make gummies your new go-to snack, know this: Cranberries — and other dried fruit — pack far more nutritional value and fiber into each bite. And the gummy bears have more total calories per serving.

1/2 cup dried cranberries = 58g sugar

17 gummy bears = 18 g sugar

boston cream doughnut and frappucino diptych

Boston Cream Doughnut or Mocha Frappuccino?

frappuccino close up

Mocha Frappuccino

If you really have to decide, this has more than 3 times the sugar than an indulgent, chocolate-covered cream-filled doughnut. You’re better off with a plain cup of coffee and a square or two of dark chocolate — you’ll get your caffeine fix and satisfy your sweet tooth without too much sugar or too many calories. 

raisin bran and blueberry waffle diptych

Raisin Bran or Blueberry Waffle?

bowl of raisin bran

Raisin Bran

Compare the 19.4 grams in a cup of this cereal to 3 grams of sugar in a blueberry waffle — 15 grams of sugar with a tablespoon of maple syrup. But keep in mind that some of the sugar in the cereal comes from naturally sweet raisins.

1 cup Raisin Bran = 19.4 g sugar

Blueberry waffle = 3g sugar + 1 tbsp maple syrup = 15g sugar

tomato sauce and strawberries diptych

Jarred Tomato Sauce or Strawberries

pouring tomato sauce close up

Jarred Tomato Sauce

This has almost 3 times the amount in a cup of strawberries, and almost triple the calories. But you can’t put strawberries on your pasta. Instead, make your own sauce with fresh tomatoes or canned, crushed tomatoes — you’ll know exactly what’s in it.

salad dressing and mayonnaise diptych

Mayonnaise or Creamy Salad Dressing?

thousand island dressing on salad

Creamy Salad Dressing

Mayonnaise has no sugar, but it does have lots of calories — around double the typical salad dressing. So pick carefully — or opt for a light sprinkling of oil, vinegar, and sea salt instead. 

canned peaches and chocolate chip cookies diptych

Canned Peaches or Chocolate Chip Cookies

canned peaches close up

Canned Peaches

A single serving (in light syrup) has about 33.2 grams of sugar, compared with about 15.8grams in 3 chocolate chip cookies. But fruit is good for you. Try fresh fruit if you want to keep the sugar to a minimum — and add fiber and nutrients to your diet.

caramel corn and cole slaw diptych

Caramel Corn or Prepackaged Cole Slaw?

prepackaged cole slaw close up

Prepackaged Cole Slaw

Some brands have as much as 13 grams of sugar per half cup — compared to caramel corn, which has 9.25g sugar per half cup.  If you make the slaw yourself, you’ll have a better idea of what’s in it.

bowl of instant oatmeal and pancakes diptych

Instant Oatmeal or Pancakes

bowl of instant oatmeal

Instant Oatmeal

Three 4-inch pancakes have just 5 grams, while a serving of the “apples and cinnamon” variety of instant oatmeal has more than double that. Of course, that’s before you pour syrup on your pancakes — a tablespoon could add 12 grams.

candy bar and granola bar diptych

Candy Bar or Granola Bar

snickers candy bar broken

Candy Bar

There’s plenty of sugar in both, but a regular-size bar with chocolate, nuts, and caramel has about double the sugar of a typical granola bar per gram. Look for one with plenty of protein, whole grains, and nuts — that combination helps your body absorb calories slowly and better satisfies your hunger.

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