16 Foods with Way More Sugar than You Realize from 16 Foods with Way More Sugar than You Realize

16 Foods with Way More Sugar than You Realize

People are used to learning about food products, whether heavily processed or not, containing completely unfamiliar ingredients. “With our current food industry the way it is, I’ve come to expect it and have learned to become an avid label and ingredient list reader,” Sadie Wells, RD, LDN, CPT, says. Many products on the shelves today labeled as a "food product" aren't really "food,” Cristina Panagopoulos, AFPA Nutrition and Wellness Consultant, says. “There are many things inside of these products and packages that make them completely processed, even if it's just to preserve its shelf life.”

Coleslaw salad


The problem here is that you simply don’t know how much sugar is added and how much of it is natural, Susan Engle, MOE, RDN, LD, CLT, says. “Sugar is a preservative that manufacturers use to make food taste better.” People tend to love a sweet—sour taste, which is another reason why processed sugar is added, she adds. Just one cup of coleslaw salad contains 23 grams of sugar, according to USDA.



The one exception would be plain yogurt, both Wells and Engle say. While yogurt is a good source of probiotics, most, if not all, are loaded with sugar, artificial sweeteners, harmful fillers, and yeast which are “three things you need to avoid like the plague,”  Dr. Daryl Gioffre, Founder of Alkamind and celebrity nutritionist, says. Just a small 8-ounce serving of the sweet dessert can have as many as 47 grams of sugar. And some varieties contain 30 grams of sugar in a 6-ounce cup.

Bottle iced teas


In general, many teas are filled with sugar, Panagopoulos says. “It's better to have sugar earlier in the day if you are going to have it. Your body will break it down and use it for energy for your day rather than storing it at night (turns into fat),” Panagopoulos says. Unsweetened ice teas may not be too bad, Wells adds.

Instant oatmeal


Oatmeal is typically seen as one of the healthiest breakfast choices you can make—but it all depends on the type of oatmeal you’re eating. While some is heart healthy and has been shown to help with weight loss, other kinds are loaded with artificial flavoring and added sugar, mostly because of the flavors, Panagopoulos says. (Quaker Instant Oatmeal Maple and Brown Sugar has 12 grams of sugar). “Unflavored oatmeal is best,” she adds.



“There are added sugars in most dressings,” Panagopoulos says. They make salads taste so much better but they also turn them from a healthy meal to the worst diet offender. Pay special attention to the dressings labeled “light”—when they reduce the fat, they often replace it with sugar. Some popular dressings, like French and Thousand Island, contain 2.4 grams per tablespoon. “Stick with vinegar and oil,” she adds.

Pasta sauces


The added sugar is the white processed kind which is the real problem, Engle says. “Tomatoes have natural sugar, but the label shows the number for natural and added together.” One cup contains about 10 grams of sugar or more – that’s more than 2 teaspoons of the sweet stuff. The new labels, which become mandatory in 2018, require companies to list “added sugar” separately.

Packaged fruits


How can fruit be unhealthy? As it turns out, packaged fruit can be high in sugar, even when it’s sitting in “light syrup.” “Sadly, companies will add sugar to fruit which is already sweet enough,” Panagopoulos says. Packaged peaches, pears, mandarin oranges and cherries contain upwards of 17 grams of sugar per small serving, so keep that in mind next time you reach for a fruit cup.



Milk has natural sugar. But “there is added sugar,” Panagopoulos. Companies think they will win consumers over by getting to our sweet tooth, she adds. “[It] must be working because every company tends to do this.”

Granola and energy bars


These grab-and-go breakfast solutions are meant to be healthy snacks but some are so high in sugar, they’re more like glorified candy bars. “[They are] the worst,” Panagopoulos says. “These are sugar packages with a little bit of grain,” she adds. With chocolate, caramel and peanut butter as some of the key ingredients, these bars may be high in protein but it’s a trade-off when they also contain 15 grams of sugar or more.

Commercial smoothies


“These are second for worst,” Panagopoulos says. “Some have more than 15 tbsp of sugar in them!” she adds. Even though some smoothies, like the ones at Jamba Juice, have lots of protein and real fruit, they’re also loaded with sugar – anywhere from 50 to 70 grams of sugar in their small 16 ounce cups. If you need a smoothie, it’s best to make one at home.

Frozen meals


If you are going to have a microwavable dinner, frozen meals without sauces or creams are a better choice, according to Wells. Sugar is added as a natural preservative to make the food taste better, Engle says. “It's best to have a sugar in its rawest form that wasn't modified,” Panagopoulos says. Also, she adds, many pother processed items go into these meals.



Bread is a sneaky source of sugar. Just one slice of white, commercially prepared bread, has about 2 grams of sugar, according to USDA. Some sugar is formed naturally in the baking process but it is often added too. Most commercial types of bread contain sugar or high fructose corn syrup, just like other processed foods, according to Authority Nutrition. Stick with Ezekiel bread, Panagopoulos says.



Canned soups – and everything in a can for that matter – have a lot of sodium because that’s how the product is preserved. You probably didn’t know that sugar is also used for the same purpose. Just one can of Campbell’s classic tomato soup-on-the-go has 20 grams of sugar — the same amount of sugar as two donuts.

Almond milk


“Almond milk is mostly sugar,” Engle says. “There may be two almonds in a cup.” Companies add table sugar, which is the bad kind eventually causing health problems, to make the milk taste good, she adds. By the unsweetened flavor and avoid all added sugar, Panagopoulos adds.

Bran cereal with raisins


There are 18 grams of sugar in just one cup (or a total of 59 grams of the cereal), according to the USDA. Compare that to just seven grams of fiber that you get in the same serving. These raisins are all sugar. And that is besides the other three forms of sugar in the flakes — corn syrup, HFCS, and invert sugar. These combined give you a real sugar buzz.

Dried cranberries


“They are always coated in some kind of sugar, Wells says. “I have searched in nearly every grocery store I’ve been in and haven’t found a brand yet that doesn’t have added sugar,” she adds. Other dried fruits that would have a lot of sugar in them would be things like cherries, prunes and dates, Panagopoulos says. These are highly condensed. “To be honest, I would stay clear of all dried fruit. The sugars are more condensed and higher in this form.”