25 Surprising Sources of Hidden Sugar That Will Seriously Alarm You

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our Affiliate Disclosure here.

25 Surprising Sources of Hidden Sugar You'd Never Expect

Most of us know that if we eat a ton of sugary snacks and treats all day it’s going to lead to some serious health problems – like obesity, tooth decay, fatty liver disease, diabetes and more. So we try to play it safe and avoid donuts, candy and sodas.

Recommended Reading: 10 Convincing Reasons You Should Stop Eating Sugar Right Now

However, a report published by the World Health Organization revealed the current average intake of sugar in North and Central America is 95g a day rising to 130g a day in South America. In Western Europe, the average is 101g a day.

That’s a far cry from the American Heart Association’s recommendation that men should eat no more than 37.5g or 9 teaspoons of sugar a day, and women no more than 25g, or 6 teaspoons.

So where is all this excess sugar coming from?

It seems that we may be getting a lot of our sugar intake from foods that look healthy and nutritious, but are really laced with this addictive poison.

Check out the worst offenders and see how much sugar you’re really eating:

Breakfast Cereals

25 Surprising Sources of Hidden Sugar That Will Seriously Alarm You

For many of us, morning is the time of day when we’re most stressed – rushing around trying to get ahead of the traffic. That’s what makes grabbing a quick bowl of cereal so appealing.

But it could be doing more harm than good. A new analysis of 20 breakfast cereals has shown that they are actually up to one third sugar!

Many sugary cereals aimed at children are even worse than that. Marshmallow Froot Loops are 48% sugar at 14g per cup and Corn Pops, Reese’s Puffs, Lucky Charms and regular Froot Loops are 41% sugar.

Cut out this deadly source of sugar and switch to one of these healthy breakfast ideas instead.


Often marketed as a healthy alternative to cereal, granola has more sugar than a can of soda (and more fat than fries!).

A spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association says that ‘most granolas are classified as high sugar, with more than 12.5g of sugar per 100g – much of which has been deliberately added to make it taste more palatable’.


If you’re eating oatmeal, you think you’re being as healthy as you can.

And often, you are. Oatmeal is known to stabilize blood sugar, boost energy, prevent diabetes, protect the heart, aid in weight loss and much more.

Just make sure to choose the right type – steel cut or rolled oats are the best option whereas instant oatmeal is highly processed and can contain up to 17g of sugar per serving.

Beating that figure hands down, though, is McDonald’s Oatmeal – where one serving will clock up a whopping 32g of sugar.

Protein Bars

Protein is vital for every cell in our bodies. It’s responsible for glossy hair and strong nails; building bones, muscles and blood; and helping produce hormones and enzymes.

So naturally, when we see a tasty yet high-protein source, it’s tempting….like a Chocolate Brownie Protein Bar for example.

Unfortunately, if it looks too good to be true, it usually is!

Some protein bars have up to 27g of sugar from various sweeteners like cane invert syrup, fructose syrup and malitol syrup.

Pasta Sauces

Did you know there can be up to 11g of sugar in a mere half cup of pasta sauce?

If you’re wondering why manufacturers would add sugar to tomato sauce it may be to hide the flavor of cheaper vegetable oils and dehydrated vegetables.

You might be even more shocked to learn that the sauce which clocks in at 11g is actually a simple Organic Tomato & Basil Pasta Sauce, which most of us would opt for in a bid to be healthy.

Canned Soup

Did you think that your go-to lunch of organic vegetable soup would have 7 whole grams of sugar per cup? Well, it might. The Wolfgang Puck Organic Hearty Garden Vegetable Soup certainly does.

And a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup has 12g of sugar.

Make your own soup instead…but if you’re using store-bought stock cubes, look for a sugar free variety. Some brands can contain around a half gram of sugar per cube, and they are also quite high in sodium.

Ketchup & BBQ Sauces

Do you ever find yourself craving ketchup? It might actually be sugar you’re craving. A tablespoon of Heinz brand has 4g of sugar – more than a small chocolate chip cookie.

Barbecue sauce is even worse – according to the USDA database, it has almost 6g per tablespoon.

These are two sauces that you should definitely stop buying and start making – you’ll find a great no-added-sugar ketchup recipe here.


Instant gravy granules are handy to have in the kitchen but they contain a lot of questionable ingredients – like maltodextrin, palm oil, colors, flavors and sugar of course. Two teaspoons contain 1g of sugar.

Salad Dressing

25 Surprising Sources of Hidden Sugar That Will Seriously Alarm You

A balanced salad full of healthy fats, protein, veggies and complex carbs is one of the healthiest lunch options out there.

But the salad dressing we choose can make or break the nutritional quality of our meal.

Naturally Thousand Island or Ranch dressing is a no-go, but even the light dressings can be dangerous. Ken’s Fat Free Sun-Dried Tomato Vinaigrette dressing contains 12g of sugar in just 2 tablespoons.

Stick to an oil and vinegar dressing or add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the leaves.


Coleslaw seems like a pretty safe sugar-free choice. While it’s mostly shredded vegetables mixed with some mayonnaise, there is often sugar lurking in there too.

A half cup of coleslaw could add over 11g of sugar to your daily tally.

Bread & Sandwiches

Everyone’s favorite food, bread’s sugar content might just explain our love affair with this simple carb.

Choosing 100% whole wheat natural whole grain bread won’t get you off the hook – these can typically contain up to 6g of sugar per 2 slices.

If you’re grabbing a ready-made sandwich for lunch on the go, read the label first. An Arby’s Roast Ham & Swiss Sandwich clocks up 15g of sugar – 60% of your Recommended Daily Value.

Jam & Fruit Spreads

This one may not be such a surprise – after all jam is pretty sweet. But the amount of sugar in some jams may come as a shock.

Smucker’s Strawberry Jam contains 12g of sugar per tablespoon. That means a breakfast that consists of two slices of whole wheat bread with two tablespoons of jam could be registering 30 grams of sugar – 120% of a woman’s RDV!

Peanut Butter

While peanut butter has been shown to positively affect blood sugar levels and help to decrease the risk of diabetes, you have to choose the right brand.

Some peanut butters can contain over 3g of sugar (which is almost a teaspoon of sugar) per 2 tablespoon serving.

Iced Tea

It’s cool and refreshing and, well … tea, so how bad can it be?

Lipton’s Pure Leaf Iced Tea Black Tea with Raspberry has 39g of sugar per bottle – exceeding the daily amount recommended for both men and women.

And Arizona’s Green Tea with Ginseng and Honey isn’t far behind. At 34g per bottle it contains the same amount of sugar as a Mars Bar, almost hitting the maximum allowed per day for a man.

Why not try one of these tasty Green Tea recipes instead?

Coffee Drinks

While you might be very careful not to add sugar to your coffee at home, have you checked the sugar content in your favorite takeaway coffees?

A standard black coffee is fine but some of the other varieties are loaded with sugar. A 16oz Cinnamon Dolce Latte has 40g of sugar – about the same as two Twinkies.

If you use a single-cup coffee maker at home (and here’s why you shouldn’t) make sure to check the ingredients on the capsule box – some contain hidden sugar and other additives.

Vitamin Water

25 Surprising Sources of Hidden Sugar That Will Seriously Alarm You

Drinking water is so important for our bodies, but sometimes it can be a little boring. It’s very tempting to mix things up with a bottle of Vitamin Water – hydration and nutrients in one gulp.

But a bottle of one of these enhanced waters can clock up about 32.5g of sugar! It’s best to stick with water the way nature intended.

If you’re bored with plain water, why not try adding a little lemon juice or fresh fruits to your glass?

Sports Drinks

Not as healthy as marketing companies would have you believe, sports drinks often contain high fructose corn syrup – a serious metabolism ‘death food’.

They often contain 50g of sugar per 12 ounces, according to Harvard School of Public Health.

Swap these drinks for coconut water – an electrolyte rich natural drink with no added sugar.

Fruit Juice

Unbelievably, a recent study found that fruit juice has a fructose concentration which can rival soda any day.

One of the worst offenders was Minute Maid 100% apple juice which had more fructose per liter than Pepsi, Sprite, Coca-Cola, 7-Up or Dr. Pepper.

In terms of sugar, this apple juice contains 26g of sugar per 8oz glass, which is more or less on par with a glass of cola.

Canned Fruit

Thankfully, canned fruit counts towards our ‘five-a-day’.

But not all canned fruit is created equally. For example, a fruit cocktail, canned in heavy syrup – even when drained – still contains 37g of sugar per cup. If it’s canned in light syrup and drained, you’ll still be looking at 30g of sugar per cup.

Fruit canned in water is a much better option (at 12g per cup) but fresh is always best.


Yogurt is touted as one of the healthiest choices for breakfast or snack time. The flavored variety however, are loaded with sugars.

Yoplait’s Strawberry Flavored Thick and Creamy yogurt contains 28g of sugar per one pot serving.  Their light range contain 10g per serving – an improvement but still a shockingly high amount for a supposed ‘healthy-option’.

Activia’s yogurt – which is meant to be beneficial for your gut – contains 15g of sugar. Ironically, sugar is one of the main culprits for causing an imbalance of bacteria in the gut. Instead try these probiotic foods.

Chinese Sauces

Chinese takeout is a favorite of many – and for good reason. Most of us know it’s not the healthiest thing we can eat, but it’s shocking to learn just how much sugar could be contained in these dishes.

For example, sweet and sour chicken with fried rice contains 16g of sugar, along with 119% of our recommended salt intake.

Store bought ‘Asian’ style sauces aren’t much better. They contain ingredients like corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup and dextrose – all forms of sugar. A ready-to-serve teriyaki sauce contains 41g of sugar per cup.

Frozen Meals

Just like Chinese takeout, we know that TV dinners aren’t the best choice but they are convenient.

They’re not exactly appealing through, so manufacturers pack them with sugar to make them taste better.

Take Lean Cuisine’s Apple Cranberry Chicken for example. With French cut green beans, carrots and whole wheat orzo pasta, it doesn’t sound like it could contain 23g of sugar per serving … but it does.

Infant Formula

Several baby formula brands sold in US stores contain both corn syrup and sugar. Unfortunately, many of the companies don’t seem to list the amount of sugar in their nutritional information.

Thankfully NBC Chicago hired a laboratory to measure sugar content in seven popular brands of formula.

While some brands were high in sugar, researchers say it came from lactose, the same type of sugar in breast milk.

However, Similac brand had added sugars in two of its formulas – the Advance Organic Complete Nutrition contained 3.5g of sugar per serving and their Soy Infant Formula with Iron contained four kinds of added sugar, totaling 3.8g per serving.

In Europe and other countries, sucrose is banned in baby formula due to fears of obesity. Nutrition experts say that sucrose in baby formula conditions children to crave sweet foods throughout their lives.


Some vitamins and supplements are a sneaky source of sugar and artificial sweeteners, particularly chewable vitamins marketed at children. Much like infant formula, many brands contain corn syrup and sugar.


While sugar in alcopops is to be expected, cider and other alcohols contain huge amounts of sugar too.

In an analysis of 12 different drinks, the worst offenders included cream-based liquors at 19.5g of sugar per 3.5oz, sherry at 9.5g per 3.3oz and cider at 20.5g per pint.

Wines, beers and champagne contained the least amount.

When Reading Nutrition Labels…

  • Remember that sugar goes by over 50 aliases including corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, maltodextrin, refiner’s syrup and anything ending in ‘ose’ (like dextrose and maltose).
  • Watch for serving size. Manufacturers often try to mislead by putting obscure serving sizes on their labels. For example, a bottle of vitamin water may say it contains 2.5 servings, so you’ll need to multiply the nutritional values by 2.5 to get a true reading of what’s contained in one bottle, which many of us would consider a serving.

Want To Quit Sugar?

Have a read of one of our previous articles titled: How To Quit Sugar: 10 Tricks From A Former Sugar Addict and learn some of the best tips and tricks from someone who has been there and done it.