The Top 10 Ways Sugar is Sneaking Into Your Diet

If there is one thing you can do to make your diet healthier, it’s to cut out added sugar. Turns out, this may be easier said than done. Eliminating sugar can get tricky, as it is no longer found in just sweets and dessert. This dietary enemy may be making its way into your diet through foods you would never expect, and hiding under different names on nutrition labels.

“Food manufacturers are getting creative in an effort to make it seem like there is less sugar in their products,” Erica Julson, RD says. “For example, many consumers are avoiding high fructose corn syrup, so manufacturers use alternative names, such as invert sugar, or corn sugar.” Other common names for sugar include dextrose, sucrose, fructose, and even more deceiving names such as cane juice, brown rice syrup, and nectar, among many others.

To help you avoid all that excess sugar, we’ve compiled a list of the top unsuspecting foods that commonly have added sweeteners.

by Carina Wolff

Tomato Sauce

“Because tomatoes contain citric acid, sugar is added to reduce acidity,” says Alyse Levine, MS, RD. Luckily, tomato sauce is easy to make on your own using canned tomatoes and herbs.

Energy Bars

Sugar is used in energy bars to increase shelf life, but sometimes these bars can exceed the daily recommended amount of sugar in just one serving. “It’s almost like a candy bar in disguise,” Julson says.

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Plain yogurt alone has naturally-occurring sugars, but many flavored yogurts contain the same amount or more sugar as two scoops of ice cream. Plain Greek yogurt is the healthiest alternative, but if you like your yogurt sweet, it’s best to add your own fruit, Levine says.

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Coffee Drinks

Black coffee on its own does not contain sugar, but most specialty drinks are loaded with sweeteners. One Starbucks grande mocha (without whipped cream) contains 34 grams of sugar, 10 grams more than your recommended daily intake!

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Salad Dressing

When manufacturers try to cut down on fat, they up the sugar content to retain flavor, Levine says. Avoid fat-free and low-fat dressings, and be sure to check the ingredient list, not just the amount of sugar listed.


“The number one source of added sugars is sugar-sweetened beverages,” Julson says.

Juice already contains a high amount of natural sugars, but many manufacturers will add cane juice or high fructose corn syrup to amplify taste. Look for brands that are 100 percent juice, and dilute with water, or make your own smoothie at home to retain the natural fibers of the fruit, she says.

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Peanut Butter

When fat is removed from peanut butter, sugar is added. Always choose nut butters without added sugars or hydrogenated oils. The ingredient list on your peanut butter should only be one or two items long.

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Cereal and Granola

Many people see cereal and granola as healthy food options, but most brands load them with sweeteners to make them more palatable to the average consumer. Julson suggests looking for cereals with at least five grams of fiber and no more than 10 grams of sugar per one cup serving.

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Many manufacturers add sweetener to their bread for taste and preservation, and this includes whole wheat varieties as well. Sprouted grain and sourdough are better options, says Julson, who recommends buying bread from your local bakery.

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Lunch Meats

Many lunch meats such as ham, turkey, and even hot dogs have tons of added sugar. Check the ingredient list for words like corn syrup and corn syrup solids, and avoid products that are sugar-cured, maple-cured, or honeybaked.