Teaspoons upon teaspoons of added sugars are lurking in your everyday packaged foods and drinks—and they’re not where you’d expect. From obvious items like cookies to more shocking foods like pasta sauce, the food industry sneaks extra sugars into almost every packaged good we buy. For manufacturers, it’s a win-win: Research has revealed that sugar can cause cravings and rewards similar to that of addictive drugs (so consumers will eat more and keep buying it), and because of the sugar surplus, adding the sweet stuff to food is pretty cheap. For consumers—especially if you're actually trying to stop eating so much sugar—it’s a different story.
"American’s over consumption of sweeteners has been linked to an array of health issues, including an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and stroke," says David Zinczenko, author of the bestselling book Zero Belly. This national epidemic is what led the USDA to issue guidelines for the first time, which recommend Americans keep their consumption of added sugars to no more than 10 percent of overall calories, for an average of 47 grams or 12 teaspoons a day. But with added sugars lurking in products whose packaging make them appear healthier than they are, Americans are unknowingly consuming an average of over triple that recommendation.
Companies spend millions of dollars to advertise that products like breads, yogurts, and salad dressings are “whole-grain” or “low-fat”, but they fail to state their unnecessary hidden added sugars. (You’ll have to scour the ingredient list for that. And good luck, there are almost 60 code names added sugar goes by.) To help you stay within the guidelines—and uncover the sugary culprits—we rounded up a list of surprising packaged foods with high levels of the sweet stuff and discovered their low-sugar option. Next time you go shopping, you won’t have to frantically search nutrition facts. Read our guide, start munching, and let the weight loss begin! And if you're going out to eat any time soon, avoid these 23 Restaurant Foods With Crazy-High Amounts of Sugar!
FRUIT & NUT BARS: EAT THIS! KIND MADAGASCAR VANILLA ALMOND
Nutrition per bar: 210 calories, 16 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 15 mg sodium, 14 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 7 g protein
NOT THAT! KIND ALMONDS & APRICOTS IN YOGURT
Nutrition per bar: 190 calories, 11 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 23 g carb, 2.5 g fiber, 16 g sugar, 3 g protein
KIND snack bars are a great on-the-go treat because they’re typically packed with protein and fiber to keep you feeling full and energized. While bars certainly sound diet-friendly, many are loaded with as much sugar as some candy bars, like KIND’s Almonds & Apricots in Yogurt. Yes, some of the 16 grams of sugar can be attributed to the sugars found naturally in fruit and milk; but there are still four instances of added sugar, and total sugar accounts for over a third of all calories. Go for the Madagascar Vanilla Almond bar. It’s not only high in fiber and protein, but it also has fat-blasting Madagascar vanilla: Research in the Journal of Food and Agriculture found that vanilla beans are high in oleic fatty acids, monounsaturated fats that can help reduce appetite and promote weight loss.
TEA: DRINK THIS! TAZO BERRYBLOSSOM WHITE
Nutrition per 13.8 fl oz bottle, 408 mL: 60 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 15 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 15 g sugar, 0 g protein
NOT THAT! Pure Leaf Peach Tea
Nutrition per 18.5 fl oz bottle, 547 mL: 180 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 46 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 46 g sugar, 0 g protein
Nutrition per 408 mL: 134 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 34.3 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 34.3 g sugar, 0 g protein
You stop at Whole Foods on your way home from the gym, and your eyes catch sight of that chilled, refreshing bottle of iced tea near the checkout counter. "You might be justifying your purchase because tea is rich in free-radical-fighting antioxidants, but that doesn’t mean all teas are created equal," says Kelly Choi, author of The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Cleanse. Downing just one of Pure Leaf’s generously-portioned bottles can drain your daily recommended sugar intake. If you can’t fight the urge for a fruity-flavored tea, go with Tazo’s Berryblossom White tea—it boasts the lowest amount of added sugar in a pre-packaged fruity tea—but picking a plain green tea with no added sugar will be your best weight loss buddy.
FLAVORED YOGURT: EAT THIS! CHOBANI SIMPLY 100 KEY LIME
Nutrition per 5.3 oz, 150 g): 100 calories, 0 g fat (0 g trans fat), 90 mg sodium, 16 g carbs, 5 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 12 g protein
NOT THAT! YOPLAIT THICK & CREAMY KEY LIME PIE
Nutrition per 6 oz, 170 g: 180 calories, 2.5 g fat (1.5 g saturated fat), 110 mg sodium, 31 g carbs, 28 g sugar, 7 g protein
Yoplait’s key-lime-flavored yogurt is brimming with more sugar than four Chips Ahoy! Chewy cookies. But don’t let this breakfast blunder steer you away from one of the best proteins for weight loss. With Chobani’s low sugar option, you cut your sugar by two-thirds, and you get more muscle-building protein.
ICED COFFEE: DRINK THIS! CALIFIA FARMS DIRTY CHAI COLD BREW COFFEE WITH ALMOND MILK
Nutrition per bottle, 10.5 fl oz: 110 calories, 4 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 17g carbs, 1 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 2 g protein
NOT THAT! STARBUCKS VANILLA FRAPPUCCINO
Nutrition per bottle, 9.5 fl oz: 200 calories, 3 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 100 mg sodium, 37 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 31 g sugar, 6 g protein
We know your daily cup—or four—of coffee is necessary to keep you going. And we don’t blame you. Coffee’s diabetes-defending, brain-preserving, cancer-fighting power makes it a great superfood. The only issue lies in how to drink it, and if your busy schedule has you opting for the pre-made packaged version, you could be in for a sugar rush. Pick up Califia Farms’ Dirty Chai iced coffee to get a blood-sugar balancing, digestion-aiding kickstart from its cinnamon and ginger, and leave the sugar-loaded Starbucks on the shelf. Or better yet, brew your own iced coffee overnight to save time and the empty calories.
COOKIES: EAT THIS! KASHI CHOCOLATE ALMOND BUTTER
Nutrition per 1 cookie, 30 g: 130 calories, 5 g fat (1 g saturated), 80 mg sodium, 19 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 7 g sugars, 3 g protein
NOT THAT! DOUBLE STUF OREO
Nutrition per 2 cookies, 29 g: 140 calories, 7 g fat (2 g saturated), 90 mg sodium, 21 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 13 g sugars, 1 g protein
Kashi’s cookies are mostly made of nutritious whole grains like triticale (a wheat-rye hybrid) and buckwheat, a slow-burning whole grain. Almond butter, dark chocolate chips, and crunchy almonds are all ingredients with proven weight-loss benefits. On the other hand, with sugar leading the ingredient charge for Double Stuf Oreos, there’s no wonder why they rank low on our exclusive list of the Most Popular Cookies in America and why they’re a definite Not That.
SALAD DRESSING: EAT THIS! NEWMAN’S OWN BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE
Nutrition per 2 tbsp: 90 calories, 9 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 3 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 0 g protein
NOT THAT! Ken’s FAT FREE SUN-DRIED TOMATO VINAIGRETTE
Nutrition per 2 tbsp: 70 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 260 mg sodium, 16 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 12 g sugar
Products that boast the claims “low-fat” or “fat free” are usually code for “high in sugar”. When manufacturers take the fat out of food, they make up for the lost flavor with extra salt and sugar. The fats in salad dressings like Newman’s Own are usually the heart-healthy monounsaturated fats found in olive oils, and there’s no need to take these out.
MARINARA SAUCE: EAT THIS! CUCINA ANTICA TOMATO BASIL
Nutrition per ½ cup: 35 calories, 1.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 1 g sugar, 1 g protein
NOT THAT! NEWMAN’S OWN MARINARA SAUCE
Nutrition per ½ cup: 70 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 460 mg sodium, 12 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 7 g sugar, 3 g protein
While it’s not super high in the sweet stuff, if you like to go heavy on the sauce, your dinner will gradually begin to look more like dessert. (Not to mention the high carb content of pasta will also eventually convert to molecules of glucose.) Newman’s Own adds sweetness with cane sugar while Cucina Antica’s single gram is naturally occurring. Don’t get us wrong, marinara sauce is a flat-belly favorite. Made from antioxidant-rich tomatoes, it’s actually a better source of lycopene than fresh tomatoes because it's easier for your body to absorb the lycopene when tomatoes are processed. Studies show that a diet rich in lycopene can decrease your risk of bladder, lung, prostate, skin, and stomach cancers, as well as reduce the risk of coronary artery disease.
GRANOLA: EAT THIS! KIND Fruit & Nut Clusters
Nutrition per ½ cup, 50 g: 200 calories, 4.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat, 70 mg sodium, 31 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 10 g protein
NOT THAT! BEAR NAKED FRUIT AND NUTTY GOODIE BAG GRANOLA
Nutrition per ½ cup, 50 g: 280 calories, 12 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 40 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 14 g sugar, 6 g protein
Granola must have a heck of a PR guy. After all, when you come to think of it, someone managed to convince an entire nation of eaters that clumps of oats glued together with sugar is somehow healthy. A half a cup of Bear Naked’s Fruit and Nut Granola has more sugar than a bowl of Reese’s Puffs, one of the Worst Packaged Foods in America. When you’re shopping for a yogurt topper, go with KIND’s Fruit & Nut Clusters. They’re not only one of the lowest sugar options on the market, but they’re also packed with 10 grams of satiating protein and 31 grams of whole grains.
BBQ SAUCE: EAT THIS! STUBB’S ORIGINAL BAR-B-Q SAUCE
Nutrition per 2 tbsp, 32 g: 30 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 220 mg sodium, 6 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 0 g protein
NOT THAT! SWEET BABY RAY’S ORIGINAL BARBECUE SAUCE
Nutrition per 2 tbsp, 37 g: 70 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 290 mg sodium, 18 g carbs, 0 g fiber, 16 g sugar, 0 g protein
There’s almost nothing better than a barbecue on a summer day—well, except for keeping your body goals intact. Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce that “started it all”, itself starts with high fructose corn syrup and also adds some more sugar and corn syrup after that. Slather some of Stubb’s Original Bar-B-Q sauce on your grilled chicken, sit back, and enjoy.
BREAD: EAT THIS! FOOD FOR LIFE EZEKIEL 4:9 SPROUTED GRAIN BREAD
Nutrition per 1 slice: 80 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 75 mg sodium, 15 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 0 g sugar, 4 g protein
NOT THAT! PEPPERIDGE FARM FARMHOUSE HEARTY WHITE BREAD
Nutrition per 1 slice: 110 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 22 g carbs, 1 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 4 g protein
You read that right. Packaged bread, like the white Farmhouse loaf from Pepperidge Farm, can have four grams of sugar per slice. That means you’d be eating 8 grams of sugar per sandwich—more sugar than a pack of jelly beans. To make things worse, this Hearty White Bread is sweetened with High Fructose Corn Syrup, one of the most flat-belly-threatening forms of sugar on the market. Go with Ezekiel’s sugar-free, sprouted grain loaf. The millet, spelt, lentils and cholesterol-lowering barley lend a natural sweetness and help boost the loaf’s fiber, a nutrient that wards off hunger while keeping the nutrient profile sound. Plus, sprouting grains breaks down enzyme inhibitors, which helps your body better digest and absorb healthy nutrients from the bread.
CEREAL: EAT THIS! GENERAL MILLS KIX
Nutrition per cup, 24 g: 88 calories, 0.8 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 144 mg sodium, 20 g carbs, 2.4 g fiber, 2.4 g sugar, 1.6 g protein
NOT THAT! HONEY SMACKS
Nutrition per cup, 33.8 g: 133 calories, 0.7 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 53 mg sodium, 32 g carbs, 1.3 g fiber, 20 g sugars, 2.7 g protein
Easily the worst way to start your day, Honey Smacks is 60 percent sugar. Not to mention it also contains the worst kind of fat you can consume: Hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, i.e. trans fats. For a kid-tested, nutritionist-approved, option, pour yourself a bowl of Kix. Give it a grown-up spin by adding some fresh blueberries to pump up levels of disease-fighting antioxidants and additional fiber.
FRUIT JUICE SMOOTHIE: EAT THIS! BOLTHOUSE FARMS MULTI-V GOODNESS
Nutrition per 8 oz serving: 130 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 70 mg sodium, 31 g carbs, 8 g fiber, 19 g sugar
NOT THAT! ODWALLA STRAWBERRY C MONSTER
Nutrition per 8 oz serving: 158 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 15.8 mg sodium, 37.4 g carbs, 0.5 g fiber, 28.4 g sugar
We know making a smoothie at home with one of our favorite Smoothie Recipes for Weight Loss isn’t always feasible with your busy schedule, but, trust us, your body will thank you. Bottled smoothies on the market are overflowing with sugar, and there’s no way to tell how much of it is added and how much is naturally occurring. Even worse, for concoctions like Odwalla Strawberry C Monster, extra sweetness comes from fruit juices rather than fruit itself, meaning those natural sugars are lacking their waist-whittling partner in crime, fiber. That’s why we recommend going with Bolthouse Farms’ Multi-V Goodness Orange: the extra fiber will help slow digestion of the sweet stuff so you won’t get a spike in your blood sugar levels.
KETTLE CORN: EAT THIS! KETTLE PIPCORN
Nutrition per 2 cups: 110 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 18 g carbs, 4 g fiber, 4 g sugar, 2 g protein
NOT THAT! POPCORN INDIANA ORIGINAL KETTLECORN
Nutrition per 2 cups: 130 calories, 5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 130 mg sodium, 21 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 1 g protein
One of America’s favorite whole-grain snacks gets a gourmet makeover in Kettle Pipcorn. The traditional movie theater treat made its way into our hearts and homes with this carnival-style, salty and sweet rendition. Unlike Popcorn Indiana’s Kettlecorn, Pipcorn packs five grams of hunger-busting fiber and is seasoned with just four ingredients: olive oil, cane sugar, brown sugar and sea salt. While the popcorn may be miniature (it’s about half the size of the classic variety), it packs a major flavor punch without piling up the sugar cubes.
INSTANT OATMEAL: EAT THIS! NATURE’S PATH ORGANIC GLUTEN FREE BROWN SUGAR MAPLE WITH ANCIENT GRAINS
Nutrition per 1 packet, 40 g: 160 calories, 2 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 80 mg sodium, 31 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 4 g protein
NOT THAT! BETTEROATS OAT REVOLUTION! MAPLE & BROWN SUGAR
Nutrition per 1 packet, 43 g: 160 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 210 mg sodium, 32 g carbs, 3 g fiber, 13 g sugar, 4 g protein
Oatmeal is one of our favorite breakfast foods to help you burn fat and absorb more nutrients than ready-to-eat cereals, but making it on the stove simply takes more time than you have to spare. If you haven’t gotten on the overnight oats bandwagon yet, instant oats may be your only time-saving solution. What they make up for in time saved, they lack in nutrients. Plus, if it's a packet of BetterOats Oat Revolution!, they’re also packed with loads of added sugar. For a crowd-pleasing, gut-leveling breakfast staple, go with Nature’s Path Organic Oats.
Made with a hearty blend of oats, quinoa, and amaranth, this creative, ancient-grain-infused creation is one we can’t get enough of.
BAKED BEANS: EAT THIS! PACIFIC FOODS ORGANIC BAKED BEANS
Nutrition per ½ cup, 129 g: 130 calories, 0.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 330 mg sodium, 26 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 9 g sugar, 6 g protein
NOT THAT! BUSH’S BROWN SUGAR HICKORY BAKED BEANS
Nutrition per ½ cup, 130 g: 170 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 570 mg sodium, 33 g carbs, 6 g fiber, 16 g sugar, 6 g protein
There’s already enough sugar in baked beans, why would you need to add more? Even though beans are a protein powerhouse, the four teaspoons of sugar added to Bush’s Brown Sugar beans surely detracts from their nutritional prowess. To reap the benefits of the navy bean baked beans—these legumes are a great source of resistant starch, a type of fiber that can help you burn fat by making your body work harder to digest it—go with Pacific Foods’ boxed Organic Baked Beans.
CANDY: EAT THIS! UNREAL Dark Chocolate Coconut Peanut Butter Cups
Nutrition per 1 cup: 80 calories, 6 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 45 mg sodium, 7 g carbs, 2 g fiber, 5 g sugar, 1 g protein
NOT THAT! REESE’S PEANUT BUTTER CUPS
Nutrition per 1 cup: 87 calories, 5 g fat (1.8 g saturated fat), 61 mg sodium, 9 g carbs, 0.6 g fiber, 8 g sugar, 1.7 g protein
Although candy shouldn’t be your go-to snack, we won’t fault you for noshing on a little something sweet to get you through the day. But if you’re going to indulge, you may as well do so without ingesting nasty chemicals and loads of sugar. Go with UNREAL’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups because they have almost a full teaspoon less sugar packed into the tiny cup compared to Reese’s. Plus, they’re made with antioxidant-rich dark chocolate that has been shown to help improve your cholesterol profile and lower your risk of heart attack.