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What are Hidden Sugars? 9 Foods That Secretly Contain a Lot of Sugar

Expertly reviewed by Chris Icamen · Dietetics and Nutrition

Written by Sandra Sendingan · Updated Feb 14, 2022

    What are Hidden Sugars? 9 Foods That Secretly Contain a Lot of Sugar

    Too much sugar is bad for your health. Following this, the health-conscious may avoid overly sweet snacks in favor of healthier alternatives. But the problem is sugar is far more common than you might think, even in less obvious food sources. Much of what we eat secretly contains a lot of sugar. What are hidden sugars and how do we avoid them?

    Understanding Hidden Sugars

    Sugar is a simple carbohydrate found in fruits, vegetables, and dairy. These are natural sugars.

    Added sugars are introduced to foods during processing. They may not be labeled as “sugar” in food packaging, but they are still sugar. There are several names for these hidden sugars and their derivatives, such as fructose, dextrose, and sucrose. “Syrup” is another guise for sugar. Some might try to dress up the term as “raw sugar” or “cane sugar”. Fruit nectar, juice concentrates, and honey are a few other examples.

    Sugar has sneakily made its way to our favorite food items without us knowing better. Read on to learn nine foods that secretly contain a lot of sugar.


    It might be surprising to know that a 100g pack of sauce and condiments can have as much as 23g of sugar or half a teaspoon per serving. What are hidden sugars doing in your favorite condiment? Beyond adding to that sweet taste and aroma, sugar acts as an important preservative to extend the product’s shelf life.

    Try to tone down your consumption of ketchup and other tomato-based products. You can also try to cook your own tomato sauce so you have better control of the ingredients that go into it.


    While yogurt is a good source of nutrients and part of a healthy diet, some yogurts contain added sugars. This is especially the case in flavored yogurt. But what are hidden sugars doing in low-fat products? Having a “low-fat” label doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s low in sugar. Some low-fat yogurts can still contain refined sugar, glucose, and fructose syrup.

    Plain or Greek yogurts are healthier alternatives to sweetened yogurt. You can also try adding fruits yourself for extra flavor.

    Breakfast Cereal

    Most cereals are actually closer to desserts due to the amount of sugar they contain.  If you want something healthier for your first meal of the day, consider eggs, pita bread, and natural or full-fat yogurt. If you can’t eliminate cereals completely, try buying cereals with 10-12 grams or less of sugar per serving.


    While granola is a good source of protein and fiber, most store-bought versions are high in sugar and calories. Granola bars add sweeteners like corn syrup and honey for that sweet flavor.

    Instead of buying granola off the shelf, try creating your own granola bar. You can use unsweetened applesauce, vanilla extract, and cinnamon to add flavor with fewer calories.

    Fruit Juice

    Fruit juices contain several vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants depending on the underlying fruit. But they may not be the best beverage from a sugar perspective. Even “unsweetened” fruit juices still have some forms or derivatives of sugar. What are hidden sugars doing in fruit drinks?

    The juicing process, where liquid, vitamins, and minerals are extracted, releases sugar in the fruit, leaving you with a supercharged sugary drink. In fact, sweetened 100 ml fruit juice contains about 9.8 grams of sugar.

    While it’s okay to drink fruit juices every now and then, try to drink more water, low-fat milk, and sugar-free beverages. Better yet, eat the fruits instead of their juice versions.


    Alcoholic drinks have high sugar content. A single 175 ml glass of wine can contain as many calories as a piece of your favorite chocolate.

    If you can, opt for drinks with lower alcohol content on your nights out, or even better, reduce your alcohol intake.


    Bread contains a high amount of sugar. Sugar tends to form during the baking process, but bakers add more of it for flavor and fermentation.

    When you’re on your next supermarket run, pick wholemeal or granary bread over white bread. You can also try German rye bread if you’re not sensitive to gluten.

    Sports Drinks

    After working out, you might be tempted to grab a sports drink to restore lost body fluids. But those colored drinks are loaded with sugar. As an alternative, try to look for powdered electrolytes and mix in a glass of water for your next workout.

    Salad Dressing

    If you’re eating salad as part of your healthy eating journey, adding salad dressing may set you back. Commercially-made salad dressings are high in sugar.

    But what are hidden sugars doing there? Salad dressing is usually made from refined vegetable oil, which is high fructose corn syrup. It’s also loaded with additives, preservatives, and thickeners.

    So the next time you’re having a salad, stick to olive oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper.

    Key Takeaway

    Sugar is virtually everywhere – even in less conspicuous sources. To cut back on your sugar intake, it’s not enough to avoid the obvious offenders like desserts. Make it a point to read nutrition labels carefully. Since sugar comes in many guises, it pays to be a discerning consumer. Making these small differences to cut back on sugar can have a big impact on your health.

    Learn more about Nutrition Facts here.


    Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

    Expertly reviewed by

    Chris Icamen

    Dietetics and Nutrition

    Written by Sandra Sendingan · Updated Feb 14, 2022

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