You Won’t Believe How Much Sugar Is in These “Healthy” Foods
We all know that eating too much sugar is bad for your health. It’s been linked to an increased risk of conditions such as obesity, type 2 diabetes, depression and cancer. Some people even believe that it can cause acne and other skin conditions.
Unfortunately, you may be getting way more sugar in your diet than you think — by eating these foods. Check out 30 of your favorite “health” foods that are chock full of sweetener.
Processed Fruit Juice
Whole juice (the pulpy kind, like you might get out of a juicer) has some health benefits. It’s loaded with vitamins and minerals and even offers a little bit of fiber. But it also has an insane amount of sugar.
Fruit itself is relatively high in sugar — and it takes a lot of fruit to produce one glass of juice. For instance, there are three to four apples in one glass of apple juice. That’s roughly 30 grams of sugar. And keep in mind that most store-bought juices only contain a small amount of actual juice and usually have added sweeteners.
Breakfast cereals: The morning-rush champion of busy parents everywhere. Just grab a bowl, pour in a helping of your kid’s favorite brand and top it with milk. Voila! A healthy breakfast in mere seconds. Not so fast — read that nutrition panel first.
The breakfast cereal you choose could greatly impact your sugar consumption. Many of the more popular brands have a ton of added sugars. Take Honey Smacks, for example: When measured by weight, this brand is 55.6% sugar. If cereal is on the menu, stick with brands that don’t contain added sweeteners.
Many people assume that, as a flavored water, Vitamin Water is a healthy option. It says “vitamin” in the name, right? But Vitamin Water offers an important lesson: Just because something appears to be healthy, it doesn’t mean that it is.
Vitamin Water does include plenty of added vitamins and minerals, but it also includes an additive you likely don’t want: crystalline fructose. Most varieties of Vitamin Water contain around 30 grams of sugar or more. Your best bet? Just drink plain old water to get your hydration fix.
Granola is often marketed as a healthy alternative to traditional cereals — and it certainly looks like it’s better for you than a bowl of Lucky Charms. But despite a base of all-natural ingredients like oats, nuts and fruits, granola is typically high in calories, carbs and sugar.
While oats by themselves are a healthy whole grain option, granola doesn’t usually contain plain old oats. Instead, they’ve been coated in honey, maple syrup or some other sweetener before baking. It makes for a tasty treat, but not a very healthy one.
Creamy Peanut Butter
Peanut butter is often touted as a good-for-you treat, but even in its most natural state, it’s not that fantastic. Peanut butter is fairly high in fat, and if you grab a jar of the processed stuff off of the supermarket shelf, it’s chock full of sugar.
The key with peanut butter is to grab the all-natural variety and to enjoy it in moderation. Avoid anything with added sugars, flavors and hydrogenated oils, and make sure you check the serving size. Typically, just two or three tablespoons are all that’s recommended, but most people go way over.
Grab a cup of unflavored Greek yogurt, and you’ve got a killer snack. It’s full of protein and low in sugar and carbs. Unfortunately, most people don’t really enjoy plain Greek yogurt. We can’t blame you — it somehow manages to be both tart and flavorless at the same time. Sadly, the flavored varieties aren’t nearly as healthy.
Some of the sweetness in flavored yogurt comes from the natural sugars that are in all dairy products. But many brands also include added sugars to further enhance the flavor. If you want to enjoy a yogurt, opt for the plain variety.
Parents often search for snacks that are both healthy and appealing to children. Often, they’ll grab something like raisins or dried apricots because the kids like them and it’s fruit — so it must be healthy, right?
Unfortunately, while a whole grape might be healthy for you, the dried variety isn’t so great. Without water, the sugars in the fruit become more concentrated. Even worse, manufacturers often coat the dried fruit in more sugar. This treat ends up being more like candy than actual fruit, and because it’s so small, kids end up eating a ton.
Soup is a classic comfort food that’s warm and tasty. Bonus: It’s healthy! Or is it? While soup isn’t a food you’d typically associate with sugar, you’d be surprised at what’s hiding in that can.
That chicken noodle soup you grab off the shelf isn’t grandma’s recipe. In fact, it’s not even remotely close. Processed, canned soups are notoriously unhealthy. Most brands have tons of added ingredients that you probably don’t want in your body, including ridiculous amounts of salt and sugar. Though they take a little time, it’s a much better idea to make your own soups at home.
Bottled Salad Dressing
If you’ve ever followed any sort of diet, you know that bottled salad dressings are typically on the no-no list, often due to their calorie count alone — and not to mention all the processed ingredients. Yes, ranch is delicious, but if you buy it in the supermarket it’s likely loaded with sugar.
It’s easy to grab a bottle that’s labeled “fat-free” or “light” and feel like it’s a healthy choice. But fat-free does not equal low sugar. In fact, removing all of that fat also removes a lot of flavor, and many manufacturers add sweeteners to compensate for that.
Whether you avoid dairy milk because you’re vegan, allergic or watching calories, you still want to add something to your morning coffee or cereal. The solution is, typically, a dairy-free “milk” like oat or almond.
We get the appeal. If you’re avoiding dairy for weight-loss reasons, or simply because it makes you feel bad, a glass of almond milk seems like a healthy alternative. But guess what? Some brands have more sugar in them than a serving of ice cream. Opt for an unflavored, unsweetened variety for a real good-for-you snack.
Many people assume that because chocolate milk is, well, milk it must be healthy. It’s true: Milk itself can be a nutritious drink, with lots of vitamins and minerals and calcium. But even in its natural state, it has a lot of sugars.
One cup of plain 1% milk has 13 grams of sugar. Add in cocoa and sweeteners, and you’re looking at at least 24 grams of sugar. That’s almost as much as a cup of Coca-Cola. And keep in mind that even “regular” milk sometimes has added sugar. Always read the nutrition labels.
Store-bought Spaghetti Sauce
On their own, tomatoes are fairly low in sugar. But throw dozens of them in a pot and boil them down into a sauce, and it could add up to a whole lot of sugar. Throw in some added sweetener, as many manufacturers do, and you’ve got a total sugar bomb.
Tomato sauce is one of those foods that you wouldn’t expect to have added sugar — but many of the brands on the supermarket shelf have around 10 grams of the stuff per serving. If you must buy pre-made marinara, look for a label that says “no added sugar.”
Smoothies have the potential to be ridiculously healthy. Just throw some (unsweetened!) almond milk, plain yogurt, greens and berries into a blender and, wow. Nutrition out the wazoo! But grab a bottle off the shelf? You’re doing yourself more harm than good.
Commercially manufactured smoothies are often sweetened with things like fruit juice, honey or even ice cream, which significantly increases the sugar content. On top of that, they come in mega-sized containers that often hold more than one serving. If you’re not careful and chug the entire bottle, you could ingest 100+ grams of sugar in one sitting.
You may think that the bran muffin you grabbed at the deli this morning was the smart choice. After all, you could have chosen the blueberry scone or the chocolate chip cookie. But plain old bran is boring, full of fiber and totally tasteless.
Don’t let that muffin or the fact that it tastes like cardboard fool you: It’s still full of sugar. Whether you choose a whole grain variety or the low-fat option, all mass-produced muffins are usually pretty unhealthy. Manufacturers pump them full of sugar to make them more delicious — plus, they’re loaded with calories and carbs.
Next time you order chicken nuggets, leave out the BBQ sauce. Sure, it’s a tasty dip, but do you know what’s in it? Studies show that up to 40% of the weight of BBQ sauce may be pure sugar, meaning a couple tablespoons of the sauce can contain several teaspoons of sugar.
That doesn’t seem like very much of a serving, does it? That’s why the average person uses a few tablespoons of BBQ sauce per serving — and that can put you at about 30 grams of sugar. Your best bet? Make your own.
Convenient Cereal Bars
For on-the-go breakfasts, you really can’t beat the convenience of a cereal bar. However, cereal bars are loaded with added sugars. On top of that, most of them contain very little fiber or protein, so they don’t actually offer much nutritional value.
As always, make sure you read labels. Many cereal bars list something like “fruit juice concentrate” as their first or second ingredient — and that’s just an alias for sugar. Your “healthy” cereal bar isn’t much better for you than a Snickers. If you need a fast snack, grab a carrot.
Whole Grain Bagels
Bagels are one of America’s most popular breakfast options, and for good reason. Of course, none of us actually think that bagels are healthy. They’re obviously carby, and once you slather them in cream cheese, it’s game over.
But at least they’re not high in sugar, right? Well, not so fast. Some bagels can contain more sugar than a store-bought doughnut, and the whole grain ones are usually the worst offenders. In order to mimic the sweetness of a standard white-flour bagel, many manufacturers pack their whole grain products full of added sugar.
There’s a meme floating around that says black coffee is the preferred drink of psychopaths. And you know what they say: If it’s in a meme, it must be true. But what about fancy-coffee drinkers? What experts say about them is that they’re ingesting a ton of hidden sugars.
Though flavored coffee is obviously superior, taste-wise, the amount of added sweetener can be staggering. Large flavored coffees from some chains can hold a whopping 25 teaspoons of sugar — three times as much as you’d get from a can of Coke.
People are always looking for healthy snacks to eat on the go — something they can grab and take to their kid’s game or munch on during the morning commute. And granola bars seem like they’d be a healthy option. After all, they’re made out of oats.
But, much like loose granola, all of those heart-healthy oats, nuts and seeds are typically coated in added sweeteners. As a bonus, in addition to added sugars, your “healthy” granola bars are often loaded with hydrogenated fats. Try grabbing a piece of whole grain toast with nut butter instead.
Sports drinks are often mistaken as healthy options for those who exercise. In fact, if you’ve ever taken part in any sort of race, you’ve likely seen them handing out cups of Gatorade on the sidelines. But think twice before you head out and buy your own bottle.
There’s a big difference between running a race and hitting the treadmill. Those drinks were designed for athletes who take part in prolonged, intense exercise. That’s why they’re loaded with the sugar and sodium athletes need to replenish their bodies. Do you need all that sucrose, though? Probably not.
Everyone’s Favorite Condiment: Ketchup
It’s probably fair to say we all know that one person who puts ketchup on everything. But next time your oddball buddy goes to dump some ketchup in his soup, try filling him in on exactly why he shouldn’t do it: It’s a total sugar bomb.
Like BBQ sauce, most store-bought ketchups are loaded with sugar. Just one of those little fast-food packets you get with your Happy Meal contains a couple grams of sugar. While that may not seem like a lot, the average person uses the equivalent of around five packets per meal.
Some fruits’ natural sugars are higher than others. For example, berries are relatively low on the sugar scale, while pineapple is super sugary. For some reason, it seems like only those fruits that are highest in sugars ever get canned. When was the last time you saw a can of blueberries — not slathered in corn syrup for pie filling?
Unfortunately, manufacturers take those pineapple chunks or mandarin orange wedges (which are already high in sugar) and add a ton more sweetener. On top of that, the canning process also destroys most of the fruit’s fiber and vitamin C. Just eat a whole orange when you need some fruit.
Delicious Dark Chocolate
We all know that candy bars are total sugar bombs. But somehow, dark chocolate has gotten a reputation as the “healthier” option. While it’s true that plain old dark chocolate has a ton of health benefits (antioxidants, anyone?), it doesn’t taste very good.
In order to make that dark chocolate palatable, most manufacturers add extra sweeteners. Pick up any bar in the store and take a peek: Just one ounce can have 10 grams of sugar. You can limit the sugars by grabbing a bar with a higher percentage of dark chocolate and watching your serving size.
Refreshing Iced Tea
Iced tea is another one of those beverages that has gained a “healthy” reputation by association. Tea, by itself, is one of the most good-for-you drinks on the planet. It’s plant-based, has zero calories and (depending on the variety) can have cancer-fighting antioxidants.
Iced tea is, as the name would suggest, simply chilled tea. Therefore, it should have a ton of health benefits! Unfortunately, straight tea can be bitter without added sugars. Manufacturers know this and fill their products with sweeteners. Many commercially prepared brands have more than 33 grams of sugar per serving.
Caffeine-filled Energy Drinks
Some people don’t like the taste of coffee, but that doesn’t mean they don’t enjoy the effects of caffeine. What do they do when they’re sleepy and need a quick pick-me-up? Grab a can of Red Bull. Unfortunately, most energy drinks are full of sugar.
Many of the more popular energy drink brands have tons of added sweeteners. In fact, some have more than 25 grams of sugar per 8-ounce serving. That’s like eating 1.5 Hershey bars. If you absolutely must have an energy drink, look for a no-sugar-added variety (or try a cup of tea).
There’s a reason your daily vitamin is so delicious: It’s loaded with sugar. Many people believe that taking a multivitamin can help improve their health. While the jury’s still out on that, one thing definitely does hold true: Eating a gummy isn’t great for you.
Gummies taste good, but they typically include a ton of added sugar. For example, one popular variety of children’s gummy multivitamins contains several grams of sugar and 15 calories per gummy. In addition, because the FDA doesn’t regulate gummy vitamins, nutrition info may not be listed accurately on the bottle.
Oatmeal has been a popular breakfast for centuries now. It’s cheap, it’s easy and it’s pretty good for you. At least, raw oatmeal is. But the kind they sell in little packets, full of flavors and other add-ins, is a sneaky source of hidden sugar.
Many oatmeal manufacturers make instant oatmeal to appeal specifically to children. As such, it often contains “fun” additions such as dried fruit, brown sugar crumbles or even bits of candy. On average, flavored varieties contain about 15 grams of sugar per packet, though it can be much more.
Filling Protein Bars
Protein bars are a popular snack, and not just for athletes. Many people enjoy using them as a “healthy” meal replacement when they don’t have time to cook, or even when they just want a quick (but filling) snack. But are they actually good for you?
Well, protein bars are high in protein. As such, they’re a filling snack that can help tide you over until your next meal. But that doesn’t mean that they’re healthy. While there are some good-for-you options, many of them have as much added sugar as a candy bar.
Coleslaw is made out of cabbage, and cabbage is healthy. Therefore, coleslaw must be healthy. That’s the way it works, right? Coleslaw can be a healthy side if you make it at home. And bonus if you make a vinegar-based slaw versus a mayonnaise-based variety!
But if you get that slaw in a tub at the supermarket, it’s probably not all that good for you. One regular-size side of coleslaw from a typical fast-food restaurant adds about 15 grams of sugar to your daily intake. Choose the side salad instead.
Canned Baked Beans
Beans, beans are good for your heart. You know that rhyme, right? Well, whoever wrote it was clearly not talking about canned baked beans, because those guys are just full of sugar. Even homemade, they’re not that healthy. Two of the main ingredients are ketchup and brown sugar!
It’s not that surprising, then, that canned baked beans are high in sugar. Manufacturers add even more sugar into an already sugary food. One cup can contain several teaspoons of the sweet stuff. If you like beans, go for some succotash or a nice black bean salad instead.