Eat Smarter: Beware Of These Hidden Sources of Sugar

hidden sources of sugar

The verdict is in: sugar is bad for you. This isn’t groundbreaking news. In fact, even the most nutritiously oblivious would put sugar on the shortlist of unhealthy ingredients. We all know the usual suspects: soft drinks, candy, bakery, sports drinks. But the sad truth is that most prepackaged food is packed full of unnecessary sugars.

The American Heart Association warns us to eat no more than 8 teaspoons of sugar a day, but the average American consumes over 22. Hidden sugar in foods that aren’t associated with a sweet tooth shoulder a lot of the blame for this. Some products are worse than others. Next time you are at the grocery store, keep an eye on these hidden sources of sugar so you can buy with caution. Also, remember that preparing your own food from scratch is the best way to cut out unnecessary sugars.

Tomato Sauce

In one scene from The Godfather, Clemenza shares his instructions for making tomato sauce: “An’ a little bit o’ sugar, that’s my trick.” Big Food must have learned Clemenza’s trick, because sugar is everywhere in the pasta sauce aisle.

On average, a jar of tomato sauce contains as many as 10 grams of sugar per serving. That’s well into the recommended amount of daily sugar. Making your own tomato sauce is super easy and healthy, but opt for a low or no sugar sauce if you need store bought. Tomato Sauce’s close cousin ketchup is another notorious source of sugar, so beware of it as well.

Non-dairy Milks

Ever wonder why that glass of soy or almond milk is so vanilla-y and sweet? Well, you guessed it. Flavored alt-milks can contain over 15 grams of sugar per cup, which is bad news for those who switched because they wanted a healthier alternative. Go for a non-flavored version, and try to see which has the least sugar.

Salad Dressing

A salad has great potential to be a healthy meal. But this potential is so often squandered as soon as the salad dressing is busted out. Your garden variety grocery store salad dressings are filled with unnecessary sugar, as much as 6 grams per serving. They are also high in calories and are a “who’s who” of unhealthy preservatives.

Don’t sabotage your salad! Make your own dressing at home using quality oils, vinegars, and herbs. It tastes way better and actually delivers on the promise of a healthy meal.

Coffee Drinks

So sweetened coffee drinks are going to have sugar, that’s obvious. But what are you going to do, drink plain black coffee for the rest of your days? While the occasional frappe or vanilla latte is an understandable splurge, they absolutely should not make a regular appearance in your caffeine rotation.

That’s because sweet coffee drinks contain way more sugar than most people expect, and are a major contributor to obesity and diabetes. The Action on Sugar group found “dangerous” levels of sugar in most products it tested. Some Starbucks drinks contained 25 teaspoons of sugar, more than 4 times the daily recommended amount for women.

That much sugar means high calorie counts. The Java Chip Frappuccino has 580 calories and 21 grams of fat. Throw in a pastry and you are eating close to a week’s worth of sugar over the course of your coffee break. In some cases, you are quite literally better off eating at McDonald’s than enjoying a Starbucks drink and snack! Well, provided you don’t wash your burger down with a sweet coffee from the McCafe.


This popular hot sauce has a sweet side. Like many condiments, Sriracha uses sugar to help induce cravings. One bottle has 24 teaspoons of sugar, which is pretty excessive. In addition to the sugar, Sriracha includes preservatives like Acetic Acid, Lactic Acid, Xanthan Gum, Citric Acid, Potassium Sorbet, and Ascorbic Acid.

If you are going to use hot sauce, try to keep it to a dash or two. Other wise, use cayenne pepper or chop up some jalepenos to spice up a dish.


  1. As noted here, food, not beverages, is the top contributor of added sugars in the American diet. In fact, all sugar-sweetened beverages combined comprise just 6% of the calories in the average American diet, with soda contributing just 4%. With that said, our industry is aligned with the goal of moderation. Our Balance Calories Initiative is promoting this message, and our industry continues to roll out an increasing array of beverage options so that consumers can incorporate beverages into a sensible diet and lifestyle.

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