Eating an excessive amount of sugar can be bad for your health. Sugar-loaded foods can increase your risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). While many are trying to control their sugar intake, it is still easy to underestimate how much you are actually eating. Surprisingly, not all foods loaded with sugar taste sweet. Even those that were marketed as “low-fat” products often contain more sugar than their regular counterparts (7).
Women and men are advised by the American Heart Association to limit their daily added sugar intake to only 6 and 9 teaspoons, respectively (8). These are equal to 24-36 grams per day. This article enlists 15 high-sugar foods that you must avoid to lower your risk of obesity and related disease. So, let’s begin!
Cereals are everyone’s favorites for breakfast because they are very much available and tasty. But did you know that these “healthy bars,” contain less fiber and protein and a truckload of sugar, especially those with added flavors? Some have 3 teaspoons or 12 grams of sugar in a single ounce serving (9, 10, 11). They are just candy bars in disguise.
Always check the label. Choose a cereal that is rich in fiber and does not contain added sweeteners. Look for Rice Krispies and plain corn flakes.
Granola bars are made of oats. Though they are often marketed as a low-fat healthy food, they are not as healthy as plain rolled oats. They contain honey, nuts, dried fruits, and sweeteners, therefore high in sugar and calories. In fact, a 100-gram granola bar contains approximately 6 teaspoons of sugar and 400 calories (12, 13).
But if granola is one of your favorites, try choosing one with less sweetener or better make one for yourself at home. You may just add fruit or yogurt as toppings.
3. Protein Bars
Everybody seems to like protein bars as they help increase feelings of fullness, which can aid in weight loss (14, 15). This has led people to think that they are really good for health. While there are some healthier protein bars available on the market, a lot also contain added sugar, which makes them no different from candy bars.
When picking the right protein bar for snacks, always check the label. Avoid those with high-sugar content. You may also choose to substitute it with another high-protein food, like yogurt.
Who doesn’t love a loaf of bread fresh from the oven? This is nearly always present in a continental breakfast. Bread is made of yeast, sugar, and flour, which is easily broken down into glucose. Eating a lot of bread may increase your blood glucose and insulin levels. Once in a while, skip bread for breakfast. Take egg omelet and vegetables instead.
5. Bagels and Churros
Many could not resist the taste of these American and French foods. But did you know that these sweet breakfast treats contain a truckload of calories and sugar? A single piece of a bagel has 6 grams of sugar while one churro has 1 gram of sugar, 51 grams of carbohydrates, and 410 calories. Take green tea and a cracker at night to avoid craving for churros in the morning.
6. Low-Fat Yogurt
Yogurt is good for the gut. It helps in nurturing good gut bacteria and improve digestion. However, not all yogurts are made equal. People commonly believe that a low-fat yogurt or milk is better than its full-fat variant. This is not true. In fact, low-fat yogurt has added sugar for flavoring.
A single cup of low-fat yogurt may have as much as 12 teaspoons or 47 grams of sugar. This is way above the recommended daily limit for men and women (16). Also, low-fat yogurt isn’t as healthy as a full-fat yogurt (17, 18, 19, 20). So, opt for the latter variety. Do not choose yogurt with added sugar or sweeteners.
5. Chocolate Milk
Milk is a very delicious and nutritious drink. It is nutrient-packed perfect for bone health. However, despite having good amounts of calcium and protein, milk flavored with cocoa comes with added sugar, which makes it more likable (21, 22).
6. Flavored Coffee and Green Tea
While many are so in love with flavored coffees, the amount of added sugars in these drinks are deeply shocking. Did you know that a large cup of your favorite flavored coffee can contain as much as 25 teaspoons of sugar? That’s 100 grams per serving or nearly 3 times the amount you’ll get from a 12-oz Coke.
Green tea has also been known to have several amazing health benefits. Many choose it over coffee because it has lesser caffeine and is rich in antioxidants. But flavored green teas have also gained popularity especially for people who have sweet tooth. And guess what? They also contain a lot of artificial sweeteners!
Knowing the association of sugary drinks and poor health, it is best to stick to a flavorless coffee and green tea.
7. Iced Tea
I bet you’ve all been craving for a chilled tea with sugar or syrup, especially during hot months! Iced tea is very popular around the world, and it is available in several forms and flavors. However, most branded teas have approximately 33 grams of sugar per 12-oz, which can be harmful to your health.
8. Packed Fruit Juices
Whole fruits are known to be healthy as they are rich in vitamins and minerals. However, packed fruit juices, despite seeming like a good choice, are low in fiber and high in sugar. They may have as much as 30-40 grams of sugar and 170 calories. In fact, there can be just as much sugar in fruit juice as there is in Coke. Surprising, but it’s true. Many poor health outcomes that have been associated with sugary soda can also be linked to fruit juices (23, 24, 25). Better take a whole fruit than juices!
9. Sports Drinks
Sports drinks are the athletes’ best friend. They are meant to hydrate and fuel people during intense and prolonged periods of exercise. However, this is not as healthy as you may think. They contain high amounts of sugar that can be easily absorbed and used for energy. These extra sugar will be stored as fat and you will have to work harder to lose the flab.
The usual 20-oz bottle contains 8 teaspoons or 32 grams of added sugar and 159 calories (26). As sugary drinks, they have also been linked with obesity and other metabolic diseases (27, 28, 29). If you are not an athlete, it is better not to have sports drinks and stick to water (30).
10. Bottled Smoothies
Blending fruits with milk or yogurt makes for a perfect breakfast smoothie. However, commercially prepared and packed smoothies are not as healthy. They come in big sizes and are sweetened like fruit juices. Others even contain excessively high amounts of calories and sugar, averaging 24 teaspoons or 96 grams per serving (31). Better prepare your own smoothie devoid of sugar and always watch your portion size!
11. Canned and Dried Fruits
Fruits have natural sugars. However, when dried and canned, they are preserved in sugary syrup and contain high amounts of calories. The canning process destroys fiber and vitamin C. So instead of munching on dried and canned fruits, take the fresh ones to get a healthy snack.
12. Ready-to-Eat Soups
Soups are not food that we usually associate with sugar. When made with whole ingredients, it is certainly a healthy choice and can be a perfect way to boost your vegetable consumption. Vegetables, like fruits, have natural sugars, which are good given that they only come in small amounts. However, this is not the case with packed soup powders. A teaspoon of packed soup powder has approximately 4 grams of sugar. Cream-based soups also contain corn flour, which is high in calories. Though ready-to-eat soups are convenient, it is still healthier to toss veggies and mushroom or chicken into a pot for slow cooking!
13. Salad Dressing
Salads won’t be as tasty if without a dressing. There are so many flavors to choose from. But, relying completely on packed salad dressings will make you consume more sugar than you normally would. Two tablespoons of salad dressing have 4 grams of extra sugar, along with additives and flavorings. Don’t let a pack of salad dressing make you immensely unhealthy! Prepare your own by mixing olive oil, herbs, chili flakes, salt, lime juice, and honey. Fresh fruits are good additions too!
14. Ketchup and Packed Spaghetti Sauce
Who doesn’t use ketchup? It’s one of the most popular condiments in the world! But did you know that this favorite sauce of yours is loaded with sugar? Be careful and watch your portion size! One tablespoon of ketchup has 1 teaspoon of sugar (32).
And since spaghetti sauces contain ketchup, they are also high in sugar content. A single serving of pasta cause has 10 grams of sugar. So, instead of getting a packed spaghetti sauce, make one at home using fresh tomatoes! There are easy recipes available online.
15. BBQ Sauce
BBQs make for a great party! And tasty sauces or dips add up to the fun! However, like ketchup, BBQ sauce is also very sweet. Nearly 40% of the sauce weight is pure sugar (33). If you are not mindful of your servings, you’ll end up consuming more sugar.
Added sugars or sweeteners are not a requirement to make a tasty and healthy diet. Though small amounts are perfectly fine, they may cause serious harm if taken excessively every single day.
The best way to cut back on hidden sugars in your meals is to prepare them at home. But if you really have to get prepackaged foods, be sure to check the labels! Go ahead and live a sugar-less life! Cheers!