If something doesn’t taste sweet, it’s probably not high in sugar, right? Not always. Many foods are loaded with the sweet stuff, and not just the obvious ones, like soft drinks, frosted cereals, and candy. Not only does it add tastebud-tantalizing sweetness, sugar also helps processed foods stay fresh longer, balance acidity, feel good in our mouth, and look good—which means it can end up in some pretty surprising (and, in this case, savory!) places, too.
If you’re watching your sugar intake (the World Health Organization recommends consuming no more than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of sugar per day), all those sneaky sweet things can add up—fast! In fact, the average American eats 22 teaspoons of added sugar daily, and most don’t even realize where the sugar is coming from. To prevent you from becoming a statistic, here are seven common spots added sugar likes to hide.
1. Beef Jerky
Think you’re eating a healthy, high-protein snack? Think again! One bag of beef jerky often contains 8 teaspoons (32 grams) of sugar. There are options that leave the sweet stuff off the ingredients list, but you’ll have to hunt them down in specialty foods stores or buy them online.
2. Canned Baked Beans
The third and fourth ingredients listed on most cans of baked beans are brown sugar and sugar, so no surprises here. But what you may not realize is the serving size has a big impact on your intake—just one cup of baked beans delivers around 7 teaspoons (28 grams) of sugar. Which means if you eat the entire can, you’ll more than triple your recommended daily intake of sugar.
3. Frozen Meals
Depending on the entrée, and any sauces that may be included, the sugar in those frosty boxes can really get up there. And don’t think opting for a ‘healthier” choice means it’ll be lower in sugar—those meals can still weigh in at a hefty 7 teaspoons (28 grams) of sugar.
4. Tomato Soup
Slurp down a comforting cup of tomato soup and you’re likely to be eating a full day’s worth of sugar—6 teaspoons (24 grams). And the lower sodium varieties tend to be even higher in sugar to make up for the shift in taste. Choose condensed soup diluted with water and you can cut the sugar in half.
5. Bottled Sauces
Just a dollop of your average sauce or condiment can add a wallop of sugar—there can be up to 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar in a 2-tablespoon serving! Sweet Asian sauces, like plum, sweet chilli, hoisin, and sweet and sour, tend to be the worst offenders, but teriyaki and BBQ aren’t far behind. And the ever popular ketchup quickly adds up, so be sure to watch your portions sizes.
6. Salad Dressing
When was the last time you only used the recommended 2 tablespoons of salad dressing? You’ll think twice about how much you pour on now that you know one serving can be the equivalent of sprinkling 2 teaspoons (8 grams) of sugar on your plate of greens. Speaking of salads, those ready-to-serve deli counter offerings, like cole slaw, are often slathered in so much dressing they can reach up to 6 teaspoons of sugar per serving. Try making your own dressing and buy bags of pre-chopped cabbage and veggies instead.
Have you ever noticed some loaves never seem to get stale? Certain brands pack a whopping 1¼ teaspoons (5 grams) of sugar into each slice, while others completely leave out the sweetener. The take-away: always read the label before buying a loaf!
Paying attention to the nutrition facts and ingredients lists found on food packaging is key. Ingredients are listed in descending order, so if sugar appears in one of the first three slots it’s probably best to leave the item on the store shelf where you found it, or watch your portion size.
Are you avoiding sugar in processed foods? Join the conversation below!
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.