How sugar is hidden in your food

Staying sugar-free is a tricky business it is. Because sugar is in almost everything processed these days, from sweet right through to savoury foods; bread, dips, cereals, yoghurt, tomato sauces, curry pastes, potato chips, flavoured crackers. And it's often hiding behind friendly wholesome lables like 'fruit juice concentrate' or 'corn syrup'. And this, my favourite thing to whine about - low fat foods are often the worst offenders, because once you strip the fat out of food, there are very few ways left to make it taste good again, on the cheap, and one of them is sugar. Manufacturers use sugar to make refined food taste better, and to preserve it.

So I scoured the net and came across these pics of exactly how much sugar is hidden in some common everyday foods. This isn't American data (I know I always assume it's worse in America). This is good old Aussie tucker.

1 serving of Special K (1 cup/40g) - 1.5 teaspoons
1 serving of Special K (1 cup/40g)

1 tub (200g) of yoghurt - 6 teaspoons
 1 tub (200g) of yoghurt

1 mixed berry bran muffin - 8 teaspoons
 1 mixed berry bran muffin

1 medium (450ml) mixed fruit juice - 11 teaspoons
 1 medium (450ml) mixed fruit juice

600ml bottle of Coke - 15 teaspoons
 600ml bottle of Coke

To these I'd like to add this slippery little swine - banana bread. This is cake in bread's clothing. One slice of the stuff contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar!

Moral of the story? Check your labels. You may be gobbling up more sugar than you think.

If you want to start reducing your sugar intake, know this - food manufacturers can be sneaky little buggers. They often artfully employ the use of sugar pseudonyms on their packaging. Look out for these:

  • Sucrose
  • Fructose
  • Grape juice
  • Fruit-juice concentrate
  • Corn syrup (glucose syrup)
  • Agave nectar (some brands can be up to 90% fructose - check it's unrefined and low in fructose)
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Malt syrup
  • Invert sugar

Of course, by far the easiest way to avoid added sugars is to avoid processed foods altogether. Bake your own bread, whip up your own yoghurt, make your own tomato sauce. Control what goes in your food.

For extra help on quitting, I highly recommend getting your hands on this e-book by Sarah Wilson - an 8-week program.

Images are from an original article by Lisa Costa Bir, first published: July 17th, 2011. Photography: Ella Pellegrini


  1. Ouch! That is a wake up call! The muffin, tsk tsk to me for thinking it a healthier option...

  2. Once I realized how much sugar is in yoghurt I started buying plain yoghurt (balkan)and mixing in unsweetened applesauce to give it some little boy loves it and doesnt know what he is "missing" out on. Now if only I could tackle other things in the making my own tomato sauce or bread with a toddler running around..Does making banana bread with honey instead of sugar count as good?

  3. Hi Michelle, great question. I'm going to write a whole post about honey soon because I think it's been misunderstood and tainted with the same brush as any other source of fructose. Honey is terrific (in moderation) - if it's raw. But, once you heat it over about 45degrees the enzymes, vitamins and other cofactors in it that make it good for you are destroyed. So it basically turns into a sugar syrup. Cooking with honey is essentially like cooking with sugar, as far as your body is concerned. If you factor in the impact sugar farming has on the environment though, honey is still a better choice for cooking with, if you use locally-harvested honey.



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