How to Spot Added Sugars in Processed Foods

Don’t be fooled just because you stay away from obviously sweet foods like cake, cookies, doughnuts, and candy.

 Added sugars hide in a number of foods you may not expect, like processed frozen foods, baby food, dried fruit, cereal, granola, instant oatmeal, salad dressings, ketchup, barbecue sauces, pasta sauces, flavored yogurt, protein bars, and more. They’re also found in organic foods and plenty of foods you’ll find at your local health food store.

The good news is that tallying up “added sugars” on packaged foods just got easier. The Nutrition Facts Label now includes “added sugars” underneath where it says “total sugars."

How Sugar Appears on Ingredients Lists

Sugar goes by a lot of different names — more than 60, if we’re talking about what’s listed on nutrition labels. Here are a few of them.

Brown sugar

Corn sweetener

Corn syrup

Rice syrup



Barley malt

Fructose sweetener

Fruit juice concentrates


High-fructose corn syrup


Invert sugar



Malt syrup

Maple syrup


Pancake syrup

Raw sugar



Turbinado sugar

To identify an added sugar, look for words that end with “-ose,” as well as phrases that contain “syrup” or “malt.”

Remember: Ingredients on a packaged food are listed in descending order in terms of weight, so when you see these names at the top of the ingredients list, the product contains a lot of sugar.

RELATED: 6 Expert Tips for Reducing Added Sugar in Your Diet

Can You Overdo It on Naturally Occurring Sugars?

Some celebrities and others credit weight-loss successes to eliminating all sugars (even the natural ones). But the sugars found in fruit and dairy are part of a healthy diet and shouldn’t be on the “naughty” foods list.

“Like any component of a diet, you can overdo it on sugar, even if it's naturally occurring,” says Voltolina. But most people can stay in the healthy range when it comes to natural sugars if they focus on choosing whole foods over processed ones — try a few slices of fresh fruit on a peanut butter sandwich instead of a jelly or jam, which likely has extra added sugar — and focus on eating a well-balanced diet. 

The USDA recommends 2 cups of fruit and at least 2.5 cups of vegetables daily for adults. And adults should get two to three servings of dairy per day — 1 cup of nonfat or low-fat milk, 1 cup of nonfat or low-fat yogurt, or 1.5 ounces of natural cheese all count as one serving. That said, dairy isn’t necessarily a required element for a healthy diet and could be one area where people reduce their intake to further reduce sugar. If you’re someone who drinks soy milk or nut milk, make sure you’re choosing unsweetened versions to keep the added sugars low. At the same time, keep in mind that dairy can be an important source of calcium — a mineral responsible for keeping your skeleton strong — in the American diet, as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) notes. If you’re avoiding dairy, opt for plant-based calcium sources, such as chia seeds, kale, and tofu. You can also get your fix via fortified foods such as orange juice and cereal, according to the NIH.

Source: Everyday Health 

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