10 Foods with Huge Amounts of Hidden Sugar

A very good friend recently confessed to me that sometimes their subconscious sugar cravings are so powerful, they get out of bed in the middle of the night to eat sweets.

This is what sugar — dubbed ‘sweet poison‘ by NY Daily News — is doing to us. We’ve become a generation of zombies that seek sugar at any cost, even if it means interrupted sleep, expanding waistlines and poor emotional health. The worst part is, we don’t even realize it’s happening.

Cookies and candy get a lot of criticism, but at least these sugary foods are honest about what they contain. The real danger lies in foods that hide their sugary nature behind fancy monikers and mile-long ingredient lists. These hidden sugars make it possible for the average American to consume 152 pounds of sugar each year, despite filling their grocery carts with savory staples and so-called health foods. Once eaten, sugar affects the brain almost exactly like another powdery white substance we know and fear – cocaine — triggering an intense addiction that compels us to seek more.

Read: 5 Health Hazards of Excess Sugar

The first step to getting off the sugar addiction roller coaster is exposing these hidden sugars. There are literally thousands of foods that conceal this sweet poison behind savory labels, but these 10 are the worst, and most surprising. (Note: this list refers to the conventional and store brands many of us buy. Different rules apply to organic, artisan and homemade varieties. Obviously.)

10 Foods That Have the Most Hidden Sugar

1. Condiments

Grilling a hamburger? Mixing up a batch of Grandma’s potato salad? Prepare for a sugar bomb. Ketchup, barbecue sauce, mayonnaise, steak sauces, salad dressing and, yes, even mustard all contain sugar. Some styles of BBQ sauce contain 13 grams of sugar (approximately 3 teaspoons) for every two tablespoons of condiment!

2. Yogurt

Yup. This is one of those “I thought it was healthy!” foods that are probably sabotaging your weight loss plans. An 8 ounce serving of the average fruit variety non-fat yogurt contains a staggering 47 grams of sugar (11 teaspoons)!

3. Pasta Sauce

Pasta with marinara sauce is a delicious savory meal. Too bad the hidden sugars make your body treat it like dessert. Store bought pasta sauce contains around 12 grams (around 3 teaspoons) of sugar for every half cup.

4. Dried Fruit

Unlike pasta sauce, we expect dried fruit to be sweet. Those trying to keep a healthy diet will often opt for this instead of candy, but it makes no difference to your body. Just ⅓ of a cup can have 24 grams of sugar (8 teaspoons) and it’s not all naturally occurring: Most add a healthy dose of the refined stuff (as if fruit needs to be sweeter?!).

5. Granola Bars

For some reason, we’ve been duped into assuming granola = healthy. With 12 grams (4 teaspoons) of sugar, and sometimes much more, hiding in most conventional brands, you might as well be eating a Payday.

6. Bread

Love toast with your coffee? How about a sandwich for lunch? That innocent looking slice of bread contains around 2 grams of sugar per slice (nearly a teaspoon). Even worse, if you opt for cheap bread, it’s likely added in the form of high fructose corn syrup.

7. Boxed Cereal

You don’t have to be a nutritionist to know that Lucky Charms and Frosted Flakes contain added sugar, but it’s hiding in “healthy” cereals, too. Just look at the labels of Raisin Bran (20 grams, or 5 teaspoons), Kellogg’s Smart Start (14 grams, or 3.5 teaspoons) and Kashi GoLean Crunch (13 grams, or 3-plus teaspoons).

8. Peanut Butter

It doesn’t matter whether you prefer chunky or creamy, if you’re eating any of the popular peanut butter brands, you’re getting a big dose of sugar — to the tune of 3 grams (a teaspoon) in each 2 tablespoon serving. And just think, most of the time we slather it on bread (sugar) with jelly (sugar) and then feed it to our kids!

9. Deli Meat

Bread and mayo isn’t the only thing making our sandwiches unhealthy. Most deli meats are infused with corn syrup and/or aspartame (an artificial sugar) for some strange reason.

10. Tomato Soup

Another staple that most of us have eaten since childhood. Too bad there are 10 grams (over 3 teaspoons) of sugar in the average 1/2 cup serving of canned tomato soup (usually high fructose corn syrup). Not to mention 400 mg of sodium. Blech.

A Sweetener by Any Other Name: The morals of this story are: 1) always read the label, and 2) avoid processed foods at all cost. However, even if you do these things sugar can still sneak in. That’s because it’s not always called sugar. Check out this helpful post to learn how to spot other names for sugar on food labels.

Image via Thinkstock


Kyle N.
Kyle N.2 years ago

many tomato based products are bitter without the sugar. and bread needs the sugar to help it rise otherwise you would have a brick. granola would taste like cardboard without sugar. yogurt it is needed to help the bacteria survive. I have not heard of deli meats doing this. maybe on cheap brands.

Karen K.
Kay K.2 years ago

Too much salt and sugar, that's why I have to make my own tomato soup…. It's a shame, since it's so tasty, it doesn't need all that salt and sugar.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago


Kyle N.
Kyle N.2 years ago

That covers all that I eat LOL.

Janis K.
Janis K.2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Karen S.
Karen S.2 years ago


Barbara D.
Past Member 2 years ago

Beth, no offense, but where you shop at girl?? I just checked my pantry/kitchen ~ these are all store-bought national brands:

Pasta sauce 6gr
BBQ sauce 8gr (and I don't use 2tbls)
Peanut butter 4gr (and I don't use 2tbls)
Raisin bran 10gr
Yogurt 10gr

47grams of sugar in yogurt?? Even a sugarhead with track marks couldn't handle that!

Barbara D.
Past Member 2 years ago

One article says California wants to label soda ~ now this article talks about *hidden* sugar.

Who isn't reading labels?????? The sugar in these foods is NOT hidden, it's right there on the label!!

Rhonda B.
Rhonda B.2 years ago

Thank you.

Carol P.
Carol P.2 years ago

I'm not surprised by this. I considered buying some premade hash browns recently because I found a coupon, but skipped when I saw that one of the ingredients was apple juice. Sure it may have been all natural, but I don't need my potatoes to be sweetened, and I know how to make hash browns.