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Spotting Hidden Sugars & Artificial Sweeteners

Spotting Hidden Sugars & Artificial Sweeteners

Avoiding added sugars and artificial sweeteners requires some serious label-reading powers. That job gets even trickier when food manufacturers hide these additives behind deceptive names. So, how can you suss out hidden sugars and artificial sweeteners in your food? The list below contains some common names for each.

You know that you’re going to find sugars and artificial sweeteners in dessert foods, but these additives can hide in unexpected places. Bread, tomato sauce, and bottled salad dressings are a few examples to look out for. In general, if it comes in a box, bag, or jar, you want to check that label before assuming that a food is free of added sweeteners.

Avoiding Hidden Sugars and Artificial Sweeteners

Of course, there is a silver bullet way to avoid the ingredients in the lists below: eat whole foods and cook from scratch.

I’m a big advocate for getting into the kitchen and preparing your food from whole food ingredients. But I’m also a work-at-home mom to a toddler who understands that preparing everything you eat from scratch just isn’t always practical.

Related Reading: 5 Non-Food Uses for Sugar

Of course I don’t advocate eating packaged and prepared foods for every meal, but sometimes you just need to get a meal on the table or find a snack to hand to your kid, so that you can focus on other things.

Cooking from scratch isn’t always easy, but there are a few ways to save time and eat more home-prepared foods:

  • Weekend Cooking. This is my favorite strategy, when I can make it happen. Set aside a couple of hours on your day off to cook a few big batches of food. You can serve these up all week long. Think of these as frozen dinners that you can trust!
  • Prioritize. There are some foods that are best made from scratch and others that make sense to buy prepared. If you’re short on time, decide what your priorities are.
  • Go Simple. A snack or meal doesn’t have to be complicated to be delicious. Instead of a granola bar, grab a banana and peanut butter in the morning, for example. If you’re short on time for supper, throw a quick salad together instead of heating up a microwave meal.

Even with these tricks, though, sometimes you’re going to be grabbing packaged food at the store. Learn how to keep the refined sugars and artificial sweeteners out below!

List of Hidden Sugars

Common Names for Refined Sugars

Ingredients that contain the words below are names for hidden sugars. These words can appear in conjunction with other words. Syrup is a good example. You might see corn syrup, evaportated cane syrup, brown rice syrup, or any number of other syrups. If it’s syrup, it’s sugar.

  • agave
  • cane juice
  • cane sugar
  • caramel
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • glucose
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • juice
  • lactose
  • maltose (See a pattern? “-ose” means sugar)
  • molasses
  • sucrose
  • sugar
  • syrup

Artificial Sweeteners

Common Names for Artificial Sweeteners

If you’re trying to avoid artificial sweeteners, check your ingredient lists for these names.

  • acesulfame potassium
  • alitame
  • aspartame
  • cyclamate
  • Dulcin
  • Equal
  • Glucin
  • kaltame
  • mogrosides
  • neohesperidin dihydrochalcone
  • neotame
  • NutraSweet
  • Nutrinova
  • phenylalanine (A phenylalanine warning can alert you to hidden Aspartame)
  • saccharin
  • Splenda
  • sucralose
  • Twinsweet
  • Sweet N Low
  • Sweetmyx

Image Credit: Creative Commons packaged food photo by

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Read more: Conscious Consumer, Diet & Nutrition, Eating for Health, Food, Health, , , , ,

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Becky Striepe

Becky Striepe is a freelance writer and vegan crafter living in Atlanta, Georgia. Her life’s mission is to make green crafting and vegan food accessible to everyone! Like this article? You can follow Becky on Twitter or find her on Facebook!


+ add your own
12:52AM PST on Feb 2, 2015

Thanks for the good information.

9:34AM PDT on Aug 17, 2014

A tremendous amount of chemicals names to remember.

10:14PM PDT on May 21, 2014

I worry more about artificial ingredients than sugar, and I won't be giving up my sweet treats which I don't eat every day anyway. My blood sugar is fine, so is my overall health. I love honey, maple syrup and molasses, use a little organic cane sugar in my chai tea/coffee. I eat a balanced diet with not too much of anything, a bit of exercise and enjoy life. I know it's difficult when one has diabetes or some other condition and some people have to be extra careful, but most of us can enjoy an occasional indulgence without panicking.

3:51AM PDT on May 18, 2014


8:40PM PDT on May 16, 2014

Thank you!

4:32AM PDT on May 16, 2014

As a new Grandmother, I've found the search for hidden sugar sources exhausting. And the fact that even Adam's baby multivitamin had aspartame in it was exceedingly disturbing.

6:15AM PDT on May 14, 2014

Unless it's in the food, I don't use extra sugar.

2:07AM PDT on May 14, 2014

Thank you :)

12:57AM PDT on May 14, 2014

Interesting and important article.
I would just like to mention that I do not agree with one comment, quote: "...but sometimes you just need to get a meal on the table or find a snack to hand to your kid..."

Well, if you really like your kid, why would you do that to her/him?

Kids are especially vulnerable, because they are explicitly targeted by the food industry. Don't buy that stuff. It is bad for you and for her/him. I have raised two daughters without buying any processed foods. Anybody can!

8:33PM PDT on May 13, 2014

Thank you!

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