Hidden Sources of Sugar in Packaged Foods


Today’s “Ask the Nutrition Consultant” comes from Tina!

Q: Per my doctors orders, I’m trying to reduce my sugar consumption because my fasting blood glucose is in the pre-diabetic range, plus I’m struggling with some stubborn belly fat now that I’ve reached middle age. He said to make sure to read food labels to find “hidden” sources of sugars and carbohydrates but I don’t know what to look for. Can you help?! 

A: Thank you for your question Tina! Many packaged and processed foods do indeed contain added sugars, sometimes from multiple sources and you really need to read through the entire ingredient list. Many times sugars are added when fats are removed in order to make the food more palatable. Many of the packaged foods we consume regularly that we believe to be healthy contain added sugars that can wreak havoc on our blood sugar levels, causing inflammation and depleting our body of important minerals. Examples of “healthy” foods that can sabotage our good intentions include: pasta sauce, granola bars, yogurt, instant oatmeal, salad dressings, breakfast cereals, energy drinks, packaged fruits, coleslaw, tea, dried fruit, and ketchup.

Names of Hidden Sugars:
 -Syrup (corn syrup, brown rice syrup, malt syrup, high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup solids)
– Ends in “ose” (fructose, sucrose, maltose, dextrose, maltodextrose)
– Sugar is in the name (raw sugar, cane sugar, brown sugar, invert sugar)
– Fruit nectar
– Fruit juice concentrates 
– Honey
– Agave
– Molasses
– Barley malt  

As I mentioned above, some foods contain multiple forms of sugars. Product ingredients are listed by quantity, from highest to lowest amounts. This means the first few ingredients is what the manufacturer used most of. Often times manufacturers will use multiple forms of sugars so that the food looks healthier than it actually is. Most people if they saw sugar listed in the top few ingredients would know that the food is not health promoting. Here are a few examples of foods found in most US pantry’s and the amounts and types of sugars found in them: 

– Ore Ida Golden Tater Tots contain 1 added sugar: dextrose
– Nature Valley Oat’s N Honey Crunchy Granola Bars contain 3 added sugars: Sugar, Honey, Brown Sugar Syrup. 
– Prego and Ragu Traditional Pasta Sauce contain one added sugar, and it’s the fourth ingredient on the label! 
– Quaker Oats Apples and Cinnamon Instant Oatmeal contains one added sugar, and it is the second ingredient on the label and adds up to a whopping 8grams of added sugars! To get a visual, 4 grams of sugar is equal to 1 teaspoon, so that is 2 teaspoons worth of sugar. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 tsp of added sugars per day for women and no more than 9 tsp of added sugars for men. 
– Quaker Oats Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars list sugars 9 times on their ingredient list!!! Brown sugar, sugar, sugar, corn syrup, sugar, invert sugar, sugar, corn syrup solids, molasses.

By sticking to whole, real foods that are as close to nature as possible you can help decrease your consumption of added sugars and help maintain better blood sugar balance. 

Helping clients find tasty, healthy alternatives to their favorite foods is something I really enjoy doing as a nutrition consultant. Pantry Makeovers and Grocery Store Tours are some of the services I offer to help people take control of their health through nutrition!


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