Sugar in Foods

I was reading the USA today a few days ago and they had an article about the amount of sugar in certain candies and cookies. I was horrified and a little surprised to learn that an Oreo cookie has approximately 1 tsp of sugar per cookie. I did some internet searching and found this website that you may find interesting as well. It’s called SugarStacks and the authors of the site have taken several different foods and stacked sugar cubes in front of each food/drink so we can visually see how much sugar is in a serving.  The sugar cubes are 4 grams, and a teaspoon of sugar is 4.2 grams, so the visual picture is pretty close.

I consider myself pretty well-informed on nutrition in general. I’m not a nutritionist, but I’m a label reader and have read lots of books, articles, and studies on food, dieting, and weight loss. But even I was shocked at the amount of sugar in some very common foods. I don’t know why I was shocked because I understand that sugar sneaks into a lot of processed foods – even foods that you aren’t expecting to find it in.

For example, many tomato products like spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, and ketchup have high sugar contents. Fruit juices are another source of sugar, and even when I was in the midst of losing weight I’d forget about how much sugar was in 20 oz of juice! A lot! Cereals are also notorious for containing lots of sugar – even some of the “healthier” cereals have quite a bit of sugar added to them. Fruit flavored yogurt is another source of sugar that I sometimes forgot about too.

So what do you do about all this sugar floating around?

Well, I think one of the first things to do is be aware of how the sugar appears on the labels. Obviously if you see sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, or maple syrup that’s sugar. But, there are a lot of sugars that masquerade under other names, like sucrose, glucose, lactose, and fructose. There are also sugar alcohols, like sorbitol and others which are found in chewing gums and breath mints. So watch out for sugars that aren’t obviously listed as sugar on the label!

Once you are cognizant of how the sugars are labeled and how much there is you can begin to make more informed choices. There may be some foods you want to avoid. I don’t drink much juice – instead opting to eat real fruit. Obviously things like candy and cookies have a lot of sugar so those are best saved for special occasions and not as a daily snack.

And as you are working on reducing your sugar intake you can begin to influence people around you to make healthier choices. I know that once I showed friends of mine how much sugar was in certain foods they started choosing healthier alternatives.

How do you feel about the sugars in foods? Do you try and avoid sugar altogether or just watch your sugar intake?  Diane

41 thoughts on “Sugar in Foods

  1. JourneyBeyondSurvival says:

    I tried to go completely off added sugars once. That meant no jams and jellies and no condiments except mustard especially ketchup. I even realized that silly things like kids’ yogurt had as much sugar as 1/2 cup ice cream. Canned beans, processed dinners, Juice. Don’t get me started on juice. It was a good learning experience.

    But I can’t live like that. I’m glad I know what to look for now. But, I choose to avoid the things that are reasonable for me. I still eat beans. I’m MUCH more careful if I have ketchup. I couldn’t be persuaded with a million dollars to buy kids’ yogurt.

    But I will never ever use processed sugar substitutes. If I have a craving for ice cream that needs to be reckoned with, I eat a reasonable amount of the real deal. No use getting cancer and gaining weight.
    .-= JourneyBeyondSurvival´s last blog ..Winners! =-.

  2. Miz says:

    Thats the rough thing huh?
    and why,when people say IVE COMPLETELY GIVEN UP SUGAR!, I think: I dont know that I could!

    I love BBQ sauce and things like that which I know contain lots of hidden sugars.

    Im pretty good with the obvious (candy :)) but the hiddens still get me.
    .-= Miz´s last blog ..What I learned during my first half marathon. =-.

  3. Diane says:

    Unless it is in the form of fresh fruit and dark chocolate ( has to be at least 70 percent dark cocoa), house rule is that if it contains more than 12 grams of sugar per serving, it does not get eaten or enter the house.Some people think agave syrup is a healthy alternative, but not so. It still impacts your body in the same negative fashion as other sugars.Fruit has high sugar, but also a boatload of micronutrients and vitamins that your body actually needs. Nature added lots of sugar to these to get you to want to consume them , because you actually need them. Fruit juice is not an acceptable food to my mind because it has the fiber, pulp and numerous nutrients removed in the process. My husband does not agree with this, so he is the only one who drinks juice -OJ. fruit juices ARE a good substitute for other sugar in cooking though. Far superior nutritionally to any other sweeter.
    .-= Diane´s last blog ..Nervous =-.

  4. South Beach Steve says:

    I avoid sugar like the plague. Sugar alcohols, however, are a bit of a different story for me. I do avoid them, but if I am going to eat something sweet, I prefer to eat something made with sugar alcohols. Of course, there is a limitation to how much of that you should intake.

    It is truly amazing how much sugar is in foods out there.
    .-= South Beach Steve´s last blog ..Project Complete and a Shout Out =-.

  5. Joanna Sutter says:

    I have a horrible sweet tooth. Right now I’m focusing on trying to get rid of the artificial sugars in my diet, but it’s rough. I’m really trying to eat more natural sugars like stevia until I can get rid of them altogether.
    .-= Joanna Sutter´s last blog ..Soup Kitchen =-.

  6. karen@fitnessjourney says:

    The average American diet is loaded with hidden sugars. Quick story: My brother is working with the owner of Middle Eastern restaurant on improving his business. One of his suggestions was to add a little sugar to some of his recipes. The man followed this advice and his repeat business has increased. I guess that says a lot about our acquired taste for sugar.
    .-= karen@fitnessjourney´s last blog ..Sneaky Ways to Create Healthy Meals =-.

  7. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    Diane, thx for that site! I am a HUGE label reader so I do see the sugar grams of things I buy & many I will put back on the shelf if those grams are higher than I prefer. It really is amazing when you start to read the labels! And, yes, like you, I am aware of the other names but many are not so than you for making note of that! Very important to look at the sugar grams & the ingredients!
    .-= Jody – Fit at 52´s last blog ..Weight Loss Sanity! Happy Bday Sydney! =-.

  8. erin says:

    I first realized how many foods have ridiculous amounts of sugar when I read the Eat This Not That Supermarket Survival Guide. Several of the foods on the “Not That” list looked like they were healthy but had high amounts of sugar. I especially watch out for sugar in cereal and yogurt–a lot of Yoplait yogurt has over 25 grams of sugar. That’s nuts!

  9. Don Doornbos says:

    Sugar is the DEMON in my opinion…I avoid it and all it’s buddies (HFCS etc.) at all costs! It is what opens up the bottom for me, turns off any satiety mechanism and enables me to eat endless and HUGE quantities of HORRIBLE foods!

    As alcohol is to an alcoholic, sugar is to me…!


  10. WaistingTime says:

    This is a big part of being on South Beach – watching for sugar in foods. Probably part of why the diet suggests avoiding many processed foods. Ketchup is not on the plan unless you make it yourself.

    As for me, I am not that much of a purist on the plan and just watch things. I gotta have my ketchup with burgers since I already forgo the bun! I do add sugar to some marinades but figure most cooks off. I am careful, but allow it in moderation when I think it makes a difference.

  11. anne h says:

    Now that more people are going “Low Carb” in one way or another, there are so many more reduced sugar items – things you couldn’t get or buy even two years ago!
    Just the awareness of how much sugar is in the things we eats….
    It’s mind boggling!

  12. Greg's Free Weight Loss Newsletter says:

    I actually used to get freaked out by all sugar. Oh no! This apple has too much sugar! This milk has too much sugar! So I finally figured out that healthy was healthy, and a (very) little processed sugar mixed into a few things wasn’t going to kill me.

  13. PhluffyPrincess says:

    I agree, when my mother became diabetic and had to closely monitor her sugar intake I was shocked at the amount of sugar in “healthy” foods also. When she would say – “oh, I cannot have that” I would be so surprised and check the label.
    .-= PhluffyPrincess´s last blog ..Don’t make me too skinny! =-.

  14. julie says:

    Fortunately for me, somewhere along the way I stopped liking sweet. I now only tolerate it in chocolate, even then it can’t be too sweet. I drink about 4 sodas/year, usually on a plane. I dislike candy. I cook a lot, and do add sugar to almost everything I make, especially if it’s bitter without it. Soup, pasta/pizza sauce, curries, Asian food, etc. It’s still less sweet than what I get in restaurants, but I am well aware of the sugar in most things. I try to moderate, but realize I eat a lot of sugar, though far less than soda drinkers/sweet eaters.
    .-= julie´s last blog ..My mother, my enabler =-.

  15. Sunny says:

    Yeah, I’ve long avoided all juices that don’t say “100% pure juice” and show zero contents besides the juice of the specific fruit and water as their contents. 😉

    More good reasons to avoid processed foods. Sugar and soy are the two biggest crops in the USA…and this is why. They seep into ALL processed foods. ugh. No wonder diabetes and god knows what other diseases are in such rapid upswings!
    .-= Sunny´s last blog ..Sunny’s Oscars Best & Worst Dressed List (LOL) =-.

  16. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    It’s kind of overwhelming. It’s everywhere so it seems almost impossible to avoid. Sure, we can stop eating sweets, but like you mentioned it lurks all over the place—ketchup, oatmeal, even non-sweet snacks get a dose of sugar to hit that other pleasure center in your brain. It’s too bad because I love sweets and wish that were the only source of my added sugars.
    .-= Tracey @ I’m Not Superhuman´s last blog ..15 Funny Things My Gym Taught Me =-.

  17. Sagan says:

    I avoid ADDED sugars. I’m pretty good at avoiding added sugars just because most of what I eat is totally natural, whole foods… but yes, it is horrifying how much sugar is in foods we wouldn’t suspect! Condiments and everything. That’s why I like making pretty much everything I eat from scratch; I get to be the one who decides how much (or how LITTLE ;)) sugar is in there.
    .-= Sagan´s last blog ..Product Review: Galaxy Granola Fruit Not Fat =-.

  18. vickie says:

    for me –
    I look at those carb numbers and
    then look at the protein numbers.

    if IT is processed and the carbs are high and there isn’t at least a serving (7g) of protein – then IT is actually a cookie/candy.

    It might be manufactured to look like cereal, cracker, bread, roll, breakfast bar, or whatever, but if IT doesn’t have at least a serving of protein and reasonable carb numbers, IT is actually a cookie/candy.

    Adding sugar, toppings to everything is purely a learned response. And it can be unlearned.
    .-= vickie´s last blog ..Therapy is positive and empowering. It is a tool to help me succeed. =-.

  19. Jeremy Logsdon says:

    Why can’t baby carrots be bad for us and sugar a superfood!

    I try to watch my sugar, but I don’t do as well as I know I should. I pay more attention to refined flours than sugar, even though I know I should watch both.
    .-= Jeremy Logsdon´s last blog ..Weekend Warriors Update =-.

  20. 'Drea says:

    I expect an Oreo to have sugar in it. Although, I am surprised that there is a tsp in one Oreo. What blows me away is the *hidden sugar* in items like spaghetti sauce and hamburger buns…
    .-= ‘Drea´s last blog ..Keep Breathing =-.

  21. Siobhan says:

    I’m on the moderation side. I try to avoid anything with added sugar and limit my high-sugar natural foods, but I will occasionally have a cookie or a piece of candy. The longer I go with limiting sugar the less appeal it has for me.
    .-= Siobhan´s last blog ..Best time ever … =-.

  22. 100 Pounds in a Year says:

    I’ve been tracking my diet on The Daily Plate. Nearly every day I go over on my sugars. I’m trying to phase them out, but it’s tough when milk, fruit, and pretty much every other food I eat has sugar in it. I’m trying to stay away from processed sugars, as I’ve heard they are the worst.

    I’m planning to switch from cereal to oatmeal in the future. The problem is I don’t really care for oatmeal.

    Slowly, but surely, I’m controlling my sugar.

    .-= 100 Pounds in a Year´s last blog ..Weigh-In Results =-.

  23. Taryl says:

    I’m aware of it, sure, but since I try to eat mostly whole, unprocessed foods it isn’t a big deal when there is a little sugar in some of the (few) condiments and processed foods I eat daily. The bulk of my diet is healthy, so a few items are no issue for me. I’m not a sugar addict, my triggers are fat/salt/rich more than sweet!
    .-= Taryl´s last blog ..Weekly check in! =-.

  24. Fran says:

    Interesting Diane.

    I knew that about the pasta sauce f.e.

    I don’t use many “processed” foods like pasta sauce, most of the time I make it myself. I don’t watch all my sugar intake. I know it’s in cookies and that kind of stuff and I try to avoid that. But don’t watch it in my “normal” food.
    .-= Fran´s last blog ..A day in my life: Monday March 8th 2010 =-.

  25. Marcelle says:

    I try avoid sugar in my foods but do have a sweet or biscuit from time to time with sugar.
    When I stopped sweetener due to Aspartame I used only brown sugar and gained weight, now back to sweetener without Aspartame and have lost the weight I gained due to sugar.
    Its hard to cut it out completely, but where every possible I do.
    I also eat dark chocolate instead of normal chocolate now…
    .-= Marcelle´s last blog ..I’m feeling down =-.

  26. empower me photo guy says:

    It just shows how important it is to check the labels on products before you buy them – even ‘low fat’ foods can be loaded with sugar and it really is a blow to your empowerment if you make a bad choice – even if you don’t realise it until later. I bet your friends were really glad for your advice!

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