8 (More) Products With More Sugar Than You Think!

Even though I know refined sugar has been added to an exorbitant amount of food products, I was still a little taken aback by this statistic…

“There are 600,000 food items in America. 80% of them have added sugar.” – Fed Up Movie

So, since sugar has been dubbed as “probably the most dangerous part of our current diet, I want to once again share some products that honestly have way more added sugar than one would think. Obviously we all know many of these items below are total junk food, but there’s just something about seeing the quantity of sugar piled up high right next to them. And since this is a follow up post be sure to check out the original “More Sugar Than You Think!” article to read more on the following topics: The Problem With Sugar, Added Sugar Vs. Naturally Occuring Sugar (big difference!), and Why Artificial Sweeteners are No Better.

8 (more) products with more sugar than you think on 100 Days of #RealFood

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Before we get started though, here is a handy dandy chart to help you figure out how many teaspoons of sugar are in your food products:

How many teaspoons in a gram of sugar from 100 Days of #RealFood
The recommended daily allowance of added sugar is six teaspoons (24 grams) for women, nine (36 grams) for men, and three (12 grams) for children.

(click to enlarge full, printable version)

1. Quaker Instant Oatmeal Packets

I like to pick on Quaker Oatmeal, but it’s not because I have anything against just straight-up whole-grain oatmeal. The problem with Quaker is the crazy amount of processed additives they use including half your dose (for women) of recommended added sugar for the day – already just from breakfast. And if you’re a child? Just this one meal alone will reach the recommended added sugar limit. So, I say make it yourself with just plain oats, cinnamon, and a little drizzle of honey (if anything). oatmeal packets

2. BBQ Sauce

I think condiments are often overlooked, but with a serving size of 2 tablespoons the sugar in these products can add up fast. I realize living without BBQ sauce (or ketchup for that matter) is a little unrealistic, but just be mindful of how much you are using and how exactly these products are sweetened (many use high fructose corn syrup). I personally love to make my own BBQ from scratch with a natural sweetener instead of refined sugar and, oh boy, the taste is far superior! My recipe will be in my upcoming cookbook. BBQ Sauce

3. Kool-Aid

Getting my kids to drink and enjoy water was a process. It took at least 6 months, but they finally turned the corner and it’s now their go-to drink after playing outside. So I get it, juices and kool-aid are a crowd pleaser, but when the recommended daily allowance of sugar for kids is just 3 teaspoons I say skip the sugary beverages – or at the very least water them down. And don’t be fooled into thinking the “sugar free” version is any better. In my opinion those are (unfortunately) even worse!

4. Cake Frosting

What’s startling about this one is that the 4 1/2 teaspoons of sugar doesn’t even include the cake. If this isn’t a good reminder to eat sweets and other treats in true moderation then I don’t know what is!
chocolate frosting

5. Jell-O

Can we all agree there’s not a whole lot of nutritional value going on here? Food Babe recently did an investigation all about this childhood staple. If the crazy amounts of artificial dyes and other additives didn’t already scare you away, please take a look at the added sugar and rethink your stance! And once again, don’t be fooled by the “sugar free” version either.

6. Twix Bar

If anything, I think this one is a good yard stick when looking at the other products on this page. Let’s think about it – half this candy bar has the same amount of sugar as that oatmeal breakfast above. And the beverage below has even more sugar than the whole bar! We all know candy bars are notorious for being sugar-loaded, so what does that tell us about the others?

7. Red Bull

If you’re feeling low on energy the last thing you need to do is reach for a Red Bull (or anything highly processed for that matter)! All that sugar – more than what’s in the candy bar above – might give you a brief burst of energy, but it’s not what your body needs in the long run. I used to get those afternoon crashes myself, but shortly after cutting out all things highly processed (and starting to depend more on whole foods – including lots of fresh produce) I couldn’t believe how much more energy I had. Just give the real food lifestyle a go for a few weeks and see how you feel!
red bull

8. Pepsi

I have quite a few friends who eat fairly healthy, but still do an occasional soda – or worse – have a spouse that just can’t kick their addiction. I am a firm believer that soda with real sugar is far better than the fake stuff you’ll find in the diet version – BUT – this bottle of Pepsi has more than 17 teaspoons of sugar! That’s more than a third a cup, and quite honestly just crazy to consume in one sitting!

Let’s not forget, people are eating (on average) four times the amount of sugar that’s recommended and this alone can be detrimental to our health. Plus, as I eluded to above, Mark Bittman says, “Added sugar . . . is the tobacco of the twenty-first century” and “probably the most dangerous part of our current diet.” So it might be a good time to rethink that soda habit.


Have any products recently surprised you with the amount of sugar they contain? Please share in the comments.

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102 thoughts on “8 (More) Products With More Sugar Than You Think!”

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  1. Just enjoyed a delish lunch of leftover homemade stir-fried squash/zucchini/broccoli/kale. Hmmm – had splashed it with low sodium soy sauce when cooking. Never thought to look at sugar content of the soy sauce. Wiser now with this post. Appreciate the conversion chart.

  2. Carrie, I read something helpful about things like single serving yogurt, etc. which said “If it contains more than 15 grams of sugar, consider it dessert.” I find it helpful to know that 1 tsp of sugar = 4grams.
    Here is a helpful article which says: The AHA says that adult women should get 5 teaspoons (20 grams) of sugar per day, adult men 9 teaspoons (36 grams), and children 3 teaspoons (12 grams). For comparison, a can of soda can have 40 grams, or about 10 teaspoons of sugar. http://www.rodalenews.com/recommended-sugar-intake

  3. I agree with many of the previous comments that I would like to see more foods that are sneaking high amounts of sugar in when you think you are making a healthier choice. If you are choosing to eat many of the foods you list, you are making a conscious choice to eat sugar.

    Another thing that stands out to me a lot is hearing phrases of “too much sugar” or “that’s a lot of sugar”. Since sugar is probably not going to be completely eliminated from most of our diets where does one draw the line and categorize something as “too much sugar?” I know that the answer to this question is very different for many people since there is no one right answer, but could you share your standards on where do you draw the line in your diet regarding sugar?

    1. Many respectable and trusted health organizations, such as American Cancer Society, American Diabetics Society, American Heart Association, an so on, recommend about 6 tsp per day for an adult female, 3 tsp a day for children and not too sure about men, but I would assume about 8 tps a day. It’s pretty easy to research.

    2. Critical Reader

      Foods with more sugar than expected:

      Home-made bakery items and the thinking that using sugar instead of honey and whole-grain flour instead of white flour makes it any/much better. Example: Whole-grain Applesauce and Carrot Muffin, Recipe on this webpage. Added sugar: 13 g (3 tablespoons)per muffin; advertised as “perfect for baby”.

      Many products of the organic section labeled as “no sugar added” but sweetened with fruit juice concentrate. Industrial-style fruit juice concentrate is frequently de-flavored, de-mineralized, de-acified and consequently a colourless, sirupy liquid with little resemblance to regular fruit juice. Example: Apple Clusters from Peeled Snack.

      Balsamic vinegar. The real, traditional one, that costs $$$ naturally has up to 45 g/100 ml (10 tablespoons per 3.5 oz) of sugar. Most balsamic vinegar in the store is an imitation, but still has about 20 g/100 ml.

  4. Gatorade! 34 grams a bottle. I do not give it to my children, but my childrens’ fathers family sees it as a “healthy alternative” and give it to them when I am not around.

  5. While I couldn’t have said exactly how much sugar is in these foods, I think they are foods that I considered obviously very sugary. So for me there were a few precisions in this article, but it didn’t add 8 more foods to my mental sugary-food list.

  6. I was eating yogurt and read the ingredients label; 26 grams of sugar! It surprised me but I was also very disappointed; I recently became lactose intolerant and was happy to finally have found a lactose free alternative. Guess I’ll have to keep looking for something else…

    1. Some of that is naturally occurring sugar though. Milk has natural sugars. There is supposed to be a change in nutrition labeling I think, where it will list the amount of “ADDED” sugar. As far as dairy free yogurt, not sure but could have natural sugars as well. You just have to look at the ingredients and avoid things that list any type of added sugar (which has about a million different names) as a main ingredient.

  7. Very informative it’s amazing,how much you learn when you start investigating what you put in your body,And you start eating to live instead of living to eat Thank you so much!

  8. I’m not surprised at the list. I have recently had to go on a no sugar diet and things like canned beans or canned tomatoes can have sugar! Condiments in general often have sugar (think salad dressing, ketchup, etc.) I still can’t kick the Skippy Natural habit, still tastes way better than the natural stuff, but I guess your palate does adjust.

  9. I’ve worked so many places where people drank 2 or 3 Red Bulls in one day. They’d always say “They don’t work for me unless I have more than one” and I’d just cringe thinking of what they were doing to their poor stomachs’ lining!

  10. Lisa Marie Lindenschmidt

    OK, can I just be a food snob here? Because of blogs like this, I make almost everything myself. I’ve never worried about how much sugar is in ANY of my foods in my house. Oatmeal? I soak my own steel-cut oats overnight in whole milk plain yoghurt. Kool-Aid and sodas? Don’t even drink them. We make our own kombucha, drink iced tea (herb, black, and green), or drink water. (And I used to be crazy-addicted to Diet Dr. Pepper!)

    I love this post, Lisa, and also love that you’re advocating for making your own, too. I’ve noticed that, for me, these “convenience” foods ended up causing more hardship in the end – for my teeth, for my skin, my weight, my mental state… not to mention the impact on the environment (use of plastics, gas to transport this stuff all over the place, etc.).

  11. It’s crazy to think how much sugar is in everything around us! Speaking of, I’m looking for some good store bought peanut butter, that is overly processed and sugary, but still has a good flavour. Any recommendations? I do have a Vitamix, but for simplicity, would prefer to buy rather than try to make my own peanut butter. Thanks so much!

    1. Nicole, try your supermarket brand of ‘all-natural’ peanut butter. Ours is Stop and Shop and the only ingredients are peanuts and salt (100mg per serving < 5% of rda).

    2. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi there. I also recommend going organic with peanut butter as peanuts are sprayed very heavily with pesticides. Costco’s brand is yummy as are Brad’s and Costco. But out of desperation while vacationing in FL with limited grocery options, I found that the Smucker’s Organic gets a thumbs-up with only peanuts and salt as ingredients. ~Amy

    3. I second Trader Joe’s Natural Peanut Butter, just peanuts and salt. It is the only peanut butter my kids have ever eaten. I like to give my kids a teaspoon of PB with a handful of baby carrots. They will eat plain carrots, but they ask for seconds when there is PB involved. Don’t forget the TJ’s PB trick of storing your unopened jar upside down in the cupboard. When ready to open, simply flip, stir thoroughly and refrigerate(right side up). Your PB will stay spreadable down to the last drop.

      Non-natural peanut butter is something I would LOVE to see on this list!

    4. Highly recommend “Sweet Ella’s” organic peanut butter — sold at Fresh Market. Best taste! & consistency (don’t have to put in fridge so it stays spreadable but not runny). Just peanuts & salt. They still make it on the same vintage equipment as they did decades ago.

    5. Whole Foods 365 brand is our peanut butter and it is delicious, and reasonably priced for a big jar of it. It’s just “peanuts and a pinch of sea salt”. My kids love it and so do we :) And I use Polaner All Fruit Spread as jelly, or I make a quick and easy jam with honey. Of course that stuff still is sugar, even if it is natural forms of it, so it still has to be limited, but a little goes a long way when you’re not desensitized by the ridiculous amounts of sugar in processed foods.

  12. I’ve been buying a frozen vegetable mixture for my sons because it includes red potatoes. It also has broccoli, red peppers, onions, green beans, and others. I was so shocked and disappointed the other day when I noticed it also has HFCS! I guess I need to read ingredient list on EVERYTHING!

  13. Crazy!!! It really is great to see it in teaspoons of sugar, sitting right next to the item. Especially the soda. Great teacher for kids right there.

    A few others I’ve thought of that people think of as “health foods” and probably buy pre-packaged all the time:

    -yogurt (anything other than ‘plain’) – the fat free ones are especially bad because they have to make up for the lack of fat (flavor) somehow…so they add a bunch of thickeners and sugar.
    -salad dressings
    -sandwich meat

    I read somewhere (probably on this blog!) that if you shop mainly on the outside circle of a grocery store (produce, dairy, meat, bulk grains/legumes) and avoid the center aisles, you’ll get the healthiest and least processed foods. Obviously still shopping smart though, and looking for whole versions of dairy and stuff like that.

    Thanks Lisa!

    1. I too would love to see yogurt, especially “Go-Gurt” on this list, as well as chocolate milk, since both items are marketed to parents as “healthy” dairy foods to give kids.

  14. Applesauce can be a shocker to some. The second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. I buy the unsweetened applesauce and have taught my children to sprinkle cinnamon on top. They are now teens and young adults and are very aware of added sugar in packaged foods.

  15. I recently discovered high fructose corn syrup in a jar of Vlasic dill pickles. Why put any kind of sugar in dill pickles?

    1. Most grocery store pickles have artificial colors as well! You are better off making your own refrigerator dill pickles. It is super easy and cheap!

  16. How about yogurt? A 6oz container of Y—lait original has 26!grams of sugar. I’ve always wondered how it is possible to fit this much sugar into that tiny container! Ugh!

    1. Some of that sugar (about 8 grams in 6oz) is in the form of lactose, which is naturally occurring milk sugar. But you’re right, that brand puts a LOT of added sugar in their products. About 18 grams in that 6oz container, which is over 4 teaspoons! I’m sticking with homemade and adding fruit for sweetness.

  17. My son has been asking me all month for strawberry milk, which he has never tried. After looking at cartons in the supermarket and seeing the amount of sugar in it along with other unreadable ingredients I decided to make my own…….. Milk, fresh strawberries, some ice and a tiny amount of vanilla essence. He loved it, drank it all up and smiled heaps! It’s a good feeling knowing I didn’t go the easy route and buy a carton and that he had a nutritious drink with only natural sugar. it will be so easy to make again.
    I have become a sugar watcher! Sometimes it’s hard to Believe in some healthy juices marketed directly towards kids, that there is way more sugar in that one carton than in a child’s recmmended daily allowance for sugar.
    Thank you for highlighting this :-)

  18. Soda, frosting, Kool Aid, Jello, candy bars, energy drinks–um, no, I’m not shocked or surprised at all by how much sugar they have. I was more shocked that people generally wouldn’t know these were loaded with sugar. I think products like pasta sauce, “light” yogurts and salad dressings would be much more deceptive to the public.

  19. I was shocked by the BBQ Sauce. I also hate how much sugar they put in Spaghetti Sauce! I don’t want sweet.

    The other scary thing about soda is they use synthetic caffeine, a majority of which is made in a factory in China or India and no one can get in there for inspections, etc.! Very scary. Oh and Monsanto was the first American synthetic caffeine factory – enough said.

  20. Look for Stubbs BBQ sauce if you have it (mostly here in the south), the least amount of sugar I’ve ever seen in BBQ sauce :)

    1. Also Annie’s Naturals is a good choice, although homemade is pretty easy to make, just time consuming because you have to let it simmer down. We have Stubbs in the Cincinnati area, but I remember not buying it for a particular ingredient (can’t remember what) or maybe it was too expensive at the time. I’ll have to check it out again.

  21. This is eye opening!! Thankfully we don’t consume any of the foods listed, but I am sure there are plenty of things we DO eat which are super sugary. I was just talking to my mom today about how I cannot handle sugar, it makes me irritable and then I have no patience with my kids and feel guilty. Great inspiration to get off the “white stuff.” Thanks a million Lisa! :-)

  22. Also jelly and jam. Of course they are sweet, but it’s amazing just how much sugar they can pack into one tiny jar.

    On the other hand, I feel a lot less terrible about putting an entire tablespoon of sugar in my oatmeal. I LOVE some of those little packets (not the fruit and cream ones, but the cinnamon and spice ones). But only because of the sugar and spices (and, sadly, salt)–at least now I’m having less of the unhealthy parts.

    To me the most disappointing thing is how much sugar is put into savory foods (which even I don’t think need any sugar). The excuse is that it is to cut the acid (in tomato sauce) or make a nice contrast to something (like in sweet-and-sour chicken or baked beans).

    I once tasted ravioli that was clearly a dessert item–it made me realize that cheese ravioli with raspberry sauce (made of raspberries in a blender plus maybe a little grape juice) would probably be yummy–but for dessert.

  23. Sadly, jello is kind of a staple in the hospital for clear liquid diets. Not exactly what a person needs who’s trying to heal. Opt for chicken broth instead if you’re in this situation.

  24. As someone who follows your page and makes an effort to eat well, these do not surprise me. What about some of the sugar laden yogurts, like chobani? Dubbed as healthy yet full of junk.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Lee Ann. There are certainly a lot of junked-up yogurts, too. Many of them marketed to children. :( ~Amy

  25. The biggest surprise I ever had with added sugar was looking at the vegetable stock I use and seeing, that sugar was the third ingredient.

      1. This blog has an awesome chicken stock, but I’m sure it could be adapted to make vegetable stock. Maybe use the spices that are used on the chicken, “Best Whole Chicken in the Crockpot” and then tons of veggie scraps.

  26. I have often looked at how many grams of sugar are in a product, but didn’t realize what that came out to in regards to actual amount. I think my husband will be in denial when I show him how much sugar is in the 2 cans of soda he typically consumes in a day–more then the bottle! I am off to see how much sugar is actually in my creamer. This may just be the wake up call I needed. Putting a physical amount to the grams is really scary.

  27. I have a hard time with finding unsweetened juice in my town.I have gave up juice because of the amount of sugar in it.

  28. I don’t know if I’ve ever consumed an entire bottle of soda, but I hope not. I didn’t grow up drinking it, since our parents said it was “for adults”… probably just to save money. So when my husband and I have something that we like to have coke with (pizza, specifically), we get a glass bottle of coke and share it. I would feel terrible if I drank the whole thing. Or maybe I would feel awesome for a second, then I would feel terrible, lol. I’m so glad my parents didn’t let me drink soda!

    1. Try making your own jello with gelatin and 100% fruit juice. You will avoid the added sugar and the artificial colors. There is a recipe on the Knox gelatin box. While I generally avoid giving my girls juice in favor of whole fruits. I make fruit juice finger jello a few times a year on special occasions and cut it out with themed cookie cutters for my girls. 1 or 2 small pieces of homemade jello is still far better then a whole juice box!

  29. That is eye opening! Last year I learned I have a large number of food sensitivities. Sugar is a big one. I never drank a lot of soda, but missed having one at BBQs and get togethers. Mixing a bit of unsweetened apple juice with seltzer water was a perfect substitution.

    1. Assistant to 100 Days (Amy)

      Hi Mary. Try sparkling water with a splash of juice. That’s how both my husband and myself broke the habit! :) ~Amy

    2. Yes you can!! I did it, my husband did as well. I will say that we OCCASIONALLY enjoy a bottle of Virgil’s soda (I cannot even drink a whole bottle, it is so sweet) but regular soda makes me sick now!!! You can do it, just mind over matter!! :) And speak control over the situation, say, “I CAN quit my soda addiction,” instead of claiming you can’t. Our words are powerful! I have faith in you :)If youc an quit smoking which is more addictive than heroin, you can quit drinking soda!

  30. If you’ve ever made tradition frosting from scratch you’ll know that frosting is primarily butter, a LOT of sugar and some sort of flavoring (vanilla, cocoa, etc). My perspective is, “Eat it infrequently, but when you do, make it from scratch and ENJOY!” I think canned frosted is disgusting, but it is not at all surprising that it has that amount of sugar. It’s frosting…

    1. I agree – I don’t mind an occasional homemade treat myself. But all different people have all different kinds of definitions for “occasional” which is a lot of the problem.