25 Foods to Avoid that are Surprisingly High in Sugar

Different sugar on dark table

25 Foods to Avoid that are Surprisingly High in Sugar

Sugar has been a hot-button topic in kitchens across America for years. Parents often try to avoid feeding it to their children to prevent them from experiencing that oh-so-famous sugar rush. Additionally, a high sugar intake has been connected to a myriad of health issues. Including increased risks for negative physiological outcomes, increased blood cholesterol, obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. While many people do their best to avoid common culprits of sugar such as candy or soda, they fail to notice that sugar is hiding in the foods they consume every day. So how can you tell which foods are high in sugar? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Click through the gallery as we provide a list of the 25 foods to avoid that are surprisingly high in sugar.

1. Yogurt

You can make yogurt a healthy option by buying plain yogurt and adding fruit for sweetness.

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While yogurt is classified as a healthy food it often contains a lot of hidden sugars. Low-fat and flavored yogurt in particular often have increased sugar amounts to help enhance the flavor. A single cup oflow-fat yogurt can contain over 45 grams of sugar. Next time you grab your favorite yogurt, peek at the nutrition label.

2. Canned Soup

Spoon of hot tomato soup over bowl closeup. Eating vegetable dish of pureed roasted tomatoes, garlic and basil. Healthy vegetarian dish. Mediterranean cuisine. Focus on spoon. Top view.
Even when you can’t taste sugar, it can be hiding in some of your everyday foods.


Wait I thought we were talking about sugar, not sodium? That’s right canned soup contains high levels of sodium and sugar. Specific soups, such as tomato, have higher levels to help reduce the acidity of some of its ingredients. One cup of canned tomato soup can have up to 20 grams of sugar.

3. Barbecue Sauce

Smoked barbeque beef brisket sandwich with pickles and bbq sauce
Most barbecue sauces pack around 16 grams of sugar in just two tablespoons.

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You may want to think again before marinating your chicken in this sauce. Around 33% of the weight of this sauce is pure sugar. While it may make the sauce taste great, it is not great for your body.

4. Salad Dressing

Try hummus, tzatziki, citrus juices, or vinegar as a healthier alternative to sugar-filled salad dressings.

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While it can be tempting to spice up your spinach it can also be detrimental to your health. Popular dressings that are high in sugar include raspberry vinaigrette, honey mustard, sweet Italian, and French dressing. Additionally, light and fat-free varieties tend to be the highest in added sugar.

5. Breakfast Cereal

Don’t be fooled by health keywords such as “whole grain” when buying cereal, always check the nutrition label.


While some of these may seem like obvious sugar-filled choices, such as Coco Pops or Frosted Flakes, sugars are hiding even in the choices you think are healthy. For example, cereals like Honey Nut Cheerios contain 12 grams of added sugar per 1-cup serving. Also, Raisin Bran Crunch contains 19 grams of sugar per 1-cup serving.

6. Ketchup

Tomato sauce in a wooden plate. On a black background. High quality photo
A single tablespoon of ketchup contains nearly one teaspoon of sugar.

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While it may not taste sweet as you lather your hot dog with it, be aware that ketchup is one of the most sugary condiments out there. In a 20oz bottle, there is two-thirds of a cup of sugar. That is 4 grams of sugar per tablespoon.

7. Coffee

A cup of black coffee has about 2 calories and no fat or sugar content.


Next time you grab your caffeine fill, think about all the potential additives. If you are getting your coffee from large chains such as Starbucks be aware that there is close to around 11 teaspoons of added sugar in your drink. For a healthier alternative, try to make your coffee and drink it black.

8. Tomato Sauce

To help cut down on sugar with this food item, try making your own tomato sauce from plain diced tomatoes.

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This next food that is high in sugar probably does not surprise you. Seeing as tomato soup and ketchup were both high in sugar, it is no shock that tomato sauce is the same. Sugar helps cut down on the acidity in the tomatoes and allows the jar to stay fresh for longer. Natural sugars here are not the problem, rather it is the corn syrup and added sugars.

9. Hoisin Sauce

Hoisin sauce is often used as a glaze for meat or as a dipping sauce.


Did you know that a typical small jar of hoisin sauce contains around 30 teaspoons of added sugar? If you want to avoid all that sugar and the potential health risks associated with it you can substitute soy sauce instead.

10. Peanut butter

Low-fat variations of peanut butter tend to be high in sugar to compensate for loss in flavor.

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Have no fear, this high-protein snack is still an acceptable treat but beware of the reduced-fat versions that are available. A majority of those options contain high amounts of added sugar to compensate for the loss in flavor as a result of lessing the fat content. So when picking your peanut butter, go for the real deal.

11. Fruit Juice

There can be just as much sugar in sugar-sweetened fruit juice as there is in a can of Coke.


Despite the title, many of these juices have way more flavoring than just natural fruit flavoring. Food coloring, high fructose corn syrup, added sugars, and even heavy metals are just some of the additives in many fruit juices. When shopping, choose options that say 100% whole fruit juice.

12. Granola Bars

A healthy alternative to a granola bar is a homemade trail mix with dried fruits and nuts.

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While many people reach for this as a healthy breakfast alternative, be warned. Certain brands contain 10 grams or more of sugar per bar. Some of these brands include Nature Valley, Kellogg’s, and Clif Bars. Try to avoid bars that have sugar listed in their top three ingredients.

13. Teriyaki Sauce

Despite being high in sugar, teriyaki sauce is a good source of vitamins and minerals.


Although it is perfect for stirfry, it may not be perfect for your health. Each tablespoon of teriyaki sauce contains 2.2 grams of sugar. While exact amounts may vary by brand, be aware that teriyaki sauce is a highly sweetened condiment.

14. Flavored Milk

Glass of chocolate milkshake isolated on white background from top view
In addition to more sugar, chocolate milk also has more calories than regular milk.


Although chocolate and strawberry milk may be more exciting to the taste buds, they are more taxing on your body. Plain fat-free milk has about 12 grams of sugar compared to chocolate milk, which has about 25 grams.

15. Sports Drinks

Despite their promotion, water is a much better beverage choice than sports drinks for exercise.


Although they are praised for their ability to replace electrolytes, they are also placing high amounts of sugar in your body. Sports drinks contain high amounts of sugar because those sugars can be quickly absorbed and used for energy by the athletes. A standard 20-ounce bottle contains 32.5 grams of added sugars.

16. Dried Fruit

Dried cranberries can contain up to 29 grams of added sugar on top of their natural sugars.


While fruit contains natural sugars, dried fruit is often high in added sugars such as cane sugar or corn syrup. This is done to help enhance flavor and is often highest in dried fruits that are naturally tart.

17. Coleslaw

While the vegetables in coleslaw are healthy, the addition of mayonnaise and sugars lessen the health benefits it offers.

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You may be thinking, “But coleslaw is just shredded vegetables!” While you are correct, there is also a large amount of added sugars here. The mayonnaise is the main culprit behind it. One tablespoon of store-bought coleslaw typically contains 4 grams of sugar.

18. Iced Tea

If you enjoy tea, a healthy alternative would be unsweetened iced tea.

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While this one may not be as big of a surprise, many people are still shocked to learn just how much sugar is truly in their glass of iced tea. Most commercial iced teas will contain around 35 grams of sugar for a 12-ounce can.

19. Oatmeal

A typical fruit-flavored oatmeal can contain between 10-15 grams of sugar per packet.

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Often recommended as a great source of fiber, oatmeal is also a great source of sugar. Many of the brands that are labeled as healthy contain high amounts of added sugars. Brands such as Quaker Instant Oatmeal, Nature’s Path, and 365 may surprise you with their ingredients.

20. Canned fruit

Fresh fruit is always a better alternative to canned fruit.


In addition to the natural sugars that fruit contains, canned fruits are peeled and preserved in sugary syrup. In addition to covering the fruit in syrup, it also strips it of its Vitamin C. According to Food Network, one-half cup of canned pears has 12 grams of sugar.

21. Baked Beans

Read nutrition labels to find baked beans with the least amount of added sugar.


Although they may not taste sweet, a can of baked beans is loaded with sugar. One cup of baked beans has around five teaspoons of sugar in it. Sugar and salt are added to the beans for flavor and as a preservative.

22. Premade Smoothies

You can make a healthy homemade smoothie with fresh fruits and vegetables without any added sugars.

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If you make your own smoothie at home out of fresh fruit and plain yogurt there is no need to worry. However, if you are buying your smoothie from a commercial space be aware that there are often additives in them. Commercial stores often add ice cream, syrup, or additional sugar to enhance the flavors of their smoothies.

23. Bread

If you are looking for a healthier bread option, sourdough has similar fiber but less sugar and more protein than white bread.


When speaking of bread that contains sugars, we are focusing mostly only highly processed breads. Some breads that are high in sugar include white bread, brown sugar cinnamon bread, and Hawaiian bread.

24. Flavored Water

A typical 20-ounce bottle of Vitaminwater usually contains between 27-30 grams of sugar.


What!? Even water can have sugar? If you are drinking flavored water and are thinking how delicious it tastes, the reason may be a heaping dose of sugar. Oftentimes things are marketed with health words so people don’t think to read the labels. A common example of this is Vitaminwater. Due to the label, people see it as healthy because it contains vitamins, and they are unaware of the high sugar content it contains.

25. Jam

A typical 1-ounce serving of jam may contain approximately 10-15 grams of sugar.

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Although jam comes from fruit, which has natural sugars, they are high in additive sugars as well. To help keep it fresh tons of sugar and acid are added to it. A can of jam is about 60 percent sugar, so the next time you add some to your piece of bread keep that in mind.

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