Fat had its day. Then carbs took over for a while. And now people are starting to realize that sugar is the real public enemy number one. There are sugars lurking in almost everything—not just the obvious diet saboteurs like cookies and candy.
Recent recommendations from the World Health Organization say we should keep our intake of added sugars (different from the naturally occurring sugars found in fruit and milk, fructose and lactose) down to less than 10% of our daily caloric intake, though they added that making that figure 5% is preferred. The American Heart Association’s current recommendation for maximum consumption is 25 grams per day for women and 36 grams for men. However, in the U.S., the average adult consumes more than double that—88 grams of sugar per day, to be exact. So if you’re not starting your morning with a basket of pastries or noshing on brownies all day, where is all that sugar coming from? Keep reading to find out what surprising sugar bombs are hiding in your diet!
Think you’re being virtuous by picking a bagel over a doughnut? Think again. Bagels contain close to seven grams of sugar or more. And that’s just a plain bagel (cinnamon raisin is upward of 11) without any cream cheese (which adds at least another two or three grams). By comparison, most glazed doughnuts have just a few grams more with 13 to 14 grams.
Flavored YogurtPhoto: Dannon
Yogurt can quickly venture from protein-filled breakfast food to dessert if you’re not paying attention. And it’s not just the dessert-flavored yogurts we’re talking about—fruit-flavored yogurt and those fruit-on-the-bottom varieties rack up 23 grams of sugar and oftentimes more. Even light variations contain around 10 grams. Stick with plain Greek yogurt to keep the sugar content in the single digits.
Granola bars are another treat masquerading as a healthy food. Most of them are made with a lot of added sugar. On the low end, you can find bars with six grams, like Annie’s Peanut Butter Chewy Granola Bars ($6). On the high end, most of the ones with fruit flavors have around 15 grams of sugar per bar.
Salad Dressings and SaucesPhoto: Pembleton
It varies from dressing to dressing, but many of the oily ones (think Italian and vinaigrette) have up to 10 grams of sugar. And beware of sauces you consider savory too. Barbecue sauce is made with sugars like honey, molasses, and brown sugar, which means most store-bought bottles contain up to 11 grams of sugar. Even ketchup has almost four grams of sugar per serving, which may not seem like a lot until you consider that a serving of ketchup is one tablespoon. When was the last time you used just one measly little ketchup packet?
Soups usually get a bad rap for their high sodium content, and while the sugar content is much lower, it’s still nothing to scoff at. The average tomato soup contains 10 to 13 grams of sugar.
Raisins may seem like a worthy snack (they are dried grapes, after all), but don’t forget grapes are one of the fruits with the highest sugar content. One quarter of a cup of raisins, or one small box, contains 25 grams of sugar, sometimes up to 29 grams. That’s the equivalent of eating a bag of Skittles.
SmoothiesPhoto: Jamba Juice
Pretty much everything you make at home is more nutritionally sound than boxed, bottled, or bagged options available for purchase. But that fact is especially true when it comes to smoothies. A small (16-ounce) Strawberry Surf Rider from Jamba Juice has a whopping 70 grams of sugar. If you “Make It Light,” that brings the sugar content down to 41 grams (still, yikes).
Despite the numerous health claims juice bars put on their cold-pressed beverages, juice (even the fresh kind) is a concentrated source of sugar. All of those green juices with around 11 grams of sugar add up. A glass of orange juice every morning? That adds 20 to 23 grams to your breakfast. You probably know the gas station apple juice isn’t the smartest option, but remember it doesn’t matter if it’s 100% natural juice with no “added sugars” or not, since juice is already loaded with sugar.
Energy BarsPhoto: Clif Bar
If you thought granola bars were bad with their 13-plus grams of sugar, just wait until you glance at the nutrition label on an energy bar. Some contain as much as 48 grams of sugar per serving. A Clif Bar, for example, has around 25 grams of sugar, which is about the same as eating a Twix bar.
BreadPhoto: Wonder Bread
Cruise down the bread aisle at your grocery store, and you’ll see that most loaves contain around three grams of sugar per slice (so six grams per sandwich) or more. Which isn’t a ton (especially compared to some other items on this list), but if you buy your bread from the neighborhood bakery, you end up eating even less. Most bakeries use just a pinch (enough to activate the yeast).
Flavored WaterPhoto: Vitamin Water
When you’re staring into the beverage cooler, you know reaching for soda is a disastrous choice, so you reach for a water instead—even flavored water has to be a better choice than a sweet, syrupy soda, right? Not so much. Don’t be fooled by healthy-sounding names—every flavor of regular Vitamin Water (not Vitamin Water Zero) has at least 31 grams of sugar. That Coke you were eyeing has just eight grams more.
There’s a reason nutritionists want you to drink coffee and not lattes, and the reason is milk. All that calcium and vitamin D comes with 11 to 12 grams of sugar per eight-ounce serving, regardless of whether you’re drinking whole milk or nonfat milk. Get your calcium in some green veggies like kale and broccoli instead.
Which one of these secret sugar bombs surprised you the most? Tell us which culprit you’ll be cutting back on in the comments below!