3 Ways to Find Added Sugar in Your Food

Find and reduce sugar and other sweeteners to lose weight and feel better

added sugar in your food
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Added sugars are a source of useless calories. Naturally occurring sugars, like those in fruit and milk, usually come packaged with other nutrients. But added sugar contributes calories and nothing else. If you’re trying to lose weight, avoiding foods with added sugars is important. 

3 Ways to Find Added Sugar

1. The sugar bowl. Believe it or not, you might be the most common source of added sugar in your food.

Sometimes we mindlessly add sugar to our food without paying attention. For example, how often do you add sugar to foods like cereal, coffee, cinnamon toast or fresh fruit simply out of habit?

The first step to finding and eliminating extra sugar in your diet is to become aware of the spoonfuls we add at home. To do this, make the bowl harder to reach. It will give you a moment to think twice about your choice to add sweetener to your food. The calories in sugar can add up in a hurry so you should be thoughtful if you are going to use it.

2. Find added sugar on the nutrition label. The next place to find sugar is in the processed foods you eat. Many processed products, even those that you’d never suspect, contain sugar. For example, many savory foods like peanut butter contain sugar and even some commercially produced salsas and ketchups contain the sweetener as well.  

To find out if your food contains sugar, start by checking the Nutrition Facts label.

 You’ll see a row halfway down the label that provides the total number of sugar grams in each serving of the product.  But be careful because that number can be confusing.

First, the grams listed is for one serving of the food product. Do you know the difference between portion size and serving size?

  Make sure that if your portion is bigger than one serving you multiply the grams of sugar times the number of servings you eat.

Second, the number listed on the Nutrition Facts label is the combined amount for naturally occurring and added sugar. Of course, you want to make sure you aren’t exceeding the total recommended daily amount of sugar.  But naturally occurring sugars probably aren’t going to be a problem for you unless you are on a restricted diet, like the diabetes diet. Added sugars are the problem for most people.  So how do you know if the product contains added sugar?  You look further down the label at the ingredients list.

3. Find added sugar in the ingredients list. Finding hidden sugars in the ingredients list takes keen detective skills. Unfortunately very few food manufacturers call sugar by that name on the label. They often use other terms that are harder to decode.

One rule of thumb is to look for any word ending in “ose.”  Those are most likely sugars. These are some other terms that manufacturers might use to describe the sugar that that have been added to a product.

  • Agave nectar
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrates
  • Glucose
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Maltose
  • Malt syrup
  • Molasses
  • Raw sugar
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrup

If you see one of these names listed, then the product contains added sugar.  If the sugar is listed as one of the first ingredients, then it is a primary ingredient.

What If I Can’t Give Up Sugar?

So how do you know if you have a problem with sugar? There are a few common signs and symptoms of sugar addiction. One of them is having trouble reducing sweetened food products from your diet.

But if you find that you have a bad sugar habit, don’t panic. There are simple ways to get added sugar out of your diet and live a low-sugar life.  And it’s worth the effort!  Without added sugar, you can learn to enhance your enjoyment of food.  And chances are good that reducing your sugar intake will mean reducing your total calorie intake. Then, results on the scale are sure to follow.  

Sources:
American Heart Association. Sugars, added sugars and sweeteners. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/HealthyEating/HealthyDietGoals/Sugars-and Carbohydrates_UCM_303296_Article.jsp#.V8zeBpMrLsk. 

The Nutrition Source, Harvard School of Public Health. Added sugar in the diet. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/carbohydrates/added-sugar-in-the-diet/ 

USDA. Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Chapter 7 Carbohydrates. https://health.gov/DietaryGuidelines/dga2005/document/html/chapter7.htm.

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