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Beware! Foods and Drinks That Are High in Sugar

By Amirah Tan Published July 5, 2024
Foods and Drinks That Are High in Sugar

Excessive sugar consumption in foods high in sugar can significantly impact your health. While an occasional treat is fine, consistently eating a diet high in sugar is associated with weight gain, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

It’s crucial to be aware of hidden sugars in many processed foods and drinks, often disguised under names like high fructose corn syrup or concentrated fruit juice. Always read food labels carefully!

However, not all sugars are the same.

Natural sugars in fruits, vegetables, and dairy products contain essential nutrients like vitamins and fiber. In contrast, added sugars are incorporated during processing to enhance sweetness and offer minimal nutritional value.

By identifying foods high in sugar and making informed choices, you can build a healthier diet.

18 Foods and Drinks That Are High in Sugar

1. Fruit Juice

A seemingly healthy choice, fruit juice can be loaded with concentrated sugar.

One cup of apple juice contains around 25 grams of sugar, similar to a can of soda!

This can contribute to blood sugar spikes without the fiber benefits of whole fruit .

2. Low-Fat Yogurt

Low-fat yogurt can be a good source of calcium, but many flavored varieties are packed with added sugar.

A study found some flavored yogurts containing upwards of 17 grams of sugar per serving .

Opt for plain yogurt and sweeten it with fruit or a drizzle of honey.

3. Salad Dressings

Creamy salad dressings often contain hidden sugars to balance out the tang.

A single serving of ranch dressing can contain up to 7 grams of sugar !

Choose vinaigrette dressings or make your own with olive oil, vinegar, and spices.

4. Granola Bars

Another high-sugar food is granola bars. Marketed as a healthy breakfast or snack option, many granola bars are loaded with sugar and unhealthy fats.

A 2017 study found some granola bars containing as much sugar as a candy bar.

Read labels carefully and choose bars with whole grains, nuts, and minimal added sugar.

5. Canned Baked Beans

Did you know canned baked beans is one of the foods high in sugar?

These can be a convenient source of protein and fiber, but beware of added sugars.

A single can of baked beans can contain up to 13 grams of sugar !

Look for low-sugar options or rinse regular varieties to remove some added sugar syrup.

6. Breakfast Cereals

Sugar-coated cereals are obvious culprits of foods high in sugar, but even seemingly healthy options can be surprisingly high in sugar.

Some instant oatmeal packets can contain upwards of 12 grams of sugar !

Choose whole grain cereals with minimal added sugar and add your fruit for sweetness.

7. Energy Drinks

Energy drinks, packed with caffeine and sugar, can give you a quick pick-me-up but can also be harmful to your health.

A 12-ounce can of a popular energy drink can contain as much as 27 grams of sugar!

These can lead to blood sugar crashes and contribute to weight gain.

8. Sports Drinks

Designed for athletes to replenish electrolytes after exercise, sports drinks can be high in sugar, especially for moderate workouts.

A 16-ounce bottle of a popular sports drink can contain over 30 grams of sugar !

Water is usually the best choice for hydration during exercise, and you can replenish electrolytes with post-workout snacks.

9. Dried Fruit

A concentrated source of fruit nutrients and fiber, dried fruit can also be high in natural sugar.

A half-cup serving of raisins can contain 31 grams of sugar!

Dried fruit is best enjoyed in moderation as part of a balanced diet.

10. Pasta Sauce

Not all pasta sauces are created equal.

While homemade or simple tomato sauces might be lower in sugar, many jarred varieties contain added sugars.

A half-cup serving of pasta sauces can contain up to 10 grams of sugar! Instead, look for low-sugar options or make your own sauce from scratch.

11. Ketchup

A staple on many tables, ketchup can be surprisingly high in sugar.

A typical serving size of two tablespoons can contain around 4 grams of sugar.

Consider healthier condiments like mustard or salsa.

12. BBQ Sauce

Another sweet and tangy favorite, BBQ sauce can be loaded with sugar.

A quarter-cup serving of BBQ sauce can contain up to 20 grams of sugar!

Choose low-sugar options or make your own with minimal sweeteners.

13. Flavored Coffee Drinks

While a morning latte might seem harmless, flavored coffee drinks from coffee shops can be sugar bombs.

A large flavored latte can contain upwards of 50 grams of sugar!

Opt for black coffee or add your natural sweeteners like stevia.

14. Salad Decorations

Candied nuts, dried cranberries, and sugary croutons can add unexpected sugar to your salad.

A handful of dried cranberries can contain up to 13 grams of sugar, so consider fresh, unsweetened toppings for your salad.

15. Microwave Meals

Quick and convenient, microwave meals often contain hidden sugars in sauces, dressings, and even vegetables.

A single frozen dinner can have upwards of 15 grams of sugar. You can control the ingredients and sugar content by planning and cooking meals at home.

16. Flavored Yogurt Drinks

Marketed as a healthy on-the-go option, flavored yogurt drinks are often sugary concoctions with minimal protein.

A single bottle can contain over 20 grams of sugar and very little actual yogurt. For a healthier drink option, choose plain yogurt or kefir.

17. Honey-Glazed Ham

A classic holiday dish, honey-glazed ham can be a surprising source of sugar.

Depending on the glaze recipe, a single serving can contain over 15 grams of sugar.

You can choose a glaze made with low-sugar alternatives like maple extract or balsamic vinegar or enjoy the ham plain.

18. Aromatized Vinegar

While vinegar is sugar-free, some popular flavoured varieties, like balsamic glazes or flavoured rice vinegar, can contain added sugars.

A two-tablespoon serving of a flavored balsamic glaze can have up to 10 grams of sugar.

Check labels carefully and choose plain vinegar for salad dressings or marinades.


Tips for Reducing Sugar Intake

Reducing your intake of high sugar foods can significantly benefit your health. Here are some easy tips to get you started:

1. Read Food Labels

Be mindful of serving sizes and don’t be fooled by packaging claims. Check the sugar content per serving and be honest about portion sizes.

2. Identify Added Sugars

Look for “added sugars” on the ingredients list to differentiate naturally occurring sugars in fruits from the sugars manufacturers add during processing.

3. Opt for Whole Fruits

Choose whole fruits over fruit juices. Fruits provide fiber and essential nutrients, while juices are often concentrated sources of sugar.

4. Choose Healthier Beverages

Drink water or unsweetened tea/coffee instead of sugary beverages. Skip sodas, sports drinks, and sweetened juices. Water is the best way to stay hydrated, and unsweetened tea or coffee offers a satisfying, low-calorie alternative.

5. Make Your Dressings and Sauces

Create your salad dressings and sauces to control the ingredients and sugar content. Use olive oil, vinegar, herbs, and spices for delicious, healthy options.

6. Limit Processed Foods

Processed foods are often loaded with hidden sugars. Opt for whole, unprocessed foods whenever possible.

7. Watch Portion Sizes of Naturally Sugary Foods

While fruits are a healthy choice, they do contain natural sugar. Enjoy them in moderation, and be aware of serving sizes.



Limiting high-sugar foods and drinks is crucial for maintaining a healthy diet. Excessive sugar intake is linked to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease. Making small changes and being mindful of the sugar content in your food choices can significantly improve your overall health.

Remember, minor changes add up! Start by incorporating a few of these tips into your routine, gradually reducing your sugar dependence and eventually eliminating foods high in sugar. Your body will thank you!

Read also: Foods That Reduce High Cholesterol

Additional Resources

Looking for more information on sugar and healthy eating? Check out these reliable sources:

Amirah Tan

Amirah Tan, blending computer science expertise with a grasp of social dynamics, offers unique insights into Malaysia's software-society interface. Her...

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