7 Ways Food Companies Hide Sugar in Food

Eating a lot of added sugar is bad for your health. It’s been linked to many chronic and metabolic health conditions, including but not limited to: (1, 2, 3, 4)

  • Obesity,
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Arthritis
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease

What’s more, research shows that many people eat way too much added sugar. In fact, the average American is now consuming upwards of 22 teaspoons (88 grams) of added sugar per day. (5, 6)

However, most people aren’t pouring lots of sugar on their food. A large portion of your daily sugar intake is hidden inside various packaged and processed foods, many of which are marketed as healthy. (7, 8)

Here are 7 ways that food companies hide the sugar content of foods.

1. Calling sugar by a different name

Sugar is the general name given to the short-chain carbs that give your food a sweet taste. However, sugar comes in many different forms and names. You may recognize some of these names, such as glucose, fructose, and sucrose. However, others are harder to identify.

And, because food companies often use sugars with unusual names, this ingredient can be difficult to spot on food labels.

Dry sugar

To stop yourself from accidentally eating too much sugar, look out for these added sugars on food labels:

  • Barley malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Brown sugar
  • Buttered sugar
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caster sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Confectioner’s (powdered) sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Crystalline fructose
  • Date sugar
  • Dextran, malt powder
  • Ethyl maltol
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Golden sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Panela
  • Palm sugar
  • Organic raw sugar


Sugar is also added to foods in the form of syrups. Syrups are usually thick liquids made from large quantities of sugar dissolved in water.

They are found in a wide variety of foods but most often in cold drinks or other liquids.

Common syrups to look out for on food labels include:

  • Agave nectar
  • Carob syrup
  • Golden syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup
  • Honey
  • Malt syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Oat syrup
  • Rice bran syrup
  • Rice syrup

SUMMARY: Sugar has many different names and forms, which can make it difficult to spot on food labels. Watch out for syrups as well.

2. Using many different types of sugar

Ingredients are listed by weight, in descending order on food labels. This means the main ingredient will be listed first on the ingredient list.

Food manufacturers often take advantage of this. To make their products appear healthier, some use smaller amounts of three or four types of sugar in a single product.

These sugars then appear further down on the ingredients list, making a product look lower in sugar — when sugar may very well be its main ingredients.

For example, many protein bars and granola bars are considered as healthy, but, in fact, are super high in added sugar. There may be as much as 8 teaspoons (32 grams) of added sugar in a single bar.

When reading food labels make sure you’re on the lookout for multiple types of sugars being added into the mix.

SUMMARY: Food companies may use three or four different types of sugar in a single product, making it appear lower in sugar than it is.

3. Adding sugar to foods you wouldn’t expect

It’s fairly common sense that a candy bar or piece of cake will harbor a lot of sugar. However, some food manufacturers pour sugar into foods that aren’t always considered sweet.

Some examples include:

  • Bread
  • spaghetti sauce
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Yogurt
  • Salad dressing
  • Peanut butter
  • Canned soup
  • Almond and Soy milk

In fact, some yogurt cups can contain as many as 6 teaspoons (29 grams) of sugar.

Even whole-grain breakfast bars, which may seem like a healthy choice, can pack up to 4 teaspoons (16 grams) of sugar.

And because most people don’t realize that these foods have added sugar, they’re unaware of how much they’re consuming. Therefore, if you’re buying packaged or processed foods, make sure you read the label and check the sugar content — even if you think the food is healthy.

SUMMARY: Sugar is hidden in many foods — even ones that don’t taste sweet. Make sure to check the labels of packaged or processed foods.

4. Combining added and natural occurring sugars on the ingredients list

Certain foods, such as fruits, vegetables, and dairy products, contain naturally occurring sugars. Unlike added sugar, these usually aren’t as much of a health concern.

This is due to the fact that naturally occurring sugars are generally difficult to eat in large amounts.

Although some fruits contain high amounts of naturally occurring sugar, their fiber and antioxidant contents mitigate the rise in blood sugar. The fiber in fruits and vegetables is also quite filling, making these foods harder to overeat.

Additionally, whole foods provide many beneficial nutrients that can reduce your risk of disease.

For example, one cup (240 ml) of milk contains 3 teaspoons (13 grams) of sugar. Yet, you also get 8 grams of protein and around 25 percent of your daily requirements for calcium and vitamin D. (9)

The same size serving of Coke contains nearly twice the amount of sugar with no nutrients. (10)

Keep in mind that food labels don’t distinguish between natural and added sugars. Instead, they list all of the sugars as a single amount. This makes it tricky to identify how much sugar is found naturally in your food and how much is added.

However, if you’re eating mostly whole, unprocessed foods — as opposed to packaged or processed items — most of the sugars you’ll consume will be naturally occurring.

SUMMARY: Food labels often lump added and naturally occurring sugar together into one total amount. Thus, it can be hard to determine how much sugar is added to certain products.

5. Adding a health claim to products

It’s not always easy to tell which products on the shelf are healthy and which aren’t. Manufacturers will often times plaster their packaging with health claims, making some items seem healthy when they’re really loaded with added sugar.

The most common examples of this include labels that sport words like:

  • Natural
  • Healthy
  • Low-fat
  • Diet
  • Light

While these products may be low in fat and calories, they’re often packed with added sugar. Do your best to ignore these claims and carefully read the label instead.

SUMMARY: Products with health claims, such as “diet,” “natural,” or “low-fat,” may still be loaded with sugar.

6. Lowering the portion size

The food industry regularly makes the listed portion size small in order to distort your sense of how much sugar you’re consuming.

In other words, a single product, such as a mini pizza, a muffin or bottle of soda, may contain more servings then you’re aware of. While the amount of sugar in each of these servings might be low, you would typically eat two or three times that amount in one sitting.

To avoid this trap, carefully examine the number of servings per container. If a small food item has multiple servings, you might end up eating more sugar than you intended to.

SUMMARY: Food companies often reduce the portion size to make products appear lower in sugar.

7. Making sweetened versions of a healthy original product

You might know that some of your favorite brands of food are low in sugar. However, manufacturers sometimes piggyback on an established brand by releasing a new version that packs far more sugar.

This practice is quite common with breakfast cereals. For example, a healthy, whole-grain cereal that’s low in sugar may appear in new, up-to-date packaging with added flavors or different ingredients.

This can confuse people who assume that the new version is just as healthy as their usual choice. Therefore, if you’ve noticed different packaging for some of your frequent purchases, be sure you check the labels.

SUMMARY: Low-sugar brands may still spin out high-sugar products, potentially attracting loyal customers who may not realize the new version isn’t as healthy as the original. th;k++)l=a(“