10 Foods With Hidden Sugar & Healthy Alternatives

The World Health Organization recommends people eat no more than 100 calories per day (~6 teaspoons) of added sugar, but the average American actually consumes almost 4x that amount. Reducing the amount of sugar in your diet is something all credible nutrition experts agree is good for you, because eating a high-sugar diet can lead to numerous health problems like:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Heart disease
  • Cognitive disorders

While some high-sugar foods are obvious, like desserts and cereal, others aren’t as apparent.  In this article, we’ll look at 10 foods with hidden sugar and some healthier alternatives.


Flavored Yogurt


Greek yogurt is sometimes lower in sugar than regular yogurt due to the straining process, but some brands have over 17g of sugar per serving.  Yogurt with fruit usually has a good amount of sugar added to it.  Be careful of nonfat yogurt too, which is usually much higher is sugar that whole-milk yogurt (remember, not all fats are bad for you). 

Better option: Plain whole-milk yogurt with fresh fruit


“No Sugar Added” Foods

This common claim on many packaged goods is actually bogus most of the time.  Many products won’t explicitly add sugar, but they’ll add other sweeteners like fruit juice from concentrate or corn syrup. 

Better option: Check ingredients to make sure there aren’t high amounts of sugar alternatives. 


Alcohol Mixers

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In 12oz of margarita mix, there can be over 60g of sugar! Many other alcohol mixers are extremely high in sugar, which helps mask the flavor of the alcohol.

Better option: A glass of wine or seltzer water with a shot of alcohol. 



Nut Butters

When buying peanut, almond, or cashew butter, avoid brands with lots of added sugar, corn syrup, or honey.  When it comes to nut butter, the fewer ingredients the better.  And don’t even think about eating Nutella every day, which does have hazelnuts but is mostly sugar and palm oil. 

Better option: Nuts butter without added sugar.  Some grocery stores allow you to grind your own. 


Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is already pretty sweet, but at least they’re natural sugars.  However, many varieties have additional sweeteners added to them.

Better option: Fresh fruit or unsweetened dried fruit.


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BBQ sauce, ketchup, and teriyaki sauce are all high in sugar.  Most have a combination of sugar, corn syrup, honey, and/or agave nectar.

Better option: Make your own homemade sauces so you can control the amount of sugar.


Non-Dairy Milk

Soy, almond, and cashew milk are popular choices for people that are lactose-intolerant.  The problem is, many have a lot of added sugar.

Better option: Make sure to buy the unsweetened varieties of non-dairy milk, which still contain some sugar but not much.



Sliced bread can have as much as 6g of sugar per slice.  Considering you typically use 2 slices for a sandwich, that can add up quickly. 

Better option: Look for real sourdough bread, which is made without sugar.  Real sourdough only has 3 ingredients – flour, water, and salt.


Beef Jerky

Flavored beef jerky can have up to 10g of sugar per serving, something you wouldn’t expect from a meat snack. 

Better option: Buy plain jerky, which doesn’t have as much sugar as the flavored varieties. 


Protein Powder

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Protein powder is usually loaded with sugar (or non-sugar sweeteners) to make it taste good. 

Better option:  Look for varieties with zero added sugar or opt for a natural high-protein alternative like hemp powder or maca.