Hidden Sugar and Food Swaps

It is almost impossible to navigate the mixed messages we receive about food. What is ‘good’, ‘bad’ or ‘ugly’, and everywhere inbetween. The food industry is smart – it manages to blur our perception of the basics. For example, we know sugar is not great for us, however marketers create positive spins and call it ‘natural sugar’/‘fruit sugar’/‘agave syrup’ or (the worst) ‘deriving from corn’ (read high fructose corn syrup… run.away.now).

*Aha!… this must be healthy* we think. 2 minutes later we have devoured 15g of sugar from a measly cereal bar which may as well have been a most of a Snickers. Win.


As consumers, it is important for us to wise up.

I am outlining some great examples of everyday foods that most of us would not think twice about, particularly those which appear healthy. I am also providing alternatives as it is not realistic to cut food types completely.

Food Background


Fruit Juice and smoothies

Per 250ml orange juice =  25g sugar =

7 Hobnobs.

Just have a piece of fruit instead. Juice lacks fibre, whereas when we eat fruit fibre forms a protective layer which acts as a barrier to the intestine. This slows absorption of sugar, so the liver has a chance to catch up. In fruit juices and smoothies, the barrier has gone, which leads to the liver being overloaded and the sugar gets converted to fatty stores immediately.

Coconut water, herbal teas, milk, soda water, vegetable based smoothies, water.
Flavoured yoghurts

Muller Light Strawberry pot = 12g sugar = Krispy Kreme Glazed Donut

Plenty of yoghurts are marketed as diet foods, and being low in fat – yet they are crammed with sugar and flavourings.

Full fat Greek/Plain yogurt with berries, cinnamon and nuts.

Bran Flakes 60g serving = 14g sugar

= Maple and pecan morning pastry

We all wrongly think cereal is healthy (heck the advertising screams it at us!), however it is a real offender. Even the diet cereals are rammed with the sweet stuff (it is Special K’s third-top ingredient). The scary thing is, I used to sprinkle extra sugar on top of every bowl…

Weetabix, Shredded Wheat, Grape Nuts, muesli (no dried fruit), porridge oats
Side Sauces

10ml Barbecue sauce = 6g sugar =

8ml Golden Syrup

The reason tomato ketchup, sweet chilli, and barbecue sauce all taste yummy is because they are around 50% sugar! Stick with the more savoury sauces and any sauce recipes posted on this blog.

Full-fat mayonnaise, tzatziki, mustard, sour cream, and homemade ketchup (Recipe to follow)
Dried fruit

40g Raisins (handful) = 29g sugar (!!!) =

15 Haribo Starmix sweets (handful)

Hmm what are better dried fruits or sweets? I will go for the former, but only marginally. When fruit is dried, all the goodness goes with it and you are left with pure sugar. Don’t go there. Eat the fresh stuff.

The real deal, particularly berries. Also, nuts are a great snack option (just not chocolate covered…).
Muesli Bars Kellogs Special K Raspberry bars = 18g sugar =

Cadburys Dairy Milk bar

Muesli bars are full of high-fructose corn syrup or ‘healthy’ sugars such as honey. On top of that they are bulked out with dried fruit. They are one massive sugar fest which will not leave you satisfied.

 Opt for savoury snacks, such as salted popcorn, crackers and cheese, houmous and carrots sticks. You can also make your own cereal bars! Recipe to follow
Salad dressing

1tbsp of honey and mustard dressing = 9g sugar = Chocolate eclair

Another savoury food which you wouldn’t think twice about. A lot of dressings have sugar added to them to sweeten them up, or the sugar is within the vinegar – the main culprit being balsamic vinegar which has high levels (15-25% sugar). Luckily creamy dressings are safer, such as yummy Caesar or Ranch… but still check the label!

Make your own (cheaper and fresher) for example mix olive oil, lemon, apple cider vinegar (>1% sugar), wholegrain mustard, minced garlic and seasoning. You can use pretty much any vinegar to this basic recipe, such as white or red wine vinegar… just stay away from balsamic! Also ALWAYS opt for the full-fat version of dressings if you are to buy.
Jams, marmalade, chutneys and relishes

1 serving raspberry jam = 12g sugar =

 Starbucks Pain au Chocolat

The reason why the shelf life for these products is so long is because the basis is sugar. Jam, for example, is fruit boiled with oodles of sugar, and will give you a great sugar spike at breakfast!

Stick with nut spreads (minus Nutella!), Vegemite or butter on toast.

Banana = 12g sugar =

1 scoop Ben and Jerrys Cookie Dough

Now, I am not trying to be controversial, don’t give up fruit – just allow yourself max 2 pieces a day (if that fruit is berries or kiwi). Max 1 piece if it is higher fructose e.g. a banana or mango. I know, the sugar is ‘naturally occurring’ but at the end of the day its still fructose and our bodies are not designed to be overloaded with it… cavemen rarely had access to fruit, hence our body not needing lots to survive.

Berries are all under 5g sugar per 100g, also kiwis, watermelon, and papaya are low sugar. And go crazy on coconut flesh!
Honey and Agave Syrup

2 teaspoons honey = 11.5g sugar =

2-finger Kit Kat

Agave is 90% fructose, so even worse than table sugar! Honey is 40% fructose, so a bit less than table sugar but still not good.

An alternative sweetener is brown rice syrup which is derived from brown rice starch and contains no fructose. You can also try Stevia which is a sweetener derived from sunflowers.

2 thoughts on “Hidden Sugar and Food Swaps

  1. Pingback: Is your 2015 resolution to cut down on sugar? | Beyond the Sugar Veil

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