With your best intentions to keep that belly flat, you know better than to pick the foods your dentist warned you about. But what about the hidden sugars? Those are the ones straight out to get you! From your go-to marinades to your milk, you might be surprised to find out some of your everyday choices contain more sugar than a donut.
If you’re thinking there’s no way your favorite foods contain hidden added sugars, you’re not the only one. Whether brands trick you into thinking they don’t add sugar by using one of sugar’s 60 code names or add it to a food that doesn’t typically have much sugar in it to begin with, these shocking foods each have more of the sweet stuff than you’d expect.
We call out 14 sneaky sources of sugar in your diet, along with clever swaps to help you cut back on sugar. And while you’re making healthier choices, try out any of the 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.
A good breakfast gone wrong. Normally, yogurt is one our favorite foods for weight loss, but this product is far from flat-belly friendly. Yes, some of the sugar in this creamy breakfast comes from naturally-occurring sugars from milk and fruit, but that’s not where the majority of the sweet stuff comes from. Next to milk, Dannon injects their cartoon with, you guessed it, sugar. And since this cartoon is low in digestion-slowing macronutrients like fat and protein, you’re more likely to experience waist-widening spikes in blood sugar after polishing off the container. For a better yogurt, don’t miss our exclusive report: 25 Best Yogurts for Weight Loss.
Eat This: Good Brand, Two Good Strawberry Greek Yogurt (5.3-ounce container): 80 calories, 2 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 35 mg sodium, 3 g carbs (0 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 12 g protein
Not That!: Dannon Fruit on the Bottom Strawberry Flavored (5.3-ounce container): 130 calories, 1.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 95 mg sodium, 25 g carbs (0 g fiber, 22 g sugar), 5 g protein
Smoothies have the potential to be flat-belly friendly. But when they’re coming straight out of a bottle and not your blender, you should probably think again. Smoothies like these are overflowing with more sugar than your typical Halloween basket! Many see the label, glance at the ingredients, and say, “No biggie, it’s all from fruit!” And while that may seem accurate, a closer look proves otherwise. A smoothie made at home can be blended with sources of fiber, such as chia seeds or flaxseeds, healthy fats like avocado or nut butter, and protein like powders or Greek yogurt. However, most bottled smoothies don’t have any satiating macronutrients. And rather than using real blended fruit, these smoothie manufacturers use fruit juice concentrates and fruit purees to enhance their sweet sips. Ingredients like those can be just as damaging as high fructose corn syrup, an additive that has been said to cause increased levels of bad cholesterol, weight gain, and belly fat accumulation.
Drink This: Naked Half Naked Fruit Smoothie With 50% Less Sugar, Watermelon with Passion Fruit, 1 bottle: 120 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 25 mg sodium, 33 g carbs (27 g sugar), 2 g protein
Not That!: Naked Mighty Mango Fruit Smoothie, 1 bottle: 290 calories, 0 g fat, 20 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (0 g fiber, 57 g sugar), 2 g protein
It may be your go-to when you need a sandwich on the go or when you need a push of protein post-workout. But, surprisingly, many jars of peanut butter contain a significant amount of sugar—especially when it’s flavored with honey, cinnamon, or even chocolate. Just two spoonfuls of this creamy treat hold more sugar than two Chips Ahoy Cookies. We’re not suggesting that you completely avoid protein-providing nut butter, but make sure this spread isn’t in your everyday meal plan because it can easily become a sugar-filled diet destroyer.
Eat This: Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter, Creamy, 2 Tbsp: 190 calories, 16 g fat (3 g saturated), 110 mg sodium, 7 g carbs (3 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 8 g protein
Not That!: Peanut Butter & Co The Bee’s Knees Peanut Butter, 2 Tbsp: 180 calories, 14 g fat (2.5 g saturated fat), 60 mg sodium, 10 g carb (2 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 6 g protein
Who would’ve thought that adding a simple marinade to your chicken could cause your dinner to become as sugar-filled as your dessert! Don’t let words like “sweet” and “honey” just sneak right by. Just two tablespoons of this BBQ sauce contains 15 grams of sugar—and if you’re thinking there’s no way you use more than that. Read this: on average more than four tablespoons get smeared onto a serving of ribs. So that would be you’re getting 30 grams of sugar—more than a Hershey Bar—in your dinner dish.
Eat This: Stubb’s Original Bar-B-Q Sauce, 2 tbsp (32 g): 25 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 240 mg sodium, 6 g carbs (1 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein
Not That!: Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue Sauce, 2 Tbsp: 70 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 300 mg sodium, 17 g carbs (0 g fiber, 15 g sugar), 0 g protein
Green tea may be our favorite when it comes to a metabolism-boosting beverage, but not when it’s bottled! All of the added sugars cancel out every benefit this tea has to offer. Not to mention, antioxidant levels of bottled beverages have been measured to be considerably less than in a freshly-brewed cup. Instead, go for your own cup brewed at home to get the tummy-tightening benefits.
Drink This: Minna Green Tea, 1 can: 0 calories, 0 g fat, 0 mg sodium, 0 g carbs, 0 g protein
Not That!: Gold Peak Green Tea, 1 Bottle: 150 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (0 g fiber, 38 g sugar), 0 g protein
Looking for more helpful tips? Your ultimate restaurant and supermarket survival guide is here!
Dehydrated, chewy, sweet pieces of fruit are far from the fiber-rich food group we know and love. In fact, the snacks are closer to candy than their original form. That’s because, without water, the sugars become more concentrated in the dried variety. What’s worse is that manufacturers often coat the dried-up sweets in more sugar. Cranberries are originally one of the fruits lowest in sugar compared to most, but Ocean Spray decides to inject the berries with cane sugar in order to create a less-tart treat.
Eat This: Veggie-Go’s Fruit and Veggie Strips, 1 strip: 15 calories, 0 g fat, 5 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (1 g fiber, 2 g sugar), 0 g protein
Not That!: Ocean Spray Original Cranberries, 1/4 Cup: 130 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 0 mg sodium, 33 g carbs (3 g fiber, 29 g sugar), 0 g protein
Sorry, but if you purchased a breakfast bar, you were just catfished into thinking this bar would do the job to fuel your most important meal of the day. In fact, many oat-based bars like sugar as the first or second ingredient. Not only are these bars typically lacking in satiating nutrients like fiber and protein, but certain brands will trick you into thinking they have a lot less sugar than they do. For example, Nature’s Bakery lists the nutrition information for one bar, but two bars come in each pack—and the packaging isn’t resealable, so you’ll likely eat both.
Eat This: Simple Mills Nutty Banana Bread Soft Baked Bars, 1 bar: 160 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 140 mg sodium, 15 g carbs (2 g fiber, 8 g sugar), 4 g protein
Not That!: Nature’s Bakery Strawberry Whole Wheat Fig Bars, 1 package: 200 calories, 5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 80 mg sodium, 38 g carbs (3 g fiber, 19 g sugar), 3 g protein
You’ve seen it before, and you’ll see it again! Bottled salad dressings are a diet destroyer. When trying to stay slim, choosing a dressing that’s marketed to be “fat-free” or “light” is a classic rookie mistake. In order to make up for the loss of flavor provided by fat, companies pack the bottles with chemicals, sodium, and—of course—sugar. Whether it’s ketchup-based like Russian and Thousand Island, a fruit vinaigrette like raspberry, you’re getting more sugar than you would in a flat-belly-friendly dessert.
Eat This: Organic Girl Pomegranate Balsamic Dressing, 2 Tbsp: 100 calories, 9 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 190 mg sodium, 5 g carbs (0 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 0 g protein
Not That!: Ken’s Fat-Free Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing, 2 Tbsp: 70 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 270 mg sodium, 18 g carbs (0 g fiber, 14 g sugar), 0 g protein
If your body is unable to process lactose and dairy makes your belly all bloated, we get the notion to go dairy-free. Options like Silk’s Vanilla Almond Milk contain more sugar than a slow-churned vanilla ice cream. Holding 13 grams of sugar, is way too close to comfort, especially if you’re mixing it with sugar-stocked cereals, or a sugar packet in your cup of joe.
Drink This: Silk Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Milk, 1 Cup: 30 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 115 mg sodium, 1 g carbs (< 1 g fiber, 0 g sugar), 0 g protein
Not That!: Silk Vanilla Almond Milk, 1 Cup: 80 calories, 2.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 125 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (< 1 g fiber, 13 g sugar), 1 g protein
You may think that “frappuccino” is a nice blend of coffee that is sure to keep you cool, but you have to admit that you’re drinking something that’s closer to a milkshake than a fit-friendly beverage. admit it. You’re closer to having dessert. Drinks like this have more sugar than 24 Hershey Kisses! Downing yourself in such a sugary drink is completely unnecessary; you can still get your coffee pick-me-up and treat that sweet tooth with plenty of other options. For example, try a latte instead. It still has the sweet flavored syrups, and the addition of spices like cinnamon, but it’ll cut your sugar intake in half.
Drink This: Starbucks Caffè Mocha, Grande, 16 oz, 2% Milk: 360 calories, 15 g fat (9 g saturated fat), 150 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (4 g fiber, 35 g sugar), 13 g protein
Not That!: Starbucks Java Chip Frappuccino Blended Coffee, Grande, 16 oz, Whole Milk, Whipped Cream Frap: 440 calories, 18 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 260 mg sodium, 65 g carbs (2 g fiber, 60 g sugar), 6 g protein
Don’t let health imposter muffins fool you. Whether it’s bran or reduced-fat, muffins are only making your muffin top bigger. Muffins like these sound like they will be fiber-filled and low-sugar but they are the opposite. The added sweeteners that chains like Dunkin’ use to enhance flavor do more than just that, they boost the total calorie count too. You’re honestly better off opting for a doughnut. It’ll save you the equivalent amount of sugar as a serving of vanilla ice cream.
Eat This: Dunkin’ Donuts Glazed Blueberry Donut, 1 doughnut: 350 calories, 18 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 380 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (1 g fiber, 21 g sugar), 4 g protein
Not That!: Dunkin’ Donuts Blueberry Muffin, 1 muffin: 460 calories, 15 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 390 mg sodium, 77 g carb (1 g fiber, 44 g sugar), 6 g protein
Holding double-digits of sugar, sweetened marinara sauces do not hold up to the ideals of the Mediterranean diet. Rather this jar is filled with sugar itself and inflammatory omega-6s, which may be making you gain belly fat, not lose it.
Eat This: Classico Tomato & Basil, 1/2 cup: 50 calories, 1 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 8 g carbs (2 g fiber, 5 g sugar), 2 g protein
Not That!: Emeril’s Homestyle Marinara, 1/2 cup: 90 calories, 3 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 470 mg sodium, 14 g carbs (2 g fiber, 9 g sugar), 2 g protein
More often than not, bagels are a belly bully. But with a whole-grain promising name, you may have thought otherwise. Unfortunately, you’re better off listening to that stereotype. Even though brands will tout how many whole grains are in their bagels, they’re underplaying how much sugar they add to make them palatable. Bread companies know that consumers who are making the change of whole grain from white, are expecting to taste a product that resembles cardboard. So, to imitate the sweet taste of white bread the brand adds sugar to their breads to satisfy. Whole-grains may have great fiber-filling benefits, but that’s when they’re used as main ingredients. This isn’t the only culprit. Don’t miss these additional 15 Worst Whole-Grain Foods.
Eat This: Dave’s Killer Bread Epic Everything Organic Bagels, 1 Bagel: 260 calories, 5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 350 mg sodium, 44 g carbs (5 g fiber, 4 g sugar), 13 g protein
Not That!: Thomas’ Plain Bagels Made With Whole Grains, 1 Bagel: 260 calories, 1.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated fat), 410 mg sodium, 53 g carbs (3 g fiber, 6 g sugar), 9 g protein
You know that dairy products have natural sugars, but what many people don’t realize is how much sugar is added to chocolate milk. “Dairy contributes naturally occurring lactose, but many brands add additional sweeteners along with the chocolate flavor,” says Cara Harbstreet, MS, RD, LD of Street Smart Nutrition. Some brands have almost double the sugar as others, so be sure to look at your labels. “Unless you’re highly active or engaging in intense exercise, those added calories might not provide many benefits,” Harbstreet tells us.
Drink This: Fairlife Ultra-Filtered Chocolate Milk, 1 cup: 140 calories, 4.5 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 280 mg sodium, 13 g carbs (1 g fiber, 12 g sugar), 13 g protein
Not That!: TruMoo Chocolate Milk, 1 cup: 200 calories, 8 g fat (5 g saturated fat), 180 mg sodium, 24 g carbs (<1 g fiber, 23 g sugar), 8 g protein