These Healthy Foods Contain More Sugar Than You Thought

Stack of sugar cubes, balancing one on top the other, on black backdrop
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When it comes to sugar, less is usually more

Aside from the occasional birthday cake or candy binge, you might think you’re a healthy eater most of the time. But sugar lurks in more than just the obvious places, like candy bars and cupcakes. In fact some so-called “nutritious” go-tos are actually packed with enough sugar to satisfy a mouth full of sweet tooths (er, sweet teeth?), and then some.

SugarScience, a new initiative from the University of California, San Francisco, along with a long list of partnering health departments across the country, is working to educate consumers about sugar. The information on the site comes from 8,000 research papers and warns against the risks of consuming too much sugar, including liver disease, heart disease, and Type 2 diabetes.

When it comes to sugar, less is usually more. The World Health Organization recommends adults consume a max of 25 grams (or six teaspoons) per day. With the average American getting more than 19 teaspoons daily, it’s safe to say that we could stand to cut back a bit. “[The recommended limit] is not very much at all and a hard goal to meet, considering that most of us consume three times as much added sugar as what’s recommended,” says Julie Upton, M.S., R.D., CSSD.

But it’s not always the obvious sugar bombs that add up—here are some sneaky foods to avoid in the grocery aisles.

Yogurt

When it comes to sugar, yogurt can pack a powerful punch. Some kinds even have more sugar than a Twinkie, and low fat and flavored brands, in particular, might contain as much as 29 grams of sugar per serving. That doesn’t necessarily mean we have to kick yogurt out of our diets though. When shopping for it, avoid flavored or low-fat varieties, as those tend to have more sugar than plain yogurt. “Look for brands with no more than 20 grams sugar per single serve container,” says Joy Bauer, M.S., R.D., NBC’s Today Show diet expert, and founder of Nourish Snacks. “Or buy plain and doctor it up with fresh chopped fruit.” You can also add a teaspoon of sugar, honey, or maple syrup so that you control the amount of added sweeteners in your yogurt, Bauer says.

Granola

Sprinkling granola over that plain yogurt can actually add back in the sugar you avoided by swapping out flavors for the original. One half cup can cost you more than 12 grams. Plain, unflavored granola bars are better, but not great, still clocking in at six grams. If you’re really craving crunch, replace the granola with a protein-rich nut, like a handful of almonds.