5 Healthy Foods with Surprisingly High Sugar Content

Labels claiming "keto-friendly," "gluten-free," or "natural" can mislead consumers into thinking a food is healthier than it truly is. While these claims may indicate a lower carb count or the absence of wheat, they do not automatically signify that a food is healthy.


11/21/20234 min read

Defining what constitutes healthy food can be complex, but most healthy foods share common characteristics. Healthy foods are usually rich in vitamins and minerals, contain sufficient protein, fiber, and healthy fats, and offer minimal empty calories. Empty calories refer to added sugar and saturated fat that provide calories with minimal or no nutritional value. Unfortunately, some foods often perceived as "healthy" conceal a significant amount of added sugars, more than you might expect.

Labels claiming "keto-friendly," "gluten-free," or "natural" can mislead consumers into thinking a food is healthier than it truly is. While these claims may indicate a lower carb count or the absence of wheat, they do not automatically signify that a food is healthy. Many of these products turn out to contain higher sugar levels than anticipated. Instead of relying solely on marketing claims, it's important to compare nutrition facts and ingredient labels for more accurate information.

If healthy eating is a priority for you, it's essential to monitor the added sugar in your food choices. You might be surprised to find how much sugar is present in foods that you consider to be healthy. While a small amount of added sugar can fit into a balanced diet, it's best to limit the intake of this nutrient. According to the FDA, the daily value for added sugar is approximately 50 grams per day in a 2,000-calorie diet.

Here are 5 so-called "healthy foods" that contain significantly more sugar than you might assume. For more tips on healthy eating, explore 20 Healthy Weight Loss Breakfast Recipes for Busy Mornings:

1. Canned Soup

For those seeking a quick, nutritious lunch option, canned soups can be a convenient choice. However, they can also harbor more sugar than you realize. For example, Campbell's Condensed Tomato Soup contains 8 grams of added sugar per serving, which is just ½ cup. This means a single can of soup can contribute 20 grams of sugar. Look for soups with at least 10 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and no added sugar.

2. Granola Bars

Granola bars, often enjoyed as a quick meal or snack, can also contain unexpectedly high levels of added sugar. Nature Valley Oats and Honey Granola Bars, for instance, contain 11 grams of added sugar, along with low fiber and protein content. Opt for bars with at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of added sugar.

3. Instant Oatmeal

While oatmeal is generally a healthy option, flavored instant oatmeals can be loaded with added sugars. For example, Quaker Oats' Cinnamon & Spiced Oatmeal contains 10 grams of added sugar. Consider choosing Quaker's lower-sugar instant oatmeal, which provides 35% less added sugar than traditional flavors.

4. Low-Fat Yogurt

Although lower-fat yogurt contains fewer calories from fat compared to full-fat versions, many choices compensate with added sugar. For instance, Yoplait's blueberry-flavored yogurt contains 13 grams of added sugar per 6-ounce container. Look for Greek yogurt or similar options high in protein and containing fewer than 5 grams of added sugar.

5. Whole-Grain Cereal

Whole-grain cereals are often perceived as healthy choices, but some may contain substantial amounts of added sugars. When selecting a cereal, ensure it has a lower sugar content and is high in fiber and protein.

---## The Sneaky Sources of Added Sugar in Common Health Foods

Cereal is often a go-to choice for a quick and convenient breakfast or as an accompaniment to yogurt. However, many cereal options contain hidden sugars, even those that market themselves as healthier choices. For instance, a seemingly wholesome whole-grain option from Raisin Bran can pack as much as 9 grams of added sugar per serving, and consuming more than a single cup serving can contribute significantly to your daily sugar intake. With numerous low or no added sugar cereal alternatives available, it's essential to opt for unflavored varieties and carefully compare sugar content across different brands.

Consumers often turn to gluten-free products under the impression that they are healthier. However, gluten-free cookies, despite being gluten and grain-free, can contain just as much sugar as their regular counterparts. For example, the Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies from Simple Mills boast non-GMO and grain-free credentials but still provide 7 grams of added sugar per serving. To minimize added sugar intake, it's crucial to check labels and practice portion control when indulging in these treats.

Protein bars are a popular choice for a quick meal replacement, but many options on the market are loaded with added sugar. While they may offer a substantial amount of protein, some protein bars, such as the Gatorade protein bars, pack a significant 28 grams of added sugar per bar. When seeking healthier alternatives, it's advisable to compare labels and look for protein bars that contain at least 10 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, and fewer than 5 grams of added sugar.

Dried fruit, a kitchen staple for many households, can be a source of sneaky added sugars. For instance, dried cranberries from Ocean Spray contain a surprising 26 grams of added sugar per serving. To avoid turning a healthy snack or meal into a sugar-laden one, it's important to explore no-added-sugar options and examine nutrition labels before making a purchase.

Non-dairy milk, often perceived as a healthier alternative to traditional dairy milk, can also harbor added sugars. Oat milk, in particular, has gained popularity but can contain as much as 7 grams of added sugar per serving. When opting for non-dairy milk, it's essential to check the added sugar content and consider alternatives with little to no added sugar.

In essence, it's crucial for consumers to scrutinize nutritional information, especially concerning added sugar, and make informed choices to maintain a balanced and healthy diet.