Top 10 Foods That Are Surprisingly High in Sugar

Sugar, we all know and love it, particularly those of us with an unruly sweet tooth.

I am guilty myself of possessing a hidden stash of sweets, an occasional guilty pleasure.

The secretive manner in which I eat my sugary snacks is proof enough that I am aware of the adverse health effects of consuming these items.

However, what about the food we eat openly and believe to be healthy?

Surprise Healthy Foods High in Sugar

If eaten in high amounts, processed sugar is very capable of inflicting damage to your body.

Fructose in particular, is an incredibly powerful pro-inflammatory agent that can cause premature aging, making one look and feel older than their years.

Sugar also increases the release of insulin while deceasing the sensitivity of receptors for vital hormones.

This additionally speeds up the aging process and makes one at risk for degenerative chronic illnesses, like heart disease.

Furthermore sugar promotes the thick growth of fat cells around vital organs in our bodies, which then increases the chances of developing diabetes, heart disease, or obesity.

However, not all sugars are villains.

The natural fructose found in fruits and vegetables as well as the lactose sugar in milk and dairy products can be part of a balanced diet.

It’s the fiberless, processed foods with high levels of sugar such as sucrose and high-fructose corn syrup is where the main problem lies.

The sugar content of many food items may not always be apparent as manufacturers attempt to hide the true sugar content of food items by using multiple, varying names for common sugars.

Is your body processing more sugar than it should without you knowing?

10 Surprise High Sugar Foods

Here is our top 10 list of foods that are surprisingly high in sugar:

1. Granola Bars

high sugar foods

(Photo: MGF/Lady Disdain. via flickr/CC Attribution)

Advertising gives granola bars an illusion of being a healthy snack.

Slim, fit people are often pictured enjoying a granola bar after a hike in nature or a hard workout.

Contrary to this image granola bars contain a lot of sugar.

In fact if you look at the ingredient list on a granola bar, sugar is likely to be in the top 5, making it nutritionally similar to a candy bar.

Tip: Make your own:

Trail mix – Stir in a combination of nuts, muesli, unsweetened dried fruit, and dark chocolate. Easy as pie.

Peanut Butter Granola Bars


  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup tahini
  • 2 cups honey
  • 1 tsp sea salt

Blend above ingredients together completely.

  • 1 cup sesame seeds
  • 1 cup almond (coarsely chopped)
  • 2 cups coconut
  • 2 cups sunflower seeds
  • 2 cups dark chocolate chips
  • 2 cups rolled oats (toasted and cooled)
  1. Blend remaining ingredients into previous mixture taking care not to over mix.
  2. Press dough firmly and evenly in greased pan.
  3. Bake at 350 degrees.
  4. Cook on bottom shelf for 15 minutes, spin, and move to the middle rack for and additional 8 minutes.
  5. Do not overcook, they brown easily.
  6. Bars should be evenly brown when finished. Remove from oven, cool, cut, and enjoy.

2. Tomato Sauce

One cup of tomato sauce can add up to over 20 grams of sugar.

Due to the fact that most people eat tomato sauce on top of a mound of pasta, a high carb source, this can be an extreme sugar overload.

Tip: Tomato sauce can easily be made from scratch using tomato paste, fresh, or canned tomatoes.

Use caramelized onions or carrots to sweeten sauce and mask the acidity of the tomatoes.

3. Fruit Juice

Although “100 percent juice” and “all natural” sound healthier than their competitors, chances are they are still packed with sugar.

It is true that a portion of this sugar naturally is from the fruit itself, however consuming the fruit whole will provide an added fiber intake.

Tip: If you have a juicer, use it!

4. Yogurt

high sugar foods

(Photo: Enokson. via flickr/CC Attribution)

Yogurt is praised to be one of the healthiest of foods as it boosts metabolism and increases immunity to illnesses.

However some varieties aid in pushing the daily intake of sugar to the limits.

A heaping 27 grams of sugar is in a 6 ounce container of Yoplait flavored yogurt.

Pick plain or go greek.

Tip: Drizzle honey or use the sweet flavor of blueberries to liven up plain yogurt.

5. Muffins

I agree muffins are healthier than opting for a doughnut to compliment a morning cup of coffee but they also contain a good deal of sugar. Even store/ bakery bought bran muffins have around 20 grams of sugar. To avoid this I suggest making your own, there are several recipes that do not require sugar at all and taste the same.

Tip: To sweeten up bland tasting bran muffins add bananas, blueberries, raspberries, mangos…up to you!

6. Canned Fruit

A fair amount of canned fruit is packaged in a sugary syrup which combined with the fruit itself is enough to send one into sugar overload.

Even light syrup has a whopping 32 grams of sugar per one cup serving.

Opt for those canned in natural fruit juice or the real deal.

Tip: Buy fresh fruit, pre-cut, and store in the refrigerator.

This way it’ll always be on hand, absent of added sugar.

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7. Cereal

For many people a bowl of cereal is the first meal of the day, which can be beneficial to one’s health because of the fiber, but not if it’s pack full of processed sugar.

Claims of being healthy often masks this detail, even select wholesome granola based cereals contain as much as 13 grams of sugar per serving.

This makes them comparable to the cereals obviously loaded with sugar that often tempt us at the supermarket.

To avoid this read nutrition labels, you may be surprised by the difference.

Tip: Purchase basic granola or muesli in the bulk section and make your own breakfast cereal.

This way you can dodge sneaky sugar filled cereals and dress it up to your preference.

Yogurt, fresh fruit, honey….yum!

8. Vitamin Water

high sugar foods

(Photo: nacaseven. via flickr/CC Attribution)

Vitamin water contains essential vitamins/ minerals and gives you a boost of energy.

However, don’t be so easily deceived, that extra energy after taking the last drink is a sugar high incognito.

A bottle of Snapple’s Antioxidant Water or Glaceau’s Vitamin Water holds more than 30 grams of sugar in a 20-ounce bottle.

You’re better off drinking regular water and taking vitamins to avoid this extra sugar intake. Also it will be much cheaper in the long run.

Tip: If you crave a little flavor in your water infuse with fruit or cucumbers.

9. Fat Free Salad Dressings

Fat free = healthy. Not necessarily and when it comes to salad dressings most companies pump loads of sugar into their products to give them an appetizing taste. Check labels to find a healthy compromise of fat and sugar or make your own dressing.

Tip: Simple Balsamic Vinaigrette Recipe


  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  1. Combine vinegar, garlic, pepper, salt and whisk together blending completely.
  2. Beat in olive oil in small amounts, continuing to whisk (or pour all ingredients in a seal tight screw top container and shake.)

*If not using the dressing right away, cover and refrigerate, whisk or shake before reuse.

10. Smoothies

Fruit smoothies can be super healthy if prepared in a wholesome fashion.

Be aware of the sugar content of commercially bought smoothies.

Even those prepared with fresh fruit at a restaurant or shop may have added sugar.

To dodge this make smoothies at home where you have control over the ingredients.

Tip: Avocado Smoothie


  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 1 cup almond milk
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 3 tablespoons honey

Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until smooth.

Final Thoughts

The above foods are only a selected list of the most surprising foods that contain high levels of sugar and unfortunately it doesn’t stop there.

As mindful consumers we should all be knowledgeable about the food we are feeding our bodies.

Also when possible always try and eat food that is as close to it’s original form, your body and wallet will thank you.

(Featured Photo: ruben i.. via flickr/CC Attribution)


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  1. hhhmmmm – thanks for the heads up – but all 7 are things i would not consider eating anyway, especially on a paleo/primal diet –

  2. whoops – i mean all 10 (just learning to count… 😉 )
    ravi recently posted..What is a Primal/Paleo Diet? DaiaSolGaia’s Thoughts…My Profile

  3. Geez! A container of yogurt has more sugar in it than a can of Coke!!

  4. Yep, yogurt has always been my favorite ‘health’ food, but plain and simple, its loaded with sugar 9 times out of ten.
    Luckily I’ve found a local supplier of truly no sugar added yogurt.
    Kelly Fitzsimmons recently posted..Check Out the Many Benefits of a Rowing MachineMy Profile

  5. It never ceases to amaze me how many people fail to realise that “healthy food” can also be high in calories. Granola bars are a classic example of this. People often stock up on them and eat instead of chocolate snacks, but they have just as much energy, and as you point out, a lot of sugar too.

    I used to get yogurt from a local farm shop – it was proper yogurt!
    Jon recently posted..Common Dieting MistakesMy Profile

  6. I disagree with the “go Greek” advice when it comes to yogurt — flavored Greek yogurts can have just as much sugar as the other types.

  7. Yoghurt was a big one for me to overcome. I used to eat this as a healthy pick and when I discovered the sugar content I nearly fell off my chair! Lots of healthy people can be addicted by feeding off healthy sugars.
    Laura @ HappySugarHabits recently posted..Which are the Best Low Sugar Yoghurts to Buy?My Profile

  8. @Jen

    I’m in Thailand right now so my selection of Greek yogurts consists of an expensive brand and a more expensive brand! But luckily both are low in sugar.
    Kelly Fitzsimmons recently posted..The Number One How to Sugar Detox Guide…PeriodMy Profile

  9. All of these foods are not only surprisingly high in sugar, but most of them have high glycemic index too. This means that they are converted to glucose in the blood in a rapid manner giving you a sugar rush, which is not good if you have a family history of diabetes. Well, i think the real deal when choosing your food is go as natural as possible. Avoid those commercial foods.

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    Ella recently posted..EllaMy Profile