9 “healthy” foods with way more sugar than you think

By | November 21, 2023

There is no blanket definition of what constitutes healthy foods, but there are characteristics that most healthy foods have in common. For example, healthy foods generally provide vitamins and minerals, are a source of protein, fiber and healthy fats, and provide minimal empty calories. Added sugar and saturated fat are considered empty calories in foods because they provide calories with minimal (or no) nutritional value. Unfortunately, some foods you might think are “healthy” contain a lot more empty calories in the form of added sugar than you think.

Marketing claims like “keto-friendly,” “gluten-free,” and “natural” can lead you to believe a food is healthier than it actually is. Although these claims might mean that a food has fewer carbohydrates or is made without wheat, that does not automatically make a food healthy. Many of these foods end up with higher sugar content than expected. Instead of basing your food choices on advertised claims, compare nutrition facts and ingredient labels for more detailed information

If healthy eating is important to you, be sure to pay attention to added sugar in your foods. You’ll be surprised at how much sugar is in foods you think are healthy. A small amount of added sugar can be part of an overall healthy diet, but it’s best to keep the grams of this nutrient to a minimum. For example, the FDA states that the daily value for added sugars on a 2,000 calorie diet is about 50 grams per day.

Here are 9 common “healthy foods” that contain way more sugar than you think. Read on and for more healthy eating tips, check out 20 Healthy Weight Loss Breakfast Recipes for Busy Mornings.

Canned soup

Tomato soup with croutons

For those looking for a quick, healthy lunch, soup can be a great snack. However, canned soups can sometimes be less healthy than you think.

Although soups are notable for their hearty flavor and sodium content, they can also be a source of sugar. For example, Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup contains 8 grams of added sugar per serving, which is just half a cup. This means that a single can of soup can provide 20 grams of sugar.

There are many healthy soups out there, so look for options that contain at least 10 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and zero grams of added sugar. If you have health problems, you should also keep an eye on the sodium content.

RELATED: 7 Signs You’re Eating Too Much Sugar

granola bar

granola bargranola bar

Granola bars are a popular meal and snack for children and are also popular with adults. They are simple and practical. However, this convenience does not always translate into good nutrition. Store-bought granola bars often contain unexpected amounts of added sugar.

For example, Nature Valley’s Oat and Honey Granola Bars contain 11 grams of added sugar. In addition to being high in sugar, this granola bar only contains 2 grams of fiber and 3 grams of protein, making it a less healthy option. When looking for bars, choose options with at least 3 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of added sugar. The lower the better!

Instant oatmeal

Oatmeal with strawberries, concept of how oatmeal can help you lose weightOatmeal with strawberries, concept of how oatmeal can help you lose weight

Oatmeal alone is a healthy food that is high in fiber and even contains a few grams of protein. However, many flavored instant oats are full of added sugar.

Quaker Oats Cinnamon Spiced Oatmeal contains 10 grams of added sugar, and sugar is the second ingredient right behind oats. Instead of this option, check out Quaker’s low-sugar instant oatmeal line, which contains 35% less added sugar than traditional flavors.

RELATED: How Many Carbohydrates Do You Need to Eat Every Day to Lose Weight?

Low-fat yoghurt

Woman eating yogurt, the concept that eating yogurt can help you lose weightWoman eating yogurt, the concept that eating yogurt can help you lose weight

Lower-fat yogurt means fewer calories from fat compared to full-fat yogurt, but many options trade fat grams for added sugar.

For example, Yoplait’s blueberry flavored yogurt contains 13 grams of added sugar. Although it only contains 1.5 grams of fat, the amount of sugar increases the calorie count of a 6-ounce container to 140.

Next time you buy yogurt, look for Greek yogurt or similar options that are high in protein. Also, be sure to choose varieties with less than 5 grams of added sugar.

Whole grain muesli

Fiber muesli with strawberriesFiber muesli with strawberries

Granola is an easy breakfast and complement to yogurt, but sugar lurks in most options. Even those that market themselves as healthier alternatives may have too much added sugar, like this whole grain option from Raisin Bran, which contains 9 grams of added sugar per serving.

Eating more than one cup of it can drastically increase the sugar content of your meal. There are numerous granola options available with minimal to no added sugar. Therefore, look for unflavored options and compare the sugar content of different brands.

RELATED: 13 Filling Snacks That Will Satisfy Your Biggest Cravings

Gluten free cookies

Chocolate chip cookiesChocolate chip cookies

Gluten-free products took the country by storm many years ago, and you can still find plenty of gluten-free products on grocery store shelves. While many people require their foods to be gluten-free due to allergies, others simply choose these products because they believe they are healthier.

However, this is not always the case. For example, gluten-free cookies can contain the same amount of sugar as regular cookies. Simple Mills’ gluten-free chocolate chip cookies are also non-GMO and grain-free, but still contain 7 grams of added sugar per serving.

Most cookies contain sugar. Therefore, choose the best option by comparing labels and consume less than one serving to keep added sugar at bay.

Protein bars

Protein barsProtein bars

Many people use protein bars as a meal replacement. While this may be better than other quick alternatives, most options contain some amount of added sugar. For example, these Gatorade protein bars contain a whopping 28 grams of added sugar per bar! While this one contains 20 grams of protein, since there are so many protein bars on the market, you may be able to find an option with a lower sugar content.

To narrow down the healthier options, compare store labels and look for products with at least 10 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber and less than 5 grams of added sugar.

RELATED: The 20 Best Smoothies for Weight Loss of All Time

Dried fruits

Dried fruitsDried fruits

Fresh fruit is a healthy food rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and fiber. However, dried fruits often contain sneaky added sugar.

A household favorite for many, Ocean Spray’s dried cranberries contain a whopping 26 grams of added sugar per serving. Whether you add your dried fruit to a bowl of oatmeal or a homemade trail mix, this excessive amount of added sugar can turn any healthy meal or snack into a sugar bomb.

Raisins are generally made without added sugar, and many fruits are also available without added sugar. Just take the time to explore the nutrition labels before adding them to your cart.

Non-dairy milk

Pour milk into glassPour milk into glass

While some choose dairy-free milk due to a dairy sensitivity, others gravitate toward it because it is viewed as a healthier option.

Oat milk in particular has gained popularity in recent years, but is a source of added sugar. Chobani oat milk contains 7 grams per serving, which translates to a much higher value if, for example, you consume several servings per day between coffee drinks and breakfast cereal.

When considering dairy-free milk, compare the grams of added sugar. While some options contain zero, others provide several grams per serving.

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