Beware of Hidden Sugar: Five Unexpected Foods to Avoid

refined sugar

Hidden sugar is lurking in some unexpected foods— here’s how to avoid it

We all know that we should avoid eating too much sugar, but what if you’re not even aware that you’re eating it? According to Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Pegan Diet, “Be aware of hidden sugars that lurk in processed foods, drinks, and even ‘healthy’ foods like cereals and wheat.” He goes on to explain that sugar isn’t always so easy to spot on a nutrition label: “Just as boys named Andrew often go by Andy or Drew, sugar might be called organic cane juice, honey, agave, maple syrup, cane syrup, or molasses. There are 257 names for sugar, most made from corn with names that you wouldn’t recognize like maltodextrin and xanthan gum, which make you fat and addicted.” We rounded up five foods that can have a sneakily high sugar content so you can make informed choices about your sugar intake. In case you missed it, Dr. Mark Hyman also broke down ways we can quit sugar altogether — without being miserable.  

Salad Dressing

Salads are healthy… right? Not if you’re loading up on dressing. Sweet dressings like balsamic vinaigrette or honey mustard can pack up to 12g of sugar in a serving. That’s equal to half a milk chocolate bar! Take an especially close look at fat-free dressings — what they lack in fat, they generally make up for in sugar.

BBQ sauce

There’s a reason why you’re tempted to lick the BBQ sauce off your fingers… Some of the most popular brands out there contain up to 16g of sugar per serving. Usually, you’ll see this in the form of brown sugar, molasses, or high-fructose corn syrup. BBQ sauce also tends to be high in sodium, so watch out for that as well. 


Look carefully at the ingredients on all condiments— ketchup in particular is often a high-fructose corn syrup trap. Instead, try putting mustard on your burger— it’s usually sugar and fat free, and packs a ton of flavor. Just make sure to steer clear of honey mustard. 


Yogurt can be great for you, as long as it’s not packed with syrupy fruit. Instead of buying yogurt with flavored fruit, which is almost always packed with added sugar, try buying plain greek yogurt and adding some fresh fruit yourself. It will taste just as good, and is much better for you!

Flavored Coffee

In moderation, coffee can be great. Not only does it help you stay awake, but it may lower the risk of certain cancers. Although drinking coffee black might sound daunting, most of the sweeteners out there aren’t worth the sugar. Just 1 tbsp of coffee-mate french vanilla creamer contains a whopping 5g of sugar. Also, If you’re someone who suffers from headaches, you might want to think about cutting coffee out in general.