How to spot and avoid hidden sugar

Hidden sugar

Everyone knows having excessive sugar is not good for health specially for type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and cancer.

Sugar is simply empty calories which we consume but it is easy to spot the sugars in sweets, colas, chocolates, etc which we know are sweet but what about the ones which are not sweet or foods that claim to be healthy or low fat.

In this article, I have focused on how to spot hidden sugars, foods that contain hidden sugars and how to avoid it.

Sugars are carbohydrates. Like other carbohydrates they also provide energy by converting into Glucose. Natural sugar present in fruits is not harmful as they have fiber to slow absorption but added sugar like honey, corn syrup, molasses etc are problematic.

 How to spot hidden sugars?

Hidden sugar

1. Read the Nutrition facts label and Ingredient list

No company exactly writes the amount of added sugar in the name of sugar. They use numerous other names which are the same as sugar and is harmful for the body.

To identify these, check the ingredients list and here below are some clues to understand they are added sugar

  • It will include Syrup, Ex- corn syrup, rice syrup
  • The word ending with “ose”, Ex- maltose, sucrose, fructose
  • Sugar is in the name, Ex- raw sugar, brown sugar, confectionary sugar, cane sugar

 2. Lowering the portion size

Some Food Companies reduce the portion size so the consumer reads and thinks that particular food item has less sugar.

For example A biscuit company mentions the nutrition fact according to serving size not the quantity of the whole packet so a person understands that it has less sugar and in fact ended up eating more sugar than required.

To avoid this trap Read the label correctly and look for the portion size.

 3. Add a health claim to a food product

Nowadays, everyone is conscious of their health so they fall under a trap of healthy foods which are actually not healthy.

Companies use this as an advantage and categorise every other food item under the label of healthy foods. Most common tags used are ‘natural’, ‘low-fat’, ‘diet’, ‘healthy’, ‘light’. While these products may be less in number of calories but they are filled with added sugar, example- Muesli, Granola Bars, Diet mixture, namkeens etc.

Food containing hidden sugar

  1. Ketchup - When we think about ketchups, there is not only tomatoes there is a high amount of sugars present in them. Just flip the bottle and look for the amount of sugar present in it.
  1. Yogurt - Flavoured yogurt present at stores claimed to be healthy but they are filled with white sugar which is not at all healthy for a person. In name of flavour they just add the extracts of fruits in a very small quantity.
  1. Honey - It is better to look at the nutrition fact label before purchasing honey. Even organic honey has natural sugar in them making it not healthy.
  1. Canned fruits and juices - Its best to consume raw fruits and homemade juices as they are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals but only thing is their shelf life is not more on the other hand canned fruits and juices have a long shelf life but they have corn syrup and high amount of sugars in them.
  1. Packaged food - Packaged foods like namkeens, biscuits, chips, bhel and many more are loaded with sugars. Do avoid them and consume more roasted nuts and seeds.
  1. Alcohol - If you are on the journey of losing weight beware of alcohol as they are sugar beverages. Not only colas, shikanji, and mocktails are sugar beverages, alcohol beverages also contain high amounts of hidden sugars.
  1. Bread - Bread is not only high in carbohydrates but also in sugar they contain sugar in form of fructose, corn syrup and many more other additives.
  1. Ready to eat- Common breakfast foods like muesli, Granola bars, ready to eat poha, instant oatmeal and many more. They claim to be healthy but one should look at the ingredients as they do contain sugars in many forms.

How to avoid them

  • Be aware and attentive while Purchasing product
  • Know your body's requirement about how much sugar you should intake
  • Don’t get fooled by health claims
  • Instead of sugar have jaggery, stevia or other forms of natural sugar
  • Have more fresh fruits to avoid sugar craving
  • Have more of homemade food and avoid packaged food

Bottom line

At last an interesting fact - In this pandemic situation according to the researches there is a significant reduction in natural deaths just because everyone was consuming home cooked food whether they are samosas, jalebi or any other food but they were homemade so no hidden sugar or chemicals were there. So do make this a lifestyle and consume homemade food only.



Kirtika Chaudhary, Dietician

Kirtika is a qualified and dedicated dietitian. She is also a diabetes educator. She loves to write about trends in field of health and nutrition and to bust people's myths about food. 

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