Pushing Pink Elephants


  1. Grains (breads, pastas, rice, cereal, packaged oatmeal) - While refined grains such as white bread, pasta, and white rice usually don’t have added sugar, they are basically sugar in disguise, as they are made of glucose in the form of starches. Stick with whole grains, which take longer to digest and don’t spike your blood sugar, but be on the lookout for added sugar in whole grain products. Wheat and whole grain breads often include ingredients like sugar, honey, and high fructose corn syrup. We expect sugary, chocolate flavored kids cereals to be high in sugar, but even “healthier” options like oat bran can include as much as 15 grams of sugar per serving.
  2. Alcohol - The sugar content of alcohol varies widely based on the type. While wine doesn’t typically have added sugar, it usually contains about 1-1.5 grams of sugar from the grapes used to make the wine. Rum is sometimes made with molasses, a form of sugar. Mixed drinks usually have the highest sugar content, as the fruit juices, sodas, and mixers used to make the drinks are high in sugar. While beer does not have added sugar, it contains anywhere from 10-20 grams of carbohydrates per serving, which the body turns to glucose.
  3. Beverages (specialty coffee drinks, iced tea, juice, bottled sports beverages like Gatorade, flavored water, soda) - Most bottled drinks contain sugar or artificial sweeteners. While many beverages advertise no sugar and low-sugar options, they usually replace sugar with artificial sweeteners that are just as taxing on the body. Sports drinks like Gatorade contain almost half as much sugar as soda, about 36 grams per 20oz bottle. Specialty coffee drinks, like lattes and cappuccinos are loaded with sugar. An espresso contains about 10 grams of sugar, not including any added flavored syrups. Starbuck’s pumpkin spice latte, a seasonal favorite, contains anywhere from 37-62 grams of sugar, not including the whipped cream.
  4. Packaged bars (cereal bars, granola bars, protein bars, pop-tarts) - Packaging can be deceiving! Protein bars and granola bars may be marketed as healthy snack and breakfast options, but they contain anywhere from 6 to 20 grams of sugar per serving. Labeling a product “organic” doesn’t equate “healthy.” Organic sugar turns to glucose just like regular sugar does.
  5. Condiments and sauces (salad dressings, ketchup, marinades, spaghetti sauce, salsa) - Bottled spaghetti sauce, BBQ sauce, ketchup, salad dressing, and even some mustards, salsas and guacamoles contain added sugar. In most cases, making your own homemade sauce or dressing is the best way to avoid added sugar.
  6. Dairy (yogurt, milk) - Dairy products such as plain yogurt, cheese, and cow’s milk contain lactose, which the body converts to glucose. Flavored yogurts contain high amounts of sugar, an average of 26 grams per serving, which is made up of about 12 grams of naturally occurring lactose and 14 grams of added sugar and sweeteners.
  7. Canned/packaged fruit and vegetables (applesauce, dried fruit, fruit cups, soups) - Packaged fruit includes natural sugar from the fruit itself, but many products add sugar in the form of syrup, fruit juice, and sweetener. Sweetened applesauce contains about 36 grams of sugar, compared to the 23 grams found naturally in the unsweetened variety. Dried fruit like cranberries contain added sugar to help cut the tart flavor. Since all dried fruit includes natural sugar, it’s best to check the ingredient list to see if sugar has been added.
  8. Fast food - Restaurants often add sugar to make their food more alluring. The breading on most fried restaurant foods includes sugar, it’s sometimes added to hamburgers in the form of corn syrup and molasses to reduce shrinkage, and it’s even injected into chicken.
  9. Pre-packaged foods - While pre-packaged foods can be more convenient than cooking with whole foods, they often have added sugar to make them more appealing. Packaged snacks are among the highest offenders, but sugar is hiding in some unexpected products too. One cup of frozen stir fry can have as much as 25 grams of sugar. Other frozen foods, like chicken nuggets, fish sticks, hamburgers, lasagna, and even fruit, have added sugar.


  • Drinks without sugar
    • Bottled beverages, soda, and specialty coffee drinks are loaded with sugar. Even some flavored waters have added sugar or artificial sweeteners. The good news is that there are sugar free alternatives!
    • Try flavoring your water with fruit, like orange, lemon, and lime slices, or add a handful of berries and mint. For a mild flavor add a few slices of cucumber with a handful of cubed melon.
    • Green tea, both hot and iced, is not only less acidic than black tea, but also less bitter. If you’re used to the sweetness of sugar, artificial sweeteners or honey in your tea, try adding fresh mint or lemon peels instead.
    • If you miss the fizz of your favorite soda, try making your own flavored tea soda instead. Keep a batch of fruit flavored tea chilling in the fridge, then just add sparkling water when you need a fizz fix.
    • Coconut water has become popular as a low sugar sports drink alternative, as it’s packed with electrolytes, vitamins and mineral. While coconut water contains sugar, several brands do not add sugar beyond the natural sugar produced by the coconut. Check the label before purchasing to see if sugar has been added.


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