Nutrition Articles

The Hunt for Hidden Sugar

How Much of the Sweet Stuff is Hiding Your Foods?

Ready for a little experiment? Grab that jar of sugar, a measuring spoon, a plate and a can of regular soda. Then, dump one teaspoon of sugar onto the plate. Repeat this nine more times. Do you know what you have, besides a mess? The amount of sugar in one 12-ounce can of soda! Just look at that mound!

Now locate the sugar listing on the soda's nutrition label—40 grams. Four grams of sugar equals one teaspoon. Do the math. That innocent can of pop contains 10 teaspoons of sugar and 160 empty calories.

Even if you don’t drink regular soda, the typical American now eats the equivalent of about 31 teaspoons (124 grams) of added sugar every day. That sugar alone adds up almost 500 extra calories—about 25% of the average person's caloric intake. WOW!

Less is More
So how much should you limit your sugar intake? Several health organizations, including the American Heart Association, suggest that added sugar should be limited to no more than 6-7 percent of your total calories. This does not include naturally occurring sugars found in fruits (fructose) and dairy products (lactose). The chart below lists the maximum recommended daily sugar intake based on various calorie levels.

Maximum Sugar Intake

Daily Calorie Intake

Grams of Sugar




















Deciphering Labels
It can be confusing to try to find out how much added sugar a food contains. The sugar listing on a Nutrition Facts label lumps all sugars together, including naturally-occurring milk and fruit sugars, which can be deceiving. This explains why, according to the label, one cup of milk has 11 grams of sugar even though it doesn't contain any sugar “added” to it.

To determine how much sugar has been added to a food product, follow these two tips:
  • Read the ingredients list. Learn to identify terms that mean added sugars, including sugar, white sugar, brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, corn syrup, dextrin, honey, invert sugar, maple syrup, raw sugar, beet sugar, cane sugar, corn sweeteners, evaporated cane juice, high fructose corn syrup, malt, molasses, and turbinado sugar, to name a few.
  • Refer to the chart below for approximate amounts of hidden sugar in foods.
Hidden Sugars in Foods


Serving Size

Added Sugar

Cakes and Cookies

Angel food cake

4 oz piece

7 tsp

Banana Cake

4 oz piece

2 tsp

Brownie, no icing

1 oz piece

4 tsp


4 oz piece

2 tsp

Chocolate cake, iced

4 oz piece

10 tsp

Chocolate chip cookie

1 cookie

2 tsp

Coffee cake

4 oz piece

5 tsp

Cupcake, iced

4 oz piece

6 tsp

Fig Newtons

2 cookies

2 tsp


1 cookie

3 tsp

Glazed doughnut

1 doughnut

4 tsp

Oatmeal cookie

1 cookie

2 tsp


Chocolate candy bar

1 bar

4.5 tsp

Chocolate mint

1 piece

2 tsp

For more information about hidden sugars in foods, check out this helpful resource from the USDA.

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Member Comments

  • just found this if anyone is interested.
    61 Names for Sugar

    Agave nectar
    Barbados sugar
    Barley malt
    Barley malt syrup
    Beet sugar
    Brown sugar
    Buttered syrup
    Cane juice
    Cane juice crystals
    Cane sugar
    Carob syrup
    Castor sugar
    Coconut palm sugar
    Coconut sugar
    Confectioner's sugar
    Corn sweetener
    Corn syrup
    Corn syrup solids
    Date sugar
    Dehydrated cane juice
    Demerara sugar
    Evaporated cane juice
    Free-flowing brown sugars
    Fruit juice
    Fruit juice concentrate
    Glucose solids
    Golden sugar
    Golden syrup
    Grape sugar
    HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
    Icing sugar
    Invert sugar
    Malt syrup
    Maple syrup
    Palm sugar
    Powdered sugar
    Raw sugar
    Refiner's syrup
    Rice syrup
    Sorghum Syrup
    Sugar (granulated)
    Sweet Sorghum
    Turbinado sugar
    Yellow sugar

    found this list at http://www.sugars

    and I just saw the post from JRSTERN29 with a link to an article too! "I couldn't follow the link to the paper on the http://fnic.nal.u website, but with a little digging I found this article:https://w
    002444.htm - 6/17/2016 10:01:20 AM"
  • the link in the article still does not take us to that information. Will have to do a search for more information via google.
  • I am not big on jams, jellies or preserves but every once in a while (on that rare occasion) I would like a little bit (then the rest of the jar just sits in the refrigerator for months untouched - lol) so I don't get it at all. It would be nice if they didn't add sugars to so many products out there.
  • Very good article I am glad that I read it.
  • I have pretty much tried to go sugar free for a while, since my husband went low carb and we tried the sf thing for an ADHD treatment plan, too. I eat a little sugar, but not a major thing. The amount per day is helpful to see, though. The Spark recipes help a lot and there are a lot of options for alternatives that are still healthy.
  • Hidden sugars are a killer for sure since they trigger my appetite. I liked the list with hidden sugars supplied. I try NOT to eat those things often. Where I have my downfall is with non-fat yogurt. No fat but so much sugar. No wonder I love it. Thanks for a very good article.
  • The link is still broken
  • This was was informative article; now I understand about "sugar" in milk! That was always puzzling.
  • helpful resource link is broken
  • I was told when I clicked on the link that I didn't have permission to view that. Otherwise, great article!
  • Thanks for clarifying the sugar issue. Maybe if I visualize the sugar in that chocolate chip cookie, I can resist the temptation!
  • Eye-opening article
  • Great article. Sugar is in so many things these days, its is just terrible.
  • Thanks JRSTERN29. I finally got to see the FDA article.

About The Author

Becky Hand Becky Hand
Becky is a registered and licensed dietitian with almost 20 years of experience. A certified health coach through the Cooper Institute with a master's degree in health education, she makes nutrition principles practical, easy-to-apply and fun. See all of Becky's articles.

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