Nutrition Articles

The Hunt for Hidden Sugar

How Much of the Sweet Stuff is Hiding Your Foods?


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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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.

Member Comments

  • You have a carb tracker. Treat it as a sugar tracker and limit intake to 50-100g daily or less! - 10/11/2015 1:25:11 AM
  • I just watched 'That Sugar Film' which has scared me and has also made a lightbulb go off in my head. I'm consistently under on calories and carbs but still not losing weight as fast as I would have anticipated. Why? Sugar! I don't add any sugar to my diet, but have 'naturally occurring sugars' in fruit and products that are 'low fat' means that I am having about 3 - 6 times the amount of sugar i should be having.

    To the person that commented about sugars in fruit being okay and therefore it's tricky to add it to a tracker, I would suggest that naturally occuring or not, it's all sugar and contributes to the overall sugar intake. Having 5 pieces of fruit a day is excessive, one or two pieces of whole fruit is just right. More natural fats for me and also obviously, a vote for a sugar tracker. - 8/22/2015 4:18:14 PM
    sugar tracker please - 6/18/2015 10:53:25 PM
  • I'm glad this was a blog topic. Reading ingredient declarations and understanding what that stuff means matters.

    I'm especially glad to see that the blog addresses other sugar sources (that are rich in added sugars) like honey, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, etc. I'd add "agave syrup" as well. I've seen a few blogs that tout agave syrup as amazing stuff and then lambast HFCS. What's ironic is that agave syrup is very high in fructose.

    Thanks for a good lesson on sugars. - 4/21/2015 4:05:23 PM
  • I'm a little disappointed reading SCSPOON's comment on why Sparkpeople won't add a sugar tracker. I've actually had an account with Sparkpeople (on and off) for the last 10 years. It's been a great resource in the past for me and I dusted off my account today SPECIFICALLY so that I could track my sugars.

    So disappointing that this isn't going to happen. - 4/21/2015 1:44:13 PM
    Hello All,
    I just emailed the Spark People, you can find their email address on each page at the bottom under contact us. I'm posting what they sent me when I asked them to add "Sugar" to my tracker. Of course I understood their explanation, but was disappointed, because I would still like to track the actual "sugar" I'm consuming.
    Their response below:
    While you can add a large variety of vitamins and nutrients to your SparkPeople Nutrition Tracker, sugar is not one of them. There are several reasons why you can't track sugars.

    First, sugars are a newer addition to nutrition labels. Like fiber, you'll find sugars listed underneath carbohydrates on the nutrition facts label, but sugars are not required to be listed on all food labels. Only products that make a claim about sugar or sugar alcohols on their package (such as "sugar free" or "reduced sugar") must list the sugar content (in grams) on the nutrition facts label. Foods and products that contain sugars but do not make any sugar-related claims do NOT have to list sugars on their label. Because of this, it is impossible to get an accurate picture of what you're really eating.

    In addition, SparkPeople's nutrition experts do not recommend tracking this particular nutrient because it is misleading. Most carbohydrate-cont
    aining foods contain sugar. But the sugars listed on a nutrition facts label are NOT added sugars, as one might think. For example, fruit naturally contains the sugar fructose. Milk and other dairy products naturally contain lactose, which contributes 12 grams of sugar per cup of milk. None of this is added sugar, yet it is treated the same way on a nutrition facts label as table sugar or corn syrup.

    If you are concerned about your total sugar intake, Registered Dietitian Becky Hand usually suggests that you track total carbohydrates and keep those in a healthy level, as indicated by your nutrition plan. And everyone should make a conscious effort to limit sweets, candy, pie, cookies, syrup, jams, soda and other refined sugars.

    - 2/21/2015 10:37:59 AM
  • I went from 195 to 168 in about 3 months by giving up 2 basic things "Wheat" and "Soda".
    ...........also cut back on Ice Cream. Of course I gained a lot of it back when I went back to "Wheat", so I'm off of it again. Still don't drink Soda and don't miss it. Wheat is harder and I've been told Addictive. I've been told that Weight Watchers does not agree with me
    but I believe my key to weight loss is GLUTEN FREE which of course is WHEAT FREE.
    I'd love to hear other comments on Gluten Free. - 2/6/2015 8:29:22 AM
    I would love a sugar tracker! BUT I think it's a two edged sword. I just added up the amount of sugar in my breakfast and it's already OVER what I should be having. And guess what? I didn't have a sugar enhanced cereal. I had oats, greek yogurt an APPLE, BLUEBERRIES and A JAPANESE PERSIMMON. Each individual fruit contained more sugar than the yogurt and oats COMBINED.

    There are a lot of NATURALLY occurring sugars in fruits etc that we just don't think about, we think sugar is ONLY added to processed food, but it is a natural chemical. I think the danger of adding a sugar tracker is that it might encourage people to cut some healthier foods out of their diet too. Sugar comes in so many forms it's hard to keep track of and I think that could be one reason Sparkpeople haven't introduced a tracker. - 1/25/2015 4:51:36 AM
  • I, too, vote for a sugar tracker!!! - 1/12/2015 10:02:35 AM
  • Here is another vote for a SP sugar tracker! I can't tell you how disappointed I am every time I read an article like this one and find that a site as informative and well done as SP still has not included sugar in the tracking totals. I'll keep logging sugar into my tracker ingredients hoping that someday this info will be available. - 1/11/2015 8:01:30 PM
  • Here is another vote for a SP sugar tracker. I want to recommend the Sugar Busters program and book. It is based on the fact that refined sugar intake raises blood glucose levels which increases insulin secretion.The pancreatic hormone insulin stores excess glucose as fat and prevents fat already in the cells from being used as energy. Do a Google search for Sugar Busters and you will find a list of foods to avoid that are loaded with added sugar or have a high glycemic index. I know this can be a radical change for some people, but improved health and weight loss is worth the sacrifice. You have to really want it. - 4/29/2014 9:38:35 PM
    Sugar and salt make a diet HARD, but let's address the OTHER down-side of "healthy" dieting...MONEY!!
    ! Just try to eat healthy and your shopping receipt jumps up $50 to $100 more. Not to mention the GAS prices that it takes to go to all those stores to buy this, that, or the other "healthy" thing that one needs to truly stay on a healthy diet. *SIGH*

    I know that I sound like a "downer-pig" but it is only too true! - 4/24/2014 9:32:59 AM
  • Please add the Sugar tracker so we can track the sugar we are consuming. Listen to your followers.......W
    E WANT A SUGAR TRACKER. Thank you. - 2/6/2014 3:00:47 PM
    I am looking for low carb eating.....trying to stay within 100 sugar calories a need to know that all carbs have sugar in them....some good and some bad..... every carb gr. equals 4 sugar calories......loo
    k at lables on may say no sugar...but if it says it has 1 gram of carbs that equals 4 sugar calories.... if two grams of carbs are on the lable that equals 8 sugar calories....if you are only doing 100 sugar calories a day that is how to figure out your sugar calories in food....that does not mean you eat cookies and junk eat real food that keeps your sugar levels in the normal range ....look for book called The 100....... - 1/9/2014 10:55:23 AM
    simply thankful:)
    - 12/1/2013 4:49:00 AM

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