How to spot hidden sugar in your food

Did you know that the tomato sauce you’ve just poured on your hot dog or hamburger could contain up to 2 teaspoons of sugar? The average Australian consumes 15-16 teaspoons of sugar a day – and a lot of that is ‘hidden’ in processed foods – both sweet and savoury.

April 28, 2022

Not all sugars are equal

Naturally occurring sugars

Found in whole fruits, vegetables and dairy are fine to eat as part of a healthy diet. It’s the sugars that are added during the manufacturing process that we should be concerned about.

Added sugars

These have been refined from plants such as sugar cane and sugar beet. They are added to food or drinks, often in large amounts.  

Why is eating too much added sugar bad for you?

Sugar is a carbohydrate, which our bodies use to make energy. If we eat too much sugar, our body will store the excess energy we eat as fat, which can lead weight gain and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

The average Australian consumes somewhere around 15 or 16 teaspoons of added sugar every day. Teenagers have more than 20 teaspoons. According to the WHO guidelines, we should limit our added sugar intake to 6 teaspoons a day.

Check the label

You can check the ingredients list to see if a product contains added sugar – the higher up the list, the more sugar the product contains. Foods that claim to be 'low sugar' cannot contain more than 2.5 g of sugar per 100 mL of liquid food or 5g per 100g of solid food.

Sugar by another name

To make things even more complicated, there are more than 60 alternative names for sugar. These include:

  • Agave nectar/syrup
  • Carob syrup
  • Coconut sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Fructose
  • Dextrose
  • Glucose
  • Rice syrup
  • Maple syrup
  • Golden syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Honey
  • Oat syrup
  • Rice malt extract
  • Brown sugar
  • Caster sugar

Where to watch out for hidden sugars

  • Sauces, including condiments, stir fry sauces, pizza, and pasta sauces
  • Salad dressings
  • Bread
  • Yoghurts
  • Muesli & cereals
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Iced tea
  • Nut bars & protein bars
  • Processed food

Benefits of cutting back on sugar include:

Healthy skin: Sugar causes inflammation and lowers immunity. Less sugar means less acne and redness, and a reduction in cold sore breakouts.
Healthy weight:  Sugar’s packed with empty calories. With childhood obesity skyrocketing, cutting down on sugar could mean a longer, healthier life for you and your child.
Better focus: Less sugar means blood sugar levels stay even throughout the day, aiding concentration, and focus – improving performance at school or work.
More energy: Spikes and slumps in blood sugar levels are responsible for the famous 3pm slump. With less sugar, your family’s energy levels will stay more even all day, meaning everyone will be just as energetic at 3pm as they were at 10am.
Reduced mood swings: Sugar highs and lows can be linked with mood swings. Less sugar means a better mood.
Improved digestion: Less bloating and gassiness.


Health and Fitness