Consumer Reports: Where sugar hides in your food

Michael Finney Image
Thursday, February 25, 2016
Mott's Natural Applesauce is seen in this undated image.
Mott's Natural Applesauce is seen in this undated image.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Consumer Reports teamed up with 7 On Your Side for a report on hidden sugar in your food.

It's no secret foods like soda and doughnuts are packed with added sugar, but it's also hiding where you'd least expect it such as in nutritious, sounding foods. Consumer Reports said you may be eating more of the sweet stuff than you think and it could be harming your health.

Food companies toss added sugar into almost three quarters of all packaged products. Some frozen dinners have four teaspoons of added sugar. Whole wheat bread can have almost a teaspoon of sugar in every slice. "The problem with too much added sugar in your diet goes way beyond the calories. It does raise your risk of obesity, but it also raises your risk of heart disease and type two diabetes," Consumer Reports editor Trisha Calvo said.

Try to keep added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily calories, about six teaspoons for women and 11 teaspoons for men. Even small amounts add up fast and when Consumer Reports compared similar foods, they found sugar counts vary widely.

For example original Cheerios have just a quarter of a teaspoon of sugar in each one-and-a-quarter cup serving. Cheerios protein has more than four teaspoons in the same amount of cereal.

And choose frozen entrees with care, particularly those with sauce. This Amy's Asian Noodle Stir Fry has four teaspoons of sugar, but Amy's Asian Thai Stir Fry has less than one teaspoon.

Mott's Natural Applesauce has three teaspoons of sugars, all from the apples. Mott's original has twice that because it also contains added sugar. "The type of sugar matters. The natural sugars in fruit, they're not really so much of a problem for your health. What matters are added sugars. So look on food labels for things like sucrose, dextrose. But you also want to be careful of things that sound healthy, like evaporated cane juice or agave nectar. Those are added sugars, too," Calvo said.

So be a sugar sleuth and read labels carefully.

Sugars on food labels are listed in grams. There are four grams per teaspoon. If the Food and Drug Administration has its way, packages will soon list added sugars on a separate line, similar to the way total fat and saturated fat are listed separately.

Consumer Reports is published by Consumers Union. Both Consumer Reports and Consumers Union are not-for-profit organizations that accept no advertising. Neither has any commercial relationship with any advertiser or sponsor on this site.

(All Consumer Reports Material Copyright 2014. Consumers Union of U.S. Inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.)