Most Sugary ‘Health’ Foods: The 10 Worst Offenders


My New Year’s resolution? When the clock struck midnight, I vowed to cut my sugar intake by eliminating sweet treats like cookies, chocolate and soda from my diet.

On the first day of 2010, I ate strawberry yogurt for breakfast, snacked on a granola bar before lunch, sipped on vitamin water and enjoyed a savory serving of pasta for dinner. At the end of the day, I was feeling pretty good about my fresh start. That is, until I read the labels. As it turns out, I had consumed almost 100 grams of sugar (more than twice the recommended daily amount) in this so-called attempt at eating healthier.

This whole debacle prompted me to do some research on sugar-packed snacks that masquerade as health foods. Here are the most deceiving culprits:

Breakfast Bars

Sure, they may have less sugar than a glazed doughnut, but breakfast bars (shown above) aren’t nearly as healthy as you may think. Nature Valley’s Vanilla Yogurt Granola Bars and Nutri-Grain’s Cereal Bars cram 13 grams of sugar into a single serving. Being organic doesn’t make Health Valley’s Cereal Bars any better; they’ll even get you one gram closer to your daily sugar limit.


Vitamin Water

A bottle of vitamin water fuels your body with much more than just a dose of nutrients. That burst of energy you feel upon taking the last sip is just a sugar high in disguise. A 20-ounce bottle of Glaceu’s Vitamin Water or Snapple’s Antioxidant Water contains more than 30 grams of sugar. Take some vitamins and drink a glass of water, instead.



Every time you walk down the cereal aisle, you say “no” to Tony the Tiger and refuse to go cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. But even cereals that trade in a colorful mascot for wholesome claims can pack one sugary punch. Take Kellog’s Smart Start Strong Heart cereal. Despite its misleading name, one cup contains a whopping 14 grams of sugar.


Spaghetti Sauce

Just because you don’t taste the sweetness doesn’t mean there isn’t sugar lurking somewhere beneath the maters. Believe it or not, there are 14 grams of sugar in a half-cup of Newman’s Own Tomato and Basil Sauce and Bertolli’s Vineyard Marinara. Mama Mia!


Bran Muffins

You choke down every last bite of a bland bran muffin with your morning coffee and pat yourself on the back for making your fiber quota. Whoa there! Don’t be so quick to equate lack of flavor with nutritional value. There are over 20 grams of sugar in a bran muffin from Starbucks, and those from your local grocer probably aren’t very far behind.


Dried Fruit

Fruit is already naturally sweet, so why would dried fruit contain an excess of added sugar? Don’t turn to logic when debating what snacks to buy; just stick to the facts. There are 26 grams of sugar in a single serving of Ocean Spray’s Craisins and 30 grams of sugar in the same amount of Sun-Maid’s Natural California Raisins.



Tip of the day: although labels like “all natural” and “100% juice” sound healthy, it would be a wise choice to just ignore them. Despite the wholesome promise of such statements stamped on the carton in big, bold print, a serving of Langer’s Apple Juice contains 26 grams of sugar and the same amount of Minute Maid Orange Juice follows close behind with 24 grams of sugar. You are better off just eating the fruit and sipping water.


Flavored Yogurt

Yogurt is hailed as one of the healthiest foods you can eat. It’s known to boost your metabolism and even improve your immunity. On the other hand, it can also push you over the limit for your daily sugar intake. Just to put it in perspective, a 6-ounce container of Yoplait Strawberry Yogurt is crammed with 27 grams of sugar. Your best bet? Stick to plain yogurt and add slices of fruit for flavor.


Instant Oatmeal

There’s just not enough time in the morning to make it from scratch, it’s so convenient to have each serving prepackaged, it’s much more flavorful than plain oatmeal”¦ Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’ve heard (and used) every excuse in the book. But these justifications still don’t change that fact that a serving of Quaker’s Flavored Instant Oatmeal can contain as much as 14 grams of sugar. If you must do instant, hung for the natural, low sugar options.


Bottled Iced Tea

There are 26 grams of sugar in 8-ounces of Coca-Cola, while the same amount of Snapple Lemon Iced Tea contains 24 grams of sugar. Enough said.

It’s easy to overlook the high amount of sugar in seemingly healthy foods, but a quick visit to Sugar Stacks is sure to set you straight. This eye-opening site feature images of food and beverages with sugar cubes stacked next to them to represent the amount of sugar in each item. For more information, check out Sugar Shockers on Web MD.

Image Credits: Flickr: yujai, graciepoo, Deb’s Designs and Creations, disneymike, erincooks, Yes Becky, Rhadamonvigilant20, Marni Molina, fred_fred

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14 thoughts on “Most Sugary ‘Health’ Foods: The 10 Worst Offenders

  1. Pingback: Most Sugary “Health” Foods | Baby In The Kitchen

  2. Pingback: Foods With High Fructose Corn Syrup | EcoSalon | The Green Gathering

  3. Pingback: Weekly Tips for March 29, 2010 | RockitMom

  4. I have just recently been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and now I have no choice but to read labels, very unfortunate that I was so unaware and let myself become this way by pool eating habits and being overweight. Please If I’ve learned anything through this ordeal its that sugar is like poison to your body if you over indulge…I would really like more information on being diabetis and what “NOT” to eat because of hidden sugar, I guess its all in reading labels

  5. I agree with everyone that we eat too much hidden sugar. The point that they did not cover is the natural sugars that occur in things that are unavoidable in a healthy diet. Example some might not think about are milk. There is natural lactose sugar in milk and fructose in fruit. What we need to be careful of is avoiding all the added sugars like the added sugar they add to alot of instant oatmeals and cereal bars as the article was describing. One thing I like to do is add half a cup of unsweetend applesauce, a small handful of raisins and cinnamon to my regular oatmeal. This adds two servings of fruit, no added sugar and tastes great.

  6. Actually Jocelyn, there is a huge difference between eating the fruit and just drinking the juice. When you eat the fruit, you are getting the fiber of the fruit that helps metabolize the natural sugars a bit more. When you drink just the juice you are not getting any of that fiber from the flesh of the fruit, you are merely drinking the naturally occuring sugars. Speak with any nutritionist, they will reiterate just what I said. There is validity to what this article said about eating the fruit and sipping water vs drinking the juice.

    And not all dried fruit is treated the same…I dehydrate fruit for my children all the time but do sweeten it, whereas many commercial brands of dried fruits add loads and loads of sugar to sweeten it. So just need to be careful about the labels.

  7. I understand that this is well-intentioned, but I feel like a few of these points are misleading. Yes, juices and dried fruits are high in sugar. Why? The sugar is naturally occurring in the fruit. If you take a look at nutrition labels for fruit-based products that have no added sugar, the label will still say that there is sugar in it.

    Say for example, you squeeze your own orange juice. Eating an orange and drinking the juice from that orange are pretty much the same thing. In my opinion, telling people “you are better off just eating the fruit and sipping water” is totally irresponsible. Instead, it would be better to clarify that the problem with eating dried fruits and juice is portion-control.

  8. I am trying REALLY hard to cut down on sugar, but damn, it is in everything! I have been making my own oatmeal in the morning and slice bananas into it or throw a handful of cranberries in it. I drink plain green tea and eat oranges and apples instead of drinking the juice, but if I do drink the juice it is Simply Orange – only 22 grams of sugar. I try to eat yogurt, but that has a lot of sugar in it too, so I have changed over to organic plain yogurt with raspberries or blueberries. Cutting out sodium is easier than sugar. I don’t eat a lot of processed foods, but sugar is everywhere! Thanks for the good article!

  9. We all have to start cooking and preparing our own foods from the most basic, healthy ingredients we can find.

  10. Pingback: 7 Surprising Sources of High Fructose Corn Syrup « Make It From Scratch Mom's Blog

  11. Sugar is the worst thing for your body. I’ve made a pact with everyone I work with to cut down on sugar intake this year.

    John R. Carlisle

  12. Good digging! It is so hard to get this stuff out of our systems. They say a handful of nuts cut the cravings, but I guess it doesn’t work when those nuts are in a piece of Sees candy.

  13. I am definitely trying to cut down on my sugar intake this year. It seems like sugar is the worst enemy the body can have.

    John R. Carlisle

  14. Its amazing how much sugar is in food. Even in so-called Whole Foods “health food”, manufactures resort to the lesser of two evils (“cane sugar/juice” instead of HFCS) fooling the customer in thinking that because its natural, its OK. NO sugar wont sell, and alternatives such as yacon syrup, stevia, and agave is too expensive.


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