How much sugar is hiding in your food?

Open navigator

1. The bitter sweet truth

In the UK, we consume over two million tonnes of sugar every year. Yet we often don’t know we’re eating it.

Most of us are aware that sweet stuff should be eaten in moderation. But some food and drinks contain a surprising amount of sugar, which means you could be consuming far much more than you should.

2. Sugar traps

Some of the added sugar we consume is found in the food and drink we think of as healthy or savoury, such as low-fat yoghurt and sauces.

1/4: A couple of spoonfuls of barbeque sauce (left) on your meal adds the same amount of sugar as eating a glazed doughnut. Other surprisingly sweet sauces include salad cream, tomato ketchup and sweet and sour sauce (from back left to right).

2/4: Flavoured waters (middle) can contain as much added sugar as an energy drink. Sweet drinks, like milkshakes (left), cola and fruit juices (right), don't fill us up like non-sugary foods with the same calories, so it's easy to consume too much.

3/4: Breakfast foods like frosted cereals (right) and smoothies (middle) are packed with 'hidden sugars', making it easy to exceed our daily allowance before even leaving the house.

4/4: Even snacks that seem like healthier options, like wholemeal bread, reduced-fat biscuits and low-fat yoghurt (from left to right), may contain hidden sugars.

3. Manufacturers love sugar

Extra sugar is added to some products because it makes them taste better. When fat is removed from a processed meal, for example, sugar is often added to help disguise the blander taste.

Because of this, many foods we think of as wholesome – like yoghurt, granola bars, low-fat snacks and fruit-flavoured water – may actually contain much more sugar than we think

Like salt, these so called 'added sugars' help extend the shelf life of foods like bread, breakfast cereals and tinned fruit and vegetables.

This can result in us eating more sugar than our bodies can handle – because we don't always know when we're eating it.

4. The dangers of hidden sugar

If we consume more sugar than we need, our liver converts the excess into fat. Some of this fat is stored around the body.

This is why repeatedly eating too much sugar can lead to weight gain and even obesity, leading to an increased risk of diabetes, heart disease and liver disease.

Tooth decay is also more likely, as bacteria in our mouths feast on the sugary foods we eat and produce acids that dissolve our tooth enamel.

5. Spotting high-sugar foods

Working out how much sugar is in your food or drink can be confusing, as it appears in many different guises, such as sucrose, glucose, fructose and honey.

Food manufacturers are not required by law to separate added sugars from naturally occurring sugars on a nutrition label, but you can find out how much total sugar is in a product by looking for the 'carbohydrates (of which sugars)' figure.

More than 15g of total sugars per 100g means it has a high sugar content, 5g of total sugars or less per 100g means it has a low sugar content.

6. Surprisingly sugary

How much sugar is packed in to these seemingly savoury foods?

Tomato soup

Image: Getty Images

You selected

Tomato soup

6 cubes of sugar per carton

Sugar is added to tomato soup to help balance out the acidity of the tomatoes. One medium carton can contain up to 30 grams of sugar.

Chicken curry

Image: Getty Images

You selected

Chicken curry

3 cubes of sugar per meal

Although they taste savoury, supermarket curry dishes typically have sugary sauces. Ready-meals and takeaways can contain up to 15 grams of sugar per meal.

Pasta sauce

Image: Getty Images

You selected

Pasta sauce

6 cubes of sugar per jar

Using a ready-made sauce in your pasta dish can add up to 30 grams of sugar. Low-fat sauces are often high in added sugar to help disguise the bland taste.

Cheese pizza

Image: Getty Images

You selected

Cheese pizza

6 cubes of sugar per pizza

A cheese pizza can contain more than 30 grams of sugar. It’s used in the dough to react with yeast to make it rise – and to sweeten the sauce.