Top Sugar Sources: How to Identify Added Sugars

Updated:Feb 1,2017

woman reading label in grocery storeSugar can sneak into some surprising places. But by knowing where to look for it – and then reducing the amount of added sugars you eat – you can eat healthier and may even lose a few pounds.

Experts agree that we still eat too much added sugar. The American Heart Association recommends that most American women eat no more than 100 calories (6 teaspoons) per day and men no more than 150 calories (9 teaspoons) per day of added sugars.

To help cut down on the added sugars you eat, focus on cutting back on the biggest dietary sources.

According to research, top sources of added sugars are:

  • Soda, energy drinks, fruit drinks and sports drinks – Soda is probably obvious. But so-called “fruit drinks” (that are not 100% juice) often can contain added sugars. Sports drinks and energy drinks may give you a moderate energy spike, but they can also add extra calories and sugar to your diet.
  • Grain desserts – It’s easy to see how desserts like cake, cookies and pie can be a source of added sugars. But some breakfast foods like bakery muffins and doughnuts can have even more calories, carbs and added sugar per serving. Other foods to watch for are sugar-sweetened pancakes with maple syrup, scones, packaged granola bars and sweetened hot and cold breakfast cereals.
  • Candy – Chocolate and candy are obvious sweet treats. But it may surprise you to learn that some healthy-sounding gummy “fruit snacks” are mostly sugar.
  • Dairy desserts –Low-fat ice cream and frozen yogurt, shakes, puddings and custards can contain significant amounts of added sugars.
  • Other sneaky sources – Check the food label to sleuth out sugary ingredients in the foods and beverages you buy. When in doubt, look for the word “sugar” in the ingredient list.

    Also, check for ingredients such as honey, molasses, syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, sucrose and dextrose.

Article copyright © 2016 American Heart Association. This recipe/article is brought to you by the American Heart Association's Simple Cooking with Heart © Program. For more articles and simple, quick and affordable recipes, visit

Last reviewed 5/2015