Trying to curb your sugar habit? You might not expect these packaged items to contain added sugar.

Brierley Horton, MS, RD
September 20, 2019

You know that sugar isn't healthy. But did you ever think about it this way: You don't actually *need* sugar in your diet (if you're generally well-nourished)? That's because sugar doesn't deliver vitamins, minerals or other health-benefiting nutrients. It only provides calories.

If you eat too much added sugar—and do that often—it's bad news for your health. Sugar can stoke inflammation in your body, which can fuel (and raise your risk for developing) conditions like heart disease, diabetes, dementia and even depression. But also, research shows that people who eat their fair share of added sugars have less healthy diets and get fewer vitamins and minerals compared to people who eat less sugar.

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Related: How to Cut Back on Added Sugars

That said, a little bit of added sugar each day is fine. Experts recommend you aim to cap your intake at 5 percent of your daily calories from added sugars. For someone eating a 2000-calorie-a-day diet, that's about 100 calories, or 25 grams, or five teaspoons of added sugar.

Added sugar lurks in the majority of processed foods. (And by "the majority" we mean 74 percent of packaged foods.) So one of the first steps to cutting down on the added sugar in your diet is to find out where it's hiding. Sometimes that's easier said than done—sugar is stealthy because it doesn't just lurk in foods that taste sweet, but also in products that don't seem sweet at all. "They even hide in foods that can seem healthy," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN and author of The Superfood Swap.

Here are five particularly unexpected places added sugar could be lurking.

Wine

All grapes contain natural sugars. To make wine, the added yeast needs that natural sugar to eat and then ferment. Any sugar that remains after fermentation is called residual sugar. "But also winemakers sometimes add sugar if the grapes aren't ripe enough, and that may be more common in colder regions, such as Oregon, Bordeaux and Burgundy," explains Blatner. Because wines do not have to have nutrition labels, it is difficult to tell how much residual sugar is in a wine or how much sugar has been added. So how can you find out how much sugar is in your wine? "Cheaper wines may have added sugar, but here's a top tip: Some wineries have tech sheets on their websites that list residual sugar (RS) amounts," says Blatner.

Condiments

From ketchup to salad dressings, sugar is regularly added to your favorite condiments. You'll need to read the ingredient list—and also get slightly familiar with the (50-plus) synonyms for added sugar—and look for unsweetened or lower-sugar versions of your favorite condiments. Ideally, added sugar isn't listed in the ingredients, and when it is, you want it to be as close to the bottom of the list as possible (ingredients appear in order of weight and the larger quantities are listed first.)

Plant-Based Milks

Swapping cows' milk for almond, oat, coconut or fill-in-the-blank-with-your-favorite-plant milk has become quite the trend. Whatever your reason (health, allergy, taste preference), know this: There is only natural sugar in plain ol' white cows' milk. But plant-based milks often have sugar added to them—even if they're labeled "original" or unflavored. Look instead for "unsweetened" on the front of the package.

Related: The Best Non-Dairy Vegan Milks to Buy at the Store

Kombucha

The (increasingly popular) fermented tea scores points for being chock-full of good-for-you probiotics, but some—not all versions can rack up the added sugars. Check the ingredient list and look for a kombucha with no added sugars, or at least with sugar towards the end of the list. You'll want to compare across brands and flavors—even within one brand, flavors can vary considerably in their sweetness and sugar content.

Related: Is Kombucha Healthy? Here's What You Need to Know

Pre-Made Soup

Soup is potentially the most stealthy thing on this list, because you can't always taste sweetness in a soup (particularly if it's meant to be savory or seems ultra-healthy because it's brimming with veggies). DIY-ing soup? Be wary of broths, stocks and bullion, as some brands are made with added sugar.

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