10 Surprising Food Sources of “Natural” & Artificial Sweeteners

By: Joyce Hendley, M.S.  |  November/December 2015

Sugar substitutes are becoming commonplace in food products—even nondiet foods. Here’s how to spot them.

Sugar substitutes are becoming commonplace in food products—even nondiet foods. Here’s how to spot them.
Even if you think you’re avoiding artificial sweeteners, you may be eating them. No-calorie sugar substitutes, both natural and artificial ones, are sneaking their way into foods and beverages beyond those labeled “diet” or “lite.” Here’s a list of 10 surprising places we found them lurking.
1. Granola (monk fruit extract): Lower-sugar versions of a product may signal hidden sweeteners, like in some granolas.
2. English muffins (sucralose): Some English muffins—even the whole-wheat ones—contain sucralose.
3. High-fiber breakfast cereal (sucralose & acesulfame K): Ironically, even within the same brand you’ll find some cereals that contain sugar substitutes like these and some that don’t.
4. Regular bottled iced tea (acesulfame K & sucralose): Yes, we’re talking nondiet iced tea here—often the fruit-flavored ones. The actual diet versions of these teas just have more of these fake sugars. Choose the plain, unsweetened type instead, and toss in a few slices of real fruit to punch up the flavor.
5. Nondiet ginger ale (sucralose): One brand we encountered contained both high-fructose corn syrup and sucralose. A 12-oz. can would deliver artificial sweetener and 4½ teaspoons of actual sugar.
6. Microwave kettle corn (sucralose): It’s low-fat and contains zero sugars—but keep looking if you want zero sucralose, too.
7. Light and fat-free Italian dressings (stevia): Here’s a case where you might want to go full-fat. Regular dressings tend to use fewer sweeteners of any kind than light or lower-fat types.
8. Frozen honey BBQ chicken breast pieces (sucralose): The honey part sounded wholesome enough, but read farther down the ingredients list and—hello, faux!
9. Toasted coconut almonds (rebiana): The brand we spied contained sugar, brown sugar and stevia. We’re all for almonds, but this is sweetness overkill.
10. Fizzy vitamin drink mix packets (stevia leaf extract): Along with a boatload of vitamins, you’re also getting this plant-based sugar substitute in many of the flavors of one popular manufacturer’s fizzy packets. It’s just more proof that you have to read those labels—even on “good-for-you” items!