In this article you will find top sneaky sources of added sugar in your diet plus tips on what to look for & how to cut back on added sugar.

According to the USDA for the years 2020-2025 (Dietary Guidelines of the US Department of Agriculture), not more than ten percent of daily calories should come from added sources of sugar. (Source)

The American Heart Association goes even further and suggests consuming not more than nine teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugar in a day for men and six teaspoons (25 grams) for women. (Source)

Note: These are the maximum limits, but the fact is lower it is, better it will be for you.

So what do those recommendations really mean? And where from and how should we begin when thinking about cutting back?

Not all sugars get digested in the same way, and this makes it a complicated thing to talk about. The “naturally occurring sugar” in fruit and dairy digest more slowly (because these foods also contain fiber and protein, which slows down sugar absorption). On the other hand the simple sugars are added to foods, and they absorb very fast and cause spikes in blood sugar – so they are much more harmful.

[Read here: What is added sugar & how much is recommended per day]

The Leading sneaky sources of added sugar

According to USDA, following are the most common top contributors of added sugar in our diet. Learn about them, and the ways to cut back.

# 1

Sugar Sweetened Beverages

Sugar-sweetened beverages make up almost average intake of 24% of people’s added sugar consumption. Mostly this is from soft drinks, energy drinks, sport drinks, and fruit drinks (that are not 100% juice). Besides these, cocktails and many other alcoholic drinks too pack on the sweeteners.

However, there are lots of ways to have a refreshing, flavorful beverage without added sugar or calories. If you like the bubbles in soda, consider drinking a seltzer instead. You can add in frozen fruit or a little bit of fruit juice for extra flavor. Another great way to add flavor without added sugar or calories is infusing water. Beverages like coffee and tea are also naturally sugar-free options. Make them at home in place of ordering from out side. That will allow you to control how much sugar you add, if any.

# 2

Desserts & Sweet Snacks

The next highest category of added sugar intake is from sweet snacks and desserts, clocking in at roughly average 19% of the people’s added sugar consumption. This includes cakes, pastries, pies, brownies, and ice cream etc. But following the Dietary Guidelines suggestions doesn’t necessarily mean skipping dessert.

There are many dessert options without added sugar to satisfy a sweet tooth. For example fruit for an added-sugar-free treat. Portion size is also an important factor. You can enjoy a scoop of ice cream, cookie, or brownie, but go for a smaller portion. When buying deserts or sweet snacks from the store, see the label. Four grams of added sugars is about one teaspoon.

[Read here: Impact of added sugar on your health]

# 3

Coffee & Tea

Coffee and tea are naturally sugar-free, but they can make up for about 11% of the average added sugar intake. This is possible from ordering cafe drinks with sweetened creams, flavored syrups, and sugar. One simple way to cut back the added sugar from your morning beverage is to make it at home. This way you can control your added sugar intake compared to what you order out.

# 4

Candy & Sugars

About 9% of the average added sugar intake comes from candy and sugars. Sugars and candy are empty calories that spike the blood sugar, and then shortly afterwards the blood sugar crashes , leaving you feeling hungry and craving for more sweets.

# 5

Breakfast Cereals & Bars

Roughly 7% of the average added sugar intake comes from breakfast cereals and bars. Though they might look to you as a healthy food option, not all cereals & bars are created the same. It is important that you know what to look for. Remember to read the label when buying cereals or breakfast bars. A breakfast should have at least 3 grams of fiber, and not more than 5 grams of added sugars per serving. Best is to make your own granola at home, so that you know what you are going to have and control you sugar.

# 6


Most people don’t know that sandwiches too can be a significant source of added sugar, which can be as much as roughly 7% of the average added sugar intake. The issue is not with sandwiches, but actually it’s about what is used to make the sandwiches. White bread, processed meats, processed cheeses, and condiments are all sneaky sources of added sugar. Try to go for whole grain bread (check the nutrition information for added sugar), vegetables, unprocessed meats, and unprocessed cheeses. Use spreads like hummus or whipped feta dip that have little to no added sugar.

# 7

Milk & Yogurt

About 4% percent of the average added sugar intake comes from milk and yogurt. Though, these are super healthy foods, but choosing pre-flavored products can pack on the added sugar. Instead, try to go for plain yogurts and add fruit or a little bit of honey to sweeten on your own. Flavored plant-based milks can also have sneaky added sugar to enhance their taste. So, remember to check the labels and opt for unsweetened types when you can.


Not all sugars are inherently bad. For example foods like fruit and dairy products have natural sugars that do not need to be eliminated from your diet. Beware that foods like sugar-sweetened deserts, beverages, and even processed sandwiches can be responsible for adding higher-than-recommended average sugar intake.

About Author: Renu Bakshi, AKA Fitness Buffhq, is ISSA Certified Elite Trainer. He passed Renu Bakshi AKA Fitness BuffhqPersonal Fitness Trainer Course, Nutrition Health Coach course & Specialist Exercise Therapy course from ISSA, USA obtaining + 97% marks. He shares his experience and knowledge about nutrition and effective workouts to get you in the best shape of your life, no matter how old you may be. The author says: “For me age is just a number!”