How to find those hidden added sugars

How to find those hidden added sugars

The National Health Service recommends no more than 30 grams of free (better known as added) sugars per day for adults. When you think of sugar in foods, cakes, biscuits, and other sweets come to mind. But those aren’t the only sources of sugar. Hidden sugar is common in packaged foods and goes by many names. Regardless of the name, they could all cause a glucose spike.(1)

But there’s good news. Even food labels with hidden sugars give us hints to lead us to them. Here are a few of them: 

  1. Many countries are making it easier to identify high-sugar foods with coloured indicators. In the United Kingdom, packaged foods with over 22 grams of sugars per 100 grams are clearly marked and highlighted red. Foods with under 5 grams of sugars per 100 grams are highlighted green. And finally, foods with 5-22 grams of sugars per 100 grams are highlighted orange. Sticking mostly to foods in the green category help you avoid those hidden sugars without having to search up and down the food label.(1)
  2. Look for the words syrup and sugar. Examples include brown rice syrup, corn syrup, and cane sugar. 
  3. Sugar may also be labeled with the ending “-ose”, like glucose, dextrose, fructose, galactose, sucrose, or maltose. 
  4. Other names include: molasses, honey, agave, cane juice, barley malt, and potato starch. 

It’s important to remember that just because foods contain these words, doesn’t mean they’re always bad choices. You can still occasionally enjoy these foods, in the proper portions listed on the food label. Consuming them after you have foods like vegetables, protein, and healthy fats can help decrease their impact on your glucose.

July 19, 2023


  1. National Health Service. (n.d.). Sugar: the facts. Retrieved February 3, 2023, from

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