7 Ways Food Companies Try to Confuse You About Sugar | Plant Based Synergy

7 Ways Food Companies Try to Confuse You About Sugar

Reading your food and drink labels is a great way to see how much of your daily recommended fats, carbs and calories are in that food.

But what about added sugar? How much sugar should you have in a day?

Unfortunately, finding this information on your food labels is impossible to do right now.

Now the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants you to know exactly how much sugar you are getting in that soda or BBQ sauce.  

Here are 7 ways that food companies try to confuse you about the amount of sugar you are eating, and how you can beat them!

1) Americans Consume a Lot of Sugar

On average, Americans consume about 22 teaspoons of sugar every day, and one can of Coke has almost 10 of those teaspoons.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons daily for women and 9 teaspoons daily for women.

…but the labels on our food and drinks don’t list sugars (or added sugars) in teaspoons.


And the food companies like it that way.


If the label on a jar of Ragú says it has 8 grams of added sugar per 1/2 cup, how are you supposed to figure out how much you should have, or how much is too much?


You aren’t, because if that same label said “33%” of your daily recommended intake of sugar you may not want to eat that food.  Throw a can of Coke in with your spaghetti and you’ve now had 195% of the sugar you should have in a single day.

For one meal!


2) It’s Hard to Figure out How Much Sugar is in Your Food

Don’t let those food labels confuse you though.

Figuring out exactly how much added sugar is in your food and drinks is really easy. Even if you’re not great at math like me 🙂

Step 1) Find “sugars” on your food label

Ragu nutrition label

Step 2) Note how many grams of sugar are in each serving (8 grams of sugar in the spaghetti sauce from earlier is for 1/2 cup, not for the whole jar!)

Step 3) Divide by 4

How much sugar is in ragu sauce

Ragú spaghetti sauce has 4 teaspoons of sugar per cup!

Step 4) You end up with sugar in teaspoons.

Just to make sure you are clear, let’s figure out how many teaspoons of sugar are in 1/2 cup of Ragú

Ragú = 8 grams of sugar per 1/2 cup

8 ÷ 4 = 2

Ragú spaghetti sauce has 2 teaspoons of sugar per 1/2 cup  

Easy, right?  

how much sugar is recommended daily?

The American Heart Association recommends no more than 6 teaspoons (24 grams) of sugar or 100 calories per day for women and no more than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of sugar per day for men.

If this doesn’t seem like very much that’s probably because most of the food you are eating has so much sugar per serving.  

Sugar contributes to heart disease and diabetes

4) Too much sugar contributes to high blood pressure and diabetes

For years you have been hearing that eating fatty, salty foods is what gives you high blood pressure and obesity is caused by being overweight.

But there is a growing amount of evidence that sugar causes quite a few metabolic and life-shortening diseases.

What about young people though.

We don’t usually think of young kids having health problems that so many adults have. But there is evidence that suggests that kids aged 12 – 18 who drink sugary drinks have higher blood pressure levels than those who do not drink sugary drinks. 

But it’s not just about the food.

A lot of the sugar we consume comes from drinks like fruit juice and soda.   One can of soda per day increases your risk for diabetes by 22% 

One can of soda per day increases your risk for diabetes by 22%

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healthy foods with added sugars

So called “diet” foods have a lot more sugar in them than you know. The reason for this is pretty simple too.


Because there is such a huge demand for low fat and low calorie foods, there are plenty of these food options. But the problem is that when you remove fat from food it tastes like a foot.

But don’t worry, food companies figured out a way to make it all taste good again.

By adding sugar.


Here are 10 popular foods that are sold as “healthy” foods in the U.S.

How much sugar is in them?


1) Honey Nut Cheerios – These “heart healthy” little pieces of food have 9 grams of sugar per 3/4 cup, which comes out to 2 and 1/4 teaspoons


2) FAGE Nonfat Greek Yogurt – If you have been within 500 miles of a TV in the last year then you’ve probably seen the new Greek yogurt trend sweeping the nation. But one single container of this bitter tasting snack will get you 6.7 grams of added sugar, or about 1.5 teaspoons.


3) Skinny Cow low fat vanilla ice cream sandwich – 1 of these sandwiches probably tastes pretty good on a hot day, right? It also only has 150 little calories, which means nothing because it also has 14 grams, or 3.5 teaspoons of added sugar.


4) Kashi GoLean Crunch cereal – I remember thinking this stuff was a health food a few years ago. One cup of this cereal has 13 grams, or 3.25 teaspoons of added sugar.


5) Baked Lays chips – These chips were born from the fat free craze that is still going strong in America, despite  obesity rates. So are these healthy? One serving of these chips (32 g) has 2 grams of sugar, or 1/2 teaspoon. That’s a lot of sugar for a baked, fat-free “healthy” food, don’t you agree?


6) Quaker Oats apples and cinnamon packets – I used to eat 2 of these at a time when I was extra hungry. And why not…it’s a health food, right? Each packet of this dried mess has 9 grams of sugar, or 2.25 teaspoons. That’s almost half of what the American Heart Association recommends that I have in added sugar for a whole day.


7) Nutri-Grain apples and cinnamon bars – Everybody knows apples and cinnamon are healthy foods. So what happend to this mess? Each Nutri-Grain bar has 13 grams of sugar, or 3.25 teaspoons.


8) Pace picante sauce – Salsa has to be healthy right? It’s just tomatoes and some spices so it shouldn’t have any unhealthy ingredients. Oh wait, 1 tablespoon of Pace has 1 gram of sugar or 1/2 teaspoon in it.


9) V-8 Splash – V8 splash is not a healthy drink. Each 8oz serving of V8 Splash has 17.9 grams, or 4.5 teaspoons of sugar in it.


10) Starbucks venti white chocolate mocha with NONfat milk and NO whipped cream – Ok, everybody knows this isn’t a health food, but I had to include it. I think a lot of people assume that nonfat milk and no whipped cream is going to make this drink at least a little healthy…right?


This mocha has 74 grams of sugar, which is 18.5 teaspoons. If you are a woman and you have one of these you just had triple the amount of sugar that the American Heart Association recommends in a whole day.

A venti white chocolate mocha has triple the sugar that is recommended for women in a whole day!

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No sugar added doesnt always mean no sugar

6) “No sugar added” Almost Never Means No Sugar Added!

Food companies are sneaky.

They figure that you have no idea what they are up to, and they use that to trick you every chance they get. 

So, what do they do that’s so bad?

You know those commercials for products like Ocean Spray where they say “no sugar added”? That’s not really the truth. At all.

If a food company says “no sugar added” then they can’t add sugar. But there is nothing stopping them from adding high fructose corn syrup, date sugar, golden syrup or any other name for sugar.

And to your body,…it’s all the same!

High fructose corn syrup is not a healthy product, but it isn’t really any better or worse than “organic sugar” or cane sugar or organic agave or any other sugary product. If you eat a food and it triggers an insulin response in your body similar to sugar, then it is not a healthy product.  

 7) Food Companies Have 56 Ways to Confuse You

If the food companies can say “no added sugar” but still legally add high fructose corn syrup, then how do you ever know what to eat or drink?  Your best bet is to find out all the names for sugar so that you can recognize them on your food labels.  

There are 56 names for sugar in 2015!

So when all of the food manufacturers get rid of the high fructose corn syrup from their foods and run a lot of commercials telling you so, be aware that they are just going to add another ingredient on this list.  

Final Thoughts – Can you eat any sugar at all?

You don’t have to avoid sugar every single day for the rest of your life.

It is almost impossible to stick with any healthy eating plan if you have to 100% give up things that you love. Make no mistake about it…sugar tastes very good!

There is even evidence that people who are dependent on drugs or alcohol have a preference for foods that are sugary sweet, so there is strong evidence that sugar is very addictive.

I don’t count exactly how much sugar I eat in a day anymore because most of the foods I eat don’t have any.

But if I’m being 100% honest, I had a piece of cookie not 20 minutes ago. In the piece that I had there was probably around 4 grams of sugar, or 1 teaspoon.  

But I’m not going to lose sleep over that, because I will not have much more sugar today.   You have to have some balance. If you can’t hardly stand going 5 minutes without sugar, then you will have a very tough life avoiding it.

Especially since it’s in most of the food in our stores. But you can have small amounts to satisfy that sweet tooth you have and it’s not going to be the end of the world.

If your daily diet is filled with fresh vegetables and fruits and “whole” foods and healthy fats then is a little sugar going to kill you?

The American Heart Association says that a little bit of sugar is OK, and I agree. Sugar is delicious and satisfying, so to me there is no harm in having a little bit once in a while.  


What foods are in your house right now that have added sugar that you thought were healthy?

Go check those labels and let me know in the comments below.        



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Hello, My name is Wally and this is my plant based diet blog. I started a plant based diet 3 years ago and lost 70 pounds, and have kept it off. I want to help you start and thrive on a plant based diet too.