The hidden sugar in the everyday foods we feed our family

Brace yourselves, because you're not going to believe the hidden sugar in these household favourites!

sugar content

We know sugar is bad for us, but few of us are totting up the hidden amounts of sugar in some of our favourite foods.

Statistics from Public Health England (PHE) state that although manufacturers have lowered the sugar content in their food and drink by 2.9% between 2015 and 2018, the nation's sugar consumption has actually increased by 0.5%! This is despite the introduction of a sugary drinks tax, which lead to a 29% decrease in sugar content in soft drinks.

But with as much as eight teaspoons of the sweet stuff in everyday favourites like a Mars Bar, it's no wonder PHE have warned that 'poor diets are all too common in this country and, along with obesity, are now one of the leading causes of disease such as cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes'.

According the National Diet and Nutrition Survey, the typical Briton consumed nearly 17 teaspoons of sugar a day (58.8g) between 2008 and 2012.  With the World Health Organization recommended that adults eat no more than ten teaspoons of extra sugar a day, it's clear us Brits are going way overboard on the sweet stuff!

It's therefore unsurprising that many parents are feeding their children way above the recommended daily allowance of sugar too without even realising - in fact, a study from Birmingham University found that on average, kids in the UK are consuming 75g of sugar a day. That's around 19 teaspoons; a staggering four times the amount the guidelines advise.

And it's not just foods that are rotting kids teeth and affecting their overall health - sugary drink consumption is enormous, with surveys suggesting that children aged four to eight whose parents regularly consume fizzy drinks are almost three times as likely to drink them as other children their age whose parents don't.

Statistics from Cancer Research UK show that children who start primary school in England at a healthy weight often end up obese or overweight by the time they leave, so it's important to look at the facts about sugar and ensure that your child's consumption isn't leading them down an unhealthy path.

It all sounds pretty terrifying, especially as most of us could be eating and feeding our families more sugar than we realise. So take a look through our list of the most shockingly sugar-filled food and drink and make sure you're clued up about the sweet treats to avoid.

Hidden sugar in foods we all have at home:

1. Frosties (30g)

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We all know that chocolate coated flakes and pops aren't the best choice if you're looking for a healthy cereal, and it doesn't take a genius to figure out that Frosties have a little extra sugar compared with a bowl of regular cornflakes, either.

Kellogg's have been working to reduce the sugar in this cereal (previously it was 14g per serving). According to the NHS, children should have no more than 24g of sugar a day, which means one bowl of Frosties is almost half of this allowance.

  • Calories: 113
  • Sugar: 11g
  • Teaspoons: almost 3

2. Munch Bunch Double Up Strawberry And Vanilla Yoghurt (85g per pot)

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Yoghurt can be a great choice for a dessert for the kids - but an analysis from The Grocer showed that some popular brands contain far more sugar than one might expect. These Munch Bunch strawberry and vanilla yogurts, for instance, contain a whopping 9.4g sugar - more than, for instance, the 7g in two Maryland Chocolate Chip cookies. Whilst we're not suggesting that these are more nutritious options, it's certainly food for thought...

  • Calories: 85
  • Sugar: 9.4
  • Teaspoons: just over 2

3. Hovis Soft White Bread medium (40g)

sugar content

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The lowest in our shocking sugar gallery, but we were still somewhat surprised to see that a slice of bread could contain even almost half a teaspoon of sugar. Especially considering you usually eat two slices in one sitting. That's nearly one whole teaspoon for a sandwich, before the added calories from the filling.

  • Calories: 93
  • Sugar (g): 1.4
  • Teaspoons: 0.4

4. Heinz Salad Cream (15g)

sugar content

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Just when you thought salad was healthy, think again! Because as soon as you add just a 15g squirt of of Heinz salad cream you can say hello to over half a teaspoon of sugar too.

  • Calories: 45
  • Sugar (g): 2.4
  • Teaspoons: 0.7

5. Heinz Apple Biscotti (15g/3 biscotti)

sugar content

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Although these little biscuits contain apple puree, it's wise to moderate your child's intake.  After all, 100g of these little biscuits contain more than 15g sugar - that's almost 4 teaspoons. 

  • Calories: 61
  • Sugar (g): 2.4
  • Teaspoons: 0.7

6. Heinz Tomato Ketchup (15g)

sugar content

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We love our ketchup. A lot. And so do the kids. So it was pretty scary to see that as little as 15g contains almost a teaspoon of sugar. Multiply that by the amount of things we put ketchup on, and that's a lot of the sweet stuff.

  • Calories: 15
  • Sugar (g): 3.4
  • Teaspoons: almost 1

7. Pot Noodle Curry King (114g)

sugar content

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Pot Noodles are far from the healthiest thing to be eating, but as well as being high in calories, did you know they were this high in sugar too?  There are almost two teaspoons of sugar in the large curry flavoured Pot Noodle.

  • Calories: 547
  • Sugar (g): 6.9
  • Teaspoons: 1.72

8. Nutella (15g)

sugar content

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Okay, so you're not eating Nutella because you think it's amazing for you, but you might have expected that it was mostly made up of cocoa and hazelnuts, as the jar suggests. However, when you actually look at the label, you'll discover that it's more than 50% sugar, with 56.3g sugar in every 100g of spread.

  • Calories: 80
  • Sugar (g): 8.4
  • Teaspoons: 2.1

9. Ragu Smooth Bolognese Pasta Sauce (187.5g)

sugar content

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Pasta sauces are a staple in most kitchen cupboards, but did you know that a 375g jar could contain as many as four teaspoons of sugar? And we thought opting for the tomato sauces over the creamy ones was the healthier option.

  • Calories: 79
  • Sugar (g): 8.6
  • Teaspoons: 2.4

10. Baxters Hearty Butternut Squash & Sweet Potato with Chilli & Lime Soup (400g)

sugar content

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Vegetable soup may seem like a healthy and convenient choice, but make sure you check the labels if you're watching your sugar intake.

This tin of sweet potato soup contains almost 3 teaspoons of sugar. To slash your sugar consumption, try a homemade version like our sweet potato and vegetable soup, packed with nutritious and naturally sweet root vegetables.

  • Calories: 265
  • Sugar (g): 10.4
  • Teaspoons: 2.6

11. Kellogg's Nutrigrain Blueberry (37g)

sugar content

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We'd expect these oat bars to have some sugar in them, and as a treat now and then they're not too bad. As a daily breakfast option, however, you could be eating more sugar than you realise (before the day has even started!)

  • Calories: 130
  • Sugar (g): 12
  • Teaspoons: 3

12. Yeo Valley 0% Fat Vanilla Yoghurt (100g)

sugar content

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Don't be fooled into thinking that just because something is fat-free, it's sugar-free too. 100g of this yogurt is the same as eating almost four teaspoons of sugar - a huge amount for a snack we'd usually consider quite healthy.

  • Calories: 81
  • Sugar (g): 14
  • Teaspoons: 3.5

13. Tropicana Orange Juice Smooth (150ml)

sugar content

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It would be easy to assume that fruit juice must be good for us. But, although natural, most fruit juices contain an alarming amount of hidden sugar. If you fancy a sweet treat, whole fruit is good for you as it contains much more than just fructose, including fibre, vitamins and minerals which make them a healthy alternative to foods high in added sugars and fat.

  • Calories: 62
  • Sugar (g): 13
  • Teaspoons: 3.25

14. Innocent Super Smoothie Invigorate (250ml)

sugar content

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This seemingly healthy green smoothie contains a surprisingly large amount of hidden sugar. A whole 360ml bottle contains as much as 40g of sugar - which is a staggering 10 teaspoons.

  • Calories: 144
  • Sugar (g): 28
  • Teaspoons: 7

15. Cadbury Hot Chocolate Cocoa Powder (18g serving + 200ml semi skimmed milk)

sugar content

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While hot chocolate might seem like a good option for a warm drink before bed, the combination of the sweetened powder and milk is like drinking the equivalent of five teaspoons of sugar before you drift off. Why not try a hot water with lemon before bed instead?

  • Calories: 165
  • Sugar (g): 22.5
  • Teaspoons: 5.6

16. Mars bar sugar content (51g)

sugar content

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We can't say we were too surprised to see a Mars Bar on a healthy eating naughty list, but we bet you only thought it was their fat content you needed to worry about? A shocking seven and a half teaspoons of sugar goes into a single Mars Bar

  • Calories: 228
  • Sugar (g): 30.5
  • Teaspoons: 7.6
Lucy Gornall
Health & Fitness writer

Freelance writer Lucy Gornall is the former health and fitness editor for various women’s magazines including Woman&Home Feel Good You. She has previously written for titles including Now, Look and Cosmopolitan, Woman, Woman's Own, Woman's Weekly and Chat. She lives and breathes all things fitness.