For most of us, weight loss comes down to a simple painful truth – we need to eat fewer calories that we use. That means portion control and informed food choices.

Cutting down our sugar intake is an easy route to calorie reduction. However excess sugar lurks in many unexpected places.  Here are five foods that can give a surprise when it comes to sugar content.


These are marketed as a quick health fix. Unfortunately commercial smoothies often have a lot of extra sugar added, on top of that found naturally in the fruit. Putting fruit through a blender also loses the benefits of the fibre content. Eat fruit raw if you can.


There may be a need for refuelling during long exercise sessions such as half marathons or big cycle rides. For the standard one hour workout, a sugary sports drink is going to undo all the benefits – and damage your teeth if you keep sipping at it.

Sports drinks can be 20% sugar, even more for the chocolate milkshakes sold as fitness recovery drinks. For hydration, stick to water.


Some cereal bars are over 25% sugar by weight, which is more than chocolate biscuits. Strangely the ‘traffic light’ labelling marks the sugar in chocolate biscuits as ‘red’ for high, but the levels in cereal bars are not given this alert.


UK manufacturers tend to add less sugar to baked beans than their American counterparts, but British bean lovers can still get a shock. Read labels carefully, and take care with ‘no added sugar’ varieties. Some of these add concentrated apple juice instead (so still lots of sugar). Others add artificial sweeteners which are not everyone’s taste.


Granola is a mix of grains, nuts, seeds and fruits in varying proportions. To obtain the clumpy texture of granola, it has to be baked with oil and a sweetener, and there lies the hidden sugar. Even a plain granola mix can be nearly 10% sugar and most contain almost 20% sugar - the same as sugary childrens' cereals.

Read the labels and choose with care to keep your sugar intake down.

The Author

Jessica Ambrose

Jessica is a fitness writer who loves long distance running, yoga, strength training and healthy eating.


Brittany T.
29 November 2018

Brittany T.

wise words - the less processing apart from normal cooking, the better. Also glad to know i don't have to put up with the smoothies, people keep wanting me to try the most appalling mixtures!

Hugh M.
29 November 2018

Hugh M.

The key thing to take from this is that none of the above are natural foods. Try to find too much sugar in natural foods (in a sensible portion) and you won't be able to. Again, avoid processed food as much as possible as your sugar intake will control itself.

Nicky B.
28 November 2018

Nicky B.

It#s a shame that granola is packed with sugar as I love it for supper. If you think about it, it's just like a dismantled flapjack (which we also weirdly think of as healthy - must be the oats!)

Lucy C.
25 November 2018

Lucy C.

scary stuff! It does annoy me that food sold as 'healthy' can be like this. No wonder people are confused.

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