Twelve surprising foods with more sugar than marshmallows

When it comes to sugar, it’s generally best to avoid processed food. Now, dietitian Melissa Meier reveals the surprising foods that aren’t classified as “junk food” but are still surprisingly high in sugar. 

Sugar gets a bad rap – but it’s not all that bad. You see, there are two types of sugar: naturally occurring sugar, like lactose in dairy or fructose in fruit, and , i.e. the white stuff that’s added to biscuits, pastries, soft drinks and the like. Then there are so-called ‘healthier’ sugars like honey, maple syrup and rice malt syrup – but I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, these count as added sugars, too.

Before we dive in, let’s get one thing straight: natural sugars are perfectly fine in the context of a healthy, balanced diet. That means fruit does not contain too much sugar. I repeat: fruit is not too high in sugar! Same goes for dairy products like plain yoghurt and milk.

Stay away from added sugar

What you want to minimise is foods that are high in added sugar. That’s because they are typically energy-dense and can contribute to weight gain overtime if consumed in excess. Not to mention the impact all that sugar can have on your teeth.

You probably already know a lot of the foods that are high in added sugar (ice cream, lollies, doughnuts) – but you might be surprised to learn that sugar is found far beyond the confectionary aisle.

What’s confusing is that many products contain a mixture of natural and added sugar. So, how do you tell the difference? Simply flip to the back of the packet and scan the ingredients list. Added sugar can be identified by words like glucose, dextrose, sucrose, malt and maltose.

If these words are towards the start of the ingredients list, chances are the product you have in your hands is high in added sugar.

Some of the worst offenders include pre-made sauces, dressings and marinades. In most cases, you’d actually be better off making your own at home from scratch. Savoury bakery items can contain unexpected amounts of sugar, too. Think sweeter breads like brioche and bagels.

To give you a little more perspective, here’s twelve foods that contain more sugar than one marshmallow (i.e. four grams of sugar).

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Sun-dried tomato

17g sugar per 50g serve

Equivalent to: 4 marshmallows.

Breakfast cereal flakes

16.8g sugar per cup and a half (60g)

Equivalent to: 4 marshmallows.

Homemade banana bread

14.8g sugar per 50g serve

Equivalent to: 4 marshmallows.

Carob bar

10.5g sugar per 25g serve

Equivalent to: 3 marshmallows.

Coleslaw dressing

9.8g sugar per two tablespoons (40g)

Equivalent to: 2 marshmallows.

Plum sauce

9.6g sugar per tablespoon (20g)

Equivalent to: 2 marshmallows.

Marinated chicken kebabs

8.4g sugar per two kebabs (200g)

Equivalent to: 2 marshmallows.

BBQ sauce

8g sugar per tablespoon (20g)

Equivalent to: 2 marshmallows.

Tomato pasta sauce (commercial)

6.1g sugar per 100g

Equivalent to: 2 marshmallows.

Brioche roll

6g sugar per 50g roll

Equivalent to: 2 marshmallows.

Thousand Island dressing

5.9g sugar per 2 tablespoons (40g)

Equivalent to: 1 marshmallow.

Bagel

5.6g sugar per 90g bagel

Equivalent to: 1 marshmallow.

Melissa Meier is a Sydney-based Accredited Practising Dietitian. You can connect with her at www.honestnutrition.com.au or on Instagram @honest_nutrition.