Hide and Seek: Sugar Hiding In Your Ingredients List

Hide and Seek: Sugar Hiding In Your Ingredients List

If there’s one rule that I hear often when it comes to purchasing processed foods, it’s the “the first five ingredients are always the ones in largest quantities in the food, so just make sure there’s no sugar listed in those first five ingredients, and you’re good!” rule.

Not so.

When it comes to sugar, the truth is that because sugar can come from so many different sources, a manufacturer could easily split the sugar source up into six different places, and all of them be in small enough quantities that they’re not large enough to be listed in the first five ingredients on the label. Not only that, but what’s the likelihood that you would even be able to identify the sources of sugar on the label? I mean, while we all know what “high fructose corn syrup” and “corn syrup” are, are you familiar with “sorghum syrup?” What do you know about “treacle?” “Acesulfame potassium?”

Here’s an example of what I’m referring to, here:

Because my investigative journalism yielded pretty crappy photography, I’m sure you can’t read that. Nevertheless, I still got notes: That says “sugar, wheat, corn syrup, honey, hydrogenatd soybean oil, salt, caramel color, soy lecithin.” How many different sources of sugar can you spot?

Let’s try another one:

The list reads: “Whole grain corn, corn meal, sugar, corn bran, honey, salt, brown sugar syrup, caramel color, trisodium phosphate, natural flavor, vitamin E (mixed tocopherols) added to preserve freshness.

A while back, Fooducate created a list of the different names that sugar uses to hide in our ingredient lists. The list is pretty exhaustive, but in my mind it was short a few names. Below, is that list compiled by Fooducate, with additions by me.

  • Acesulfame potassium (acesulfame-K) / E950 –
    marketed as Sunett / Sweet One (artificial, 0 calories)
  • Agave
  • Agave Nectar
  • Aspartame – marketed as Nutrasweet (artificial, 0 calories)
  • Barbados Sugar
  • Barley Malt
  • Barley Malt Extract
  • Beet Sugar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Brown sugar
  • Brown sugar syrup
  • Buttered Syrup
  • Cane juice crystals
  • Cane sugar
  • Caramel
  • Caramel color
  • Carob syrup
  • Castor sugar
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn sugar
  • Corn sweetener
  • Corn syrup, or corn syrup solids
  • Crystalline Fructose
  • D-mannose
  • Date sugar
  • Dehydrated Cane Juice
  • Demerara sugar
  • Dextran
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Diastatic malt
  • Diatase
  • Ethyl maltol
  • Evaporated Cane Juice
  • Evaporated Cane Syrup
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate – ANY juice concentrate – “grape juice concentrate,” “apple juice concentrate,” “pear juice concentrate,” “orange juice concentrate,”
  • Galactose
  • Glucose or glucose solids
  • Golden sugar
  • Golden syrup
  • Granulated sugar
  • Grape sugar
  • High-fructose corn syrup (or HFCS)
  • High-maltose corn syrup (or HMCS)
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Malt syrup
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltose
  • Mannitol
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado sugar
  • Neotame
  • Organic raw sugar
  • Panocha
  • Powdered sugar
  • Raw sugar
  • Refiner’s syrup
  • Rice Syrup
  • Saccharin
  • Saccharose
  • Sorbitol
  • Sorghum syrup
  • Sucralose – marketed as Splenda
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Syrup
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado Sugar
  • Xylose
  • Yellow sugar

There’s also the list of sugar alcohol extracts:

  • xylitol
  • glycol
  • glycerol
  • erythritol
  • threitol
  • arabitol
  • ribitol
  • mannitol
  • sorbitol
  • dulicitol
  • iditol
  • isomalt
  • maltitol
  • lacitiol
  • polyglycitol

Hmmm… am I missing anything else?

By | 2017-06-10T11:22:49+00:00 October 28th, 2014|Did You Know|18 Comments

About the Author:

The proud leader of the #bgg2wlarmy, Erika Nicole Kendall writes food and fitness, body image and beauty, and more here at #bgg2wl. After losing over 150lbs, Kendall became a personal trainer certified in fitness nutrition, women's fitness, and weight loss by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She is also certified in sports nutrition by Precision Nutrition. She now lives in New York with her husband and children, and is working on her 6th and 7th certifications because she likes having alphabet soup at the end of her name.


  1. Aponda May 10, 2011 at 3:40 PM - Reply

    Where was this list the year I gave up sugar for Lent? I almost destroyed a snack bar because I was so hungry and even the snack mixes had sugar in them. I shall print this out….

  2. Mimi_Love May 10, 2011 at 4:41 PM - Reply

    Hello! I’m new to your blog and i LOVE it. It’s very informative and I find it keeps me motivated to do better! Those are some ingredient I have not heard before and I feel I should write them down. lol. All thosedifferent types of sugar sound like a chemical disaster in the human body!

  3. Christina July 10, 2011 at 10:48 PM - Reply

    Oh my! This is pretty alarming!

  4. Khy October 3, 2011 at 7:56 PM - Reply

    Erika, do you avoid all foods that have sugar and or their aliases? I’m new in my weight loss journey and this list is helpful and overwhelming at the same time. Just curious if I can really do it.

    • Erika Nicole Kendall October 3, 2011 at 8:30 PM - Reply

      Yep – it’s quite simple if you simply give up processed foods altogether. 🙂

  5. Tiera October 26, 2011 at 8:43 PM - Reply

    Now I do have some Agave nectar and honey. I also have organic cane sugar. I use these things sparingly and I avoid foods with the ingredients listed above. I only eat organic so the only ingredients I eat are those involved in the natural product. For instance, my whole wheat pasta has nothing more than whole wheat semolina(it has to be organic semolina). I also make my own pasta. I only do this when I make anything involving spaghetti or fettuccine style noodles (because I don’t have a noodle presser). My pasta sauce is homemade…nothing more than blanched tomatoes (and of course some process- free seasonings). I don’t eat anything with any additives or preservatives…basically my kitchen is stocked full of hearty vegetables and fruit (natural sugar). Now that doesn’t mean I don’t eat additional sugar like cane sugar. I just use it sparingly. I like to taste the natural taste of foods so I don’t do a lot of manipulating. I don’t cook with salt. Needless to say, most people bring their own food when they come over lol. On a completely unrelated note: A tomato is a fruit! Why do people classify it as a vegetable? Am I wrong?

  6. lisa January 15, 2012 at 3:52 PM - Reply

    Trying to get away from using white sugar. Using agave nectar and raw honey for the most part. Any thoughts as I see agave on the list?

  7. Catherine February 3, 2012 at 2:51 PM - Reply

    I just looked at the ingredients to Trident and saw Sucralose. I was stunned because I always assumed that it had only Xylitol to sweeten it.

    Then I looked at the other suspicious ingredients and had to look at your list.
    I found four other sources of sugar, which the majority of are artificial sugars.
    Now I know why it has 0g listed under sugar, but now I have to get rid of it. I know it’s a small amount, but I don’t want that kind of stuff going through me.

    Yet, I haven’t looked into sugar alcohols either. So it probably was a mistake to even start chewing it.

  8. lynaya December 22, 2012 at 2:37 PM - Reply

    This explains why Naked brand smoothies are so delicious. I stopped drinking them once I made my own. Mine taste way more green because my juice isn’t from concentrate…which basically means sugar water with fruit. Good to know.

  9. Erika January 25, 2013 at 8:39 PM - Reply

    OMG! How are we supposed to remember all of these? Sometimes it’s too much to take in but I’m still trying. Wonderful blog by the way! I’d rather have too much information than none at all and I can always count on you for being thorough. Thanks!

    • christine February 4, 2013 at 11:20 AM - Reply

      Here I was thinking I was being all healthy.,.no sugar, flour, salt in my house..Then I heard there was sugar in salad dressing (slaps forehead) something I never really thought about, spent all this time checking for salt content and sugar never really crossed my mind. Thanks for the sneaky list!!

      • Stephanie April 26, 2013 at 6:05 PM - Reply

        Bottled salad dressing is sneaky like that. With a few staples in your pantry, you can make a ton of your own pretty quickly. I got in the habit of making my own and started noticing how the bottled stuff tasted pretty sweet and chemical.

  10. Teresa February 10, 2013 at 12:51 PM - Reply

    Thanks for the list. I had no idea that sugar had so many names. Keep up the good work.

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