There's more to following a low-sugar diet than cutting out soda and cookies. In every aisle of the supermarket, you’ll find added sugars in packaged foods and beverages—even in products that sound healthy—sometimes where you least suspect it and in shocking amounts. The most sugars you should have in a day is 6 to 11 teaspoons (24 to 44 grams), so even a few grams here and there can add up fast. Check labels. When you compare similar foods—sometimes even within the same brand—as we’ve done here, you may find that the sugars and calorie counts vary widely.



When it comes to a low-sugar diet, there's always a comparable option to most foods.

Cheerios Protein sounds healthy, but the Cinnamon Almond flavor has 13 times the sugars of Regular Cheerios. And comparing 1¼-cup servings, the protein difference is minor: 4 grams in Regular vs. 7 grams in the Protein version. There are four sources of sugars in the Protein ingredients list. In fact, Cheerios Protein has about as much sugars as Apple Cinnamon and more than any other variety, including Chocolate, Frosted, and Honey Nut. 



Apples are sweet, but some types of applesauce—like many packaged fruit products—contain added sugars anyway. Always check the ingredients list on canned, dried, and frozen fruits for different types of sugars. Natural Mott’s has no sugars added, so all of its sweetness comes from the apples. Compare it with the original version and you can calculate that it contains about 11 grams of added sugars.



Yes, tomatoes do have natural sugars, as do veggies such as beets, butternut squash, carrots, corn, and sweet potatoes. That’s where the 4 grams of sugars in the Victoria sauce come from. But Bertolli’s contains added sugars—figure about 8 grams, or 2 teaspoons, when you compare the two. 



Frozen meals with added sugars? If they have sauces, it pays to check the ingredients list. For example, Amy’s Asian Noodle Stir-Fry has three types of sugars, including organic evaporated cane syrup and organic cane sugar. Don’t be fooled though: “Organic” may make the sugar sound somehow better for you, but it’s not healthier than any type of nonorganic sugar. 



Nut milks and soy milks usually have added sugars, even in the plain versions. But there’s a big difference in sugar content between the two here, which shows you that it’s a good idea to compare the unsweetened to the sweetened version of a product. If you find the unsweetened version unpalatable, you can add a small amount of sugar on your own.



It’s called tonic water, but it’s really soda—ounce for ounce it has more calories and grams of sugars than regular Coke. If you’d rather skip the artificial sweetener in the diet version, try making your gin and tonic with club soda—which, despite the name, has zero calories and no sugar or other sweeteners—and a twist of lime.



Condiments can contain a surprising amount of added sweeteners. If you choose Sweet Baby Ray’s sauce, you’ll come close to your daily sugar allotment by having just a tiny 2-tablespoon serving. In addition to barbecue sauce, check ingredients lists on bottles of ketchup, mustard, salad dressings, teriyaki sauces, and the like for added sugars.

Editor's note: This article also appeared in the February 2016 issue of Consumer Reports on Health.