“Healthy” Foods That Have More Sugar Than A Donut

Donuts seem like the epitome of sugary pastries. These desserts are often demonized for causing type 2 diabetes and heart illnesses, but in reality, most don’t contain that much sugar. An average Krispy Kreme glazed donut has only 10 grams of sugar, while a jelly-filled one has closer to six grams.

Many other foods have more sugar than donuts–even “healthy” ones. From nonfat yogurt to sauces to salad dressings, these products aren’t spared from sweetness. You may be shocked at these healthy foods that have more sugar than a donut.

Granola Bars

A person compares a granola bar to the package.

According to a New York Times survey, around 70% of Americans deem granola bars as “healthy.” But you need to check the nutrition facts to make sure that the bar isn’t loaded up on sugar. For instance, Kellogg’s Special K bar has around 15 grams of sugar, which is more than a Dunkin’ donut. The Kind Bar with Almonds, Apricots, and Yogurt has 16 grams of sugar!

“I’ve seen bars with as much as 25 grams of added sugar, which is ludicrous,” says Registered Dietitian Andy Bellatti. Fortunately, there are some healthy bars out there. Bellatti recommends avoiding added sugars such as high fructose corn syrup.

Nonfat Yogurt

low fat and nonfat yogurts of different brands are stacked.
Pinterest/Lauren Rovegno
Pinterest/Lauren Rovegno

Those who are watching their calorie intake may reach for a container of nonfat yogurt. Unfortunately, these products replace fat with added sugar. Some brands provide nearly 30 grams of sugar. Not only is that the same as five jelly donuts, but it’s also 60% of your daily sugar limit, according to the USDA.

Full-fat yogurts, such as Greek yogurt, have fewer sugars because milk is naturally sweet. Plus, some dairy compounds aid fat loss. In the American Journal of Nutrition, researchers noted that conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) in dairy helps people lose weight. Nonfat yogurts have little to no CLA.

Sweetened Almond Milk

Diamond almond breeze beverage tetra packs are displayed on a rack with prices further reduced.
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Almond milk has been praised as a healthy alternative to dairy. Unfortunately, many plant-based milks make up for flavor in the form of sugar. According to the FDA, Blue Diamond’s sweetened vanilla almond milk has 13 grams of sugar, easily more than a Krispy Kreme donut. Chocolate almond milk has 21 grams, which is more than two chocolate donuts.

If you buy almond milk, alternative milk researcher Outi Mäkinen recommends the unsweetened variety. Even unsweetened vanilla almond milk has less than two grams of sugar per cup. Time reported that 4/5 nutrition experts recommend almond milk for its high vitamin E.

Lattes (Even Low-Fat Ones)

Starbucks Coffee employee delivers a coffee order to a customer through a window of a drive-up Starbucks shop.
Tim Boyle/Newsmakers
Tim Boyle/Newsmakers

Many lattes pack quite a lot of sugar, even before the flavor shots are added. If you buy a grande latte at Starbucks, you will consume 17 grams of sugar. Nonfat options are arguably worse since they replace the fat in milk with added sweeteners. A tall nonfat milk mocha at Starbucks contains 33 grams of sugar, equal to three chocolate donuts.

Many of these drinks have liquid fructose. In 2016, a study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that liquid sugar is especially unhealthy. It heightens your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Fat Free Salad Dressing

A person adds salad dressing to their meal.
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As with many low-fat products, fat-free salad dressings replace fat with sugar. For instance, Kraft’s fat-free Italian dressing has 20 grams of sugar per cup, about five creme donuts. If you limit that to one tablespoon, you’d still receive two grams of sugar.

Plus, fat-free foods rob your body of nutrients. During a 2012 study, Purdue University researchers discovered that fat helps your body absorb vitamins A, D, E, and K. If you have a low-fat dressing, your body won’t absorb as many nutrients from the salad.

Vitamin Water

Several Vitamin Water bottles sit on a table.
J. Vespa/WireImage
J. Vespa/WireImage

Vitamin Water has grown popular for being enriched with vitamins. However, each bottle is packed with fructose. If you drank a 20-ounce Vitamin Water’s “Essential,” you’d consume 32 grams of sugar. That’s three glazed donuts in liquid form. If you include crystalline fructose, Vitamin Water has the same sugar as a Coca-Cola.

Most of Vitamin Water’s sugar is fructose, which is the most dangerous. In 2009, scientists reported that fructose is worse for your health than glucose. This research was backed up by the Current Opinion in Lipidology, which linked fructose and metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease.

Some Pasta Sauces

Several brands of pasta sauce sit on a table.

Depending on the ingredients you use, pasta can be a healthy (and delicious) dish. But not all sauces are created equal. Some are sweetened with added sugars, such as Chunky Ragu’s Garlic & Onion sauce, with 12 grams of sugar.

Registered Dietitian Dr. Dana Hunnes recommends choosing a pasta sauce that has ingredients you recognize. Olive oil, tomatoes, and herbs often replace corn syrup in healthy sauces. And don’t worry about the small amounts of fat. It helps your body absorb lycopene, a carotenoid that protects against heart disease, according to Registered Dietitian Amy Keating.

Baked Beans

Steve Marinker, Public Affairs Manager of Heinz arrives in Toulouse and eats baked beans.
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Did you know that beans have sugar? At least, flavored baked beans do. One half-cup of Campbell’s baked beans will give you 13 grams of sugar, according to the USDA. Most baked bean cans often contain additives such as artificial color, flavors, and modified corn starch.

Sugar content in baked beans varies by brand. If you find some low-sugar baked beans, feel free to enjoy them. In 2016, research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating beans helps people manage weight and lose fat, even without restricting their calories.

Barbecue Sauce

A man pours sauce over a barbecue sandwich.
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Barbecue sauce is tasty, but it isn’t free from sugar. On average, two tablespoons of barbecue sauce are between 12 and 17 grams of sugar. If you get a pre-made packet, such as the ones at McDonald’s, you’ll consume 10 grams of sugar.

“Condiments aren’t something that people use sparingly, and many people don’t think about serving sizes,” says Registered Dietitian Brigitte Zeitlin. Dietitian Dr. Dana Angelo White of Food Network recommends searching for low-sugar varieties such as Stubb’s and Trader Joe’s barbecue sauce.

Instant Oats

A man shows the instructions on an instant Quaker Oats box.

Oats are one of the healthiest grains you could eat. But instant oatmeal packets often contain salt, artificial coloring, and of course, sugar. Quaker Oats has 12 grams of sugar per packet, the same as a Dunkin’ donut. On the flip-side, Dr. David L. Katz of Yale University said that “even instant oatmeal is better than most breakfast choices most Americans make.”

Still, remember that regular oats have no added sugar. Registered Dietitian Connie Diekman of Washington University recommends buying steel-cut whole oats. They’ll cook just as quickly, and you can flavor them with honey.

Trail Mix

A person sifts through a trail mix bag of dried craisins, dark chocolate, almonds, and cashews.

If you mix the right ingredients, trail mix can be a healthy, filling snack. But the amount of chocolate and dried fruit in most trail mixes turn them into a dessert. An average pack of trail mix has 10 grams of sugar, while some (like Planter’s fruit and nut mix) raises that amount to 13 grams.

Amy Keating of Consumer Reports recommends eating trail mix that is primarily fruit and nuts. Avoid yogurt-covered raisins, since the yogurt usually has hydrogenated oils. And remember that one serving size is 1/4 cup, which should fit into your cupped palm.


A woman eats a tartine of Nutella.
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Nutella has been praised as a healthier alternative for chocolate. Although Nutella offers trace amounts of iron and calcium, it’s mainly sugar. Two tablespoons pack on 21 grams of sugar, equal to a Dunkin Donuts Frosted Chocolate Creme or two Krispy Kreme glazed donuts. That totals to around five tablespoons of sweetness.

Holistic Nutritionist Meghan Telpner says that two tablespoons of Nutella equate to 83% of the recommended daily sugar for women. That amount will result in an energy buzz and subsequent crash. According to Dietetic Directions, Nutella also contains palm oil, which raises harmful cholesterol that may contribute to heart problems.

Whole-Grain Breakfast Cereals

A spoon carries milk, Cheerios cereal, and a strawberry slice.

Many cereal brands aim to be healthier by offering whole-grain products. While this is helpful, it doesn’t usually lower the sugar in cereals. In 2014, the Environmental Working Group reported that the average breakfast cereal is 25% sugar. For example, Kellog’s Special K cereal contains 13 grams of sugar.

Plus, 92% of all cereals contain added sugars. The World Health Organization and Dietary Guidelines for Americans agree that only 10% of products should be added sugars. Many kinds of cereal go far beyond the recommended daily limit for children. If you want to eat breakfast cereals, choose them wisely.


Maple applesauce sits in a bowl.
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Just because it’s made of apples doesn’t mean that it’s healthy. An average cup of sweetened applesauce contains 36 grams of sugar, more than three chocolate donuts. And what about unsweetened? It has 23 grams per cup, according to the USDA. At least 88% of applesauce’s calories stem from sugars.

According to a 2015 study in Food & Nutrition Research, those who eat applesauce consume more sugar overall than people who consume whole apples or apple juice. Plus, those who ate apples or natural apple juice ate less total sugar and had healthier diets overall.

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is on sale in Tel Aviv, Israel.
Michael Jacobs/Art In All Of Us
Michael Jacobs/Art In All Of Us

Yes, fruit is healthy. But some dried fruit contains added sugar, which raises that tiny box of raisins to a whopping 25 grams of sweetness. “When the native sugar of the fruit is combined with extra added sugar, you are now in the realm of candy,” Dr. David Katz of Yale University told Time.

Because dried fruit is far smaller than whole fruit, it’s easy to overeat. Cleveland Clinic Dietitian Kristin Kirkpatrick says that this sugar can strain your body and cause “the inflammation roller coaster.” Always double-check that your dried fruit does not contain added sugars.


Granola cereal bags are seen on a shelf inside a grocery store.
Tim Boyle/Getty Images
Tim Boyle/Getty Images

According to the Environmental Working Group, granola is the sugariest of all cereals. One half-cup of some low-fat granolas, such as Kellogg’s, has over 14 grams of sugar. Registered Dietitian Cynthia Sass told Time that, since there is no standard recipe for granola, every brand is different.

Sports Nutritionist Nancy Clark says that although granola includes dried fruit and nuts, it’s often not enough to have a nutritional impact. Sass added that “the higher up on the ingredient list a sweetener is, the more it makes up each bite.” Watch out for names such as dextrose, corn syrup, and sucrose.

Reduced-Fat Peanut Butter

A person holds up a jar of reduced fat Jif peanut butter.

As a general rule, low-fat products replace the fats with added sugars. Peanut butter is no exception. Reduced-fat peanut butter has more sugar and corn syrup than the regular version: 12 grams per two tablespoons. Meanwhile, regular peanut butter has one gram of sugar per tablespoon.

Plus, there’s no reason to avoid pure peanut butter. Research on peanut butter in the journal Appetite reported that it helps weight loss, reduces hunger, and regulates blood sugar. While the fats in regular peanut butter are healthy, low-fat peanut butters contain unhealthy vegetable oils.

Bottled Smoothies

Bottled smoothies on shelves are for sale at the supermarket.
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Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Every smoothie provides natural sugar from fruit that is not as dangerous as added sugar. However, most pre-made bottled smoothies have added sugar as well. Registered Dietitian Marlene Koch says that most bottled smoothies contain between 18 and 28 grams of added sugar. That’s almost two glazed Krispy Kreme donuts.

When it comes to sugar consumption, juice is worse than solid foods. In 2013, a study in the British Medical Journal noted that sugary juices greatly increase your risk of type 2 diabetes. They can also erode your teeth, according to the British Dental Journal. If you want a smoothie, make one at home.

Orange Juice

A woman drinks orange juice in a cafe.

Although juices are made from fruit, that doesn’t automatically make them healthy. Orange juice, for instance, has 21 grams of sugar per cup. A full orange that is juiced yields only seven grams, so the rest is added sugar. The sweetness overshadows any low amount of vitamin C, says Dr. David Perlmutter.

“Calorie for calorie, fruit juice is worse for you than fizzy drinks,” obesity expert Dr. Robert Lustig told BBC Good Food. In 2013, research in The BMJ found that fruit juice increases your risk of diabetes while whole fruit lowers the risk.

Canned Fruit

Canned food including fruit preserves is seen in a pantry.

As with all preserved food, canned fruit secretly contains added sugar. For example, a half-cup of canned peaches provides 23 grams of sugar, more than two glazed donuts. This amount varies by product, as canned pears have far less–12 grams per half-cup, according to Dietitian and Nutritionist Toby Amidor of Food Network.

In 2015, researchers discovered that those who eat canned fruit consume more calories and sugar. However, they also eat healthier than those who don’t. Overall, it’s better to eat canned fruit than no fruit, and it’s healthier to eat whole fruit than canned fruit.