Names for Sugar on Nutrition Labels – Know What You’re Buying

Sugar sure is sneaky! It goes by many aliases and lurks in places you wouldn’t expect. Arm yourself with basic knowledge of Sugar-Lingo to beat the system. Only by knowing the names for sugar on nutrition labels can you protect yourself from the hidden enemy!

How Do I Know if a Product Contains Sugar?

food labelThankfully, food packaging in the US is required to give us certain information. Learn how to decipher food labels to pick safe products.

Don’t pay any attention to the front of the package! Those tasty photos and misleading promises on the front aren’t regulated like the nitty gritty info on the backside. So flip that baby over.

Check out the Nutritional Facts. Especially paying attention to the line showing “Total Carbohydrates” and the indented lines beneath. You’ll be able to quickly see that there are 12g of sugar in one serving of this example product.

Next, you want to check out where those sugars are coming from by reading the ingredients list. They may be naturally occurring (as in the case of lactose in milk) but most often they are added.

Sneaky Names for Sugar

Our enemy goes by many names. To seek him out you’ll need to know these synonyms:

  • Agave
  • Malt
  • Cane Juice
  • Caramel
  • Dextrin
  • Dextrose
  • Fructose
  • Fruit Juice
  • Glucose
  • HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup)
  • Honey
  • Maltodextrin
  • Maltol
  • Maltose
  • Mannose
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Panocha
  • Saccharose
  • Sorghum
  • Sucrose
  • Treacle
  • anything containing the words ‘sugar’ or ‘syrup’

Be Your Own Detectivemagnifying glass

Did you know that the ingredients list is written in order with the highest quantities shown first? If any of the first ingredients listed is a sugar alias, you better beware! That ‘food’ is mostly made of junk. Make smarter choices with your money and your health.

What About Carbohydrates?

In the example label above, you can see there are 37g of Total Carbohydrates. Part of this total includes 4g of fiber. Because fiber isn’t easily broken down in the body into sugars, you can subtract that amount to get a more accurate idea of how much sugar your body will be absorbing when you eat this. In general you’re going to want lower carb products to avoid blood sugar spikes and crashes.

It Starts at the Storesnack shopper

Knowing how to choose the right products (and avoid hidden dangers) at the supermarket is an easy step towards better health. Knowledge is power and the processed food manufacturers hope you don’t use your power to see through their tricks. By looking closely at the facts, you will be able to make smarter choices. The groceries you buy today will be the fuel for your body tomorrow. If it’s a product you know will be a temptation, leave it on the shelf. If it’s in your kitchen, you will succumb. Make your life easier by taking away the option.

Have you ever been shocked at the amount of sugar in some “health” foods available? Personally I think cereals are the worst tricksters! Share your thoughts below with our community.





17 thoughts on “Names for Sugar on Nutrition Labels – Know What You’re Buying

  1. I really think food companies are SO sneaky with their marketing. It makes me crazy when they tout something is healthy when it’s full of sugar. Cereal is definitely a great example of that. I think the worst offender for me is yogurt. “So healthy.” “Probiotics.” “Blah, blah.” Those probiotics are probably wiped out by the sugar-eating bad bacteria in our guts. 

    I wish companies would be a little more upfront. But until then, thankfully there are people out there like you who are teaching others what to look for. You definitely have to be your own health advocate! 

    Thanks for the sugar lesson! I will certainly be keeping my eye out…

    1. Oh yeah, yogurt is really bad about their marketing. I used to fall for it before I knew better. Now I only buy full fat yogurt with no sweetener or flavor added. A bonus is that you can plain yogurt in savory recipes too. Or just add fresh berries.

  2. Anna, this is a relevant article for me. Haha, I’m a sucker for sweets. But I know I need to cut it down big time, so this is a big help.

    I never knew sugar had so many names! I mean not that I ever looked at nutrition labels, but I always thought sugar was just sugar. I’ll keep a note of these sugar names and be on the lookout for foods I buy. I think we all tend to overlook the labels, and ‘think’ we’re buying healthy food. But clearly, a lot times we’re not. Definitely a good thing for people to be aware of and keep ourself in check with buying things.

    Thanks for the article!

    1. Thanks for being honest Parmi! Many of us are guilty of assuming we know what we’re getting when we buy a product. I think companies rely on the fact that most people won’t check the label or be able to fully understand it if they do. 

  3. It was such an eye-opener seeing the number of sugars mentioned in this article. This is really frightening.

    Am sure I am addicted to sugar as I go through dips during the day and find myself going off to the supermarket to buy “good” sweets, energy bars. Try to kid myself that I really need the energy buy know am just kidding myself. It is the taste not the energy I am looking for.

    This seems to be a never ending problem. I know of many young mothers who are much more aware of the dangers of sugar and don’t allow their children sweets.

    Now that I have this list will look for all the hidden ingredients in future.

    1. Ah, energy bars. They can be so deceptive can’t they? There certainly are some good ones available but you have to be very careful and aware of what ingredients you’re getting. It’s usually cheaper and healthier to grab a piece of whole fruit and a handful of raw nuts. 

  4. This is a wonderful article because so many people need to be aware of all the hidden names for sugar! There were some names on there I didn’t even know. So often things are labeled as healthy or natural and they are the complete opposite. It is very difficult to find any packaged foods that are healthy. I agree with you that you have to stay informed and be a label reader.

  5. No-Sugar Mama has really hit it on the head of showing that sugar hides in many ways! To hear the term “sugar-free”, I find, requires you to really look closer at the Nutrition Facts list on products. You provided a list that allows consumers to actually become pro-active in shopping for true “no-sugar” products, if there is such a thing.

    One thing this hunt will require is spending more time on your shopping trips to the supermarket for reading/skimming the Nutrition Fasts list.

    1. It does take more time initially. But once you start, you’ll get more savvy at knowing what items to avoid without even needing to read the label. Its an acquired skill that you will pick up as you go.

  6. This is a very good and informative website. Are you yourself a diabetic? I would love a list of snacks that are good for the body and will replace those snacks that we have to leave on the supermarket shelf. I really appreciate the list of the sneaky names of sugar. I am a diabetic and a nurse and there were some names for sugar I had forgotten about. I am English and the English are known for their sweet tooth. Once again thanks for a great website

    1. Thanks Donnie. I am not diabetic (yet!) but I have had gestational diabetes which can be a sign that you’re at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes later in life. I will definitely work on a post with great snack alternatives that are both tasty and healthy!

  7. Hi Miss Anna,

    So as I am getting older I find myself getting a sweet tooth more and more. I here tell this is not really unusual, however, on my behalf, I don’t eat a lot, so I can’t really say I am addicted…yet, anyway.

    I really wish you all the success with your community which I feel very confident you have or are building successfully.  I have a lot of friends and family who are eating to many sweets and have the same concerns as well.

    Any beginning suggestions I could offer to them?  I have noted your site so as to pass on to them.  I have also heard that eating a little chocolate every day is actually pretty good, of course like anything, in moderation.  What are your feelings on that?

    I feel you have a strong niche here Anna, and have really enjoyed reading your experience and how you are wanting to help others, let alone yourself.  Good job.


    1. Hi Jim, thanks for the input. Chocolate is my weakness and I know it has been shown to have some health benefits. Sadly, most of what we buy has just too much sugar to be good for us. There are better options- choose a chocolate with a high cocoa content. The darker the better. I’ve slowly gotten used to darker chocolate. 

      You can also try bars sweetened with monk fruit although I haven’t tried these yet. The addictive qualities may still be troublesome. 

      Lastly you can use plain cocoa powder or cacao nibs in homemade treats made with fruit. A banana, cocoa, almond butter smoothie for instance. Or fresh berries in cream sprinkled with cacao nibs! Yum!!

  8. I don’t really check the nutritional facts when I buy snacks for the kids. Lately though, I have been thinking about doing so not just to check for sugar but also for fat, especially trans fat. My daughter has been putting on a lot of weight and she is trying really hard to exercise to keep in shape. I feel ashamed for not checking these nutritional facts as I feel like I some how contributed to her dilemma. 

    In this post, you call sugar the enemy as it rightly is, but I was just wondering, Is all sugar bad? I mean, there is sugar in fruits we eat everyday and the kids love apples and bananas. 

    1. Hi Denise, you sound like a great mom who really cares about her kids’ health. We all feel guilty sometimes but that guilt shows that you really do want to do what’s best for them! 

      I don’t consider whole fruits to be a problem. It’s nearly impossible to overeat fruits unlike processed sweets. Plus they are packed with vitamins and fiber. As long as they are eating the whole raw fruit. Berries are especially high in vitamins and they’re my go-to snack! Just try to keep the peels on apples and pears, and avoid fruit juices. 

  9. Thanks Anna

    We really do need to be more aware. Food manufacturers can use the sneakiest of tricks to fool us. I have seen “low sugar yoghurt with more sugar than ordinary yoghurt.

    I always check out the sugar and fat content but, as you say, there are so many names for sugar, it is hard to tell.

    I am with you on the “leave it out” method. If it is in the kitchen, I will eat it so best if it is not in the kitchen.

    I just checked the sugar per serving in the cereal packets. Not too bad but their idea of a serving is only 100 g. I have measured a normal childs helping. It is nearly double that, on a good day. So that is double the sugar.

    Would sugar tax help? They have just introduced a sugar tax here in the UK on drinks. It has made the big companies expand their range of flavours of sugar free drinks and many shops have taken them off the shelves. Maybe that is one option?

    1. It will be interesting to see how the sugar tax in the UK does change things. I haven’t looked into it but it sounds like a move in the right direction. Are they taxing the manufacturers or the buyers?

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