It's common knowledge that soft drinks, ice creams, lollies and other sweet treats are high in sugar, but there's a large number of surprising foods that are laden with enough added sugar to exceed the recommended intake in just one serving.

Much of the sugar consumed these days is hidden in processed foods that are not usually seen as sweet, and in some cases they're even perceived as healthy. 

The World Health Organisation's (WHO) sugars intake for adults and children guideline recommends adults and children should consume less than 10 percent of their total energy intake in free sugars. However, WHO's Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, director, Dr Francesco Branca said there is evidence that shows there is additional health benefits in reducing intake to below five percent. That's roughly 25 grams or six teaspoons per day. 

“We have solid evidence that keeping intake of free sugars to less than 10 per cent of total energy intake reduces the risk of being overweight, obesity and tooth decay.”

She said the recommendation is based on analysis of the latest scientific evidence that shows, first, that adults who consume less sugars have lower body weight and, second, that increasing the amount of sugars in the diet is associated with a weight increase.

The WHO guideline does not refer to the sugars in fresh fruits and vegetables, and sugars naturally present in milk.

Some of the everyday foods on our supermarket shelves that will tip consumers over the six teaspoon limit, or get them fairly close, in just one serving look fairly innocent. Foods like simmer sauces, baked beans, yoghurts, canned soups, muesli bars and breakfast cereals can all be high in added sugar. 

Eating just one 300g serving of baked beans will get you close to the limit with a surprising five and a half teaspoons of sugar. 

Products with excessive sugar

Pams, honey soy simmer sauce – 37.2g or 9 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

Sun Rice, sweet and sour chicken with rice – 28.3g or 7 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

Wattie's Beanz, baked beans - 22.5g or 5.5 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

Fresh 'n Fruity, dreamy lemon – 21.3g or 5 teaspoons of sugar per serving (about 1 tsp is from naturally occurring sugar).

Wattie's Soup of the Day, tomato with capsicum – 18.5g or 4.5 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

Tasti Snak Logs, carob coated fruit and nut – 15.4g or 4 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

Hubbards, Fruitful Breakfast toasted muesli – 14.2g or 3.5 teaspoons of sugar per serving.

Nutritionist’s advice

Healthy Food Guide nutritionist, Claire Turnbull, recommends people aim to keep their free sugar intake to six teaspoons, or below, a day. “To avoid hidden sugars on the supermarket shelves it is best to eat whole foods.”

She said people often don't realise how much sugar is in sauces and dressings and it pays to look at the label.  ”Some simmer sauces can have a huge amount of sugar in them and should be used incredibly occasionally.” 

To make simple, healthier decisions she said to choose unsweetened dairy products, 'lite' baked beans which have a reduced amount of salt and sugar and to forgo muesli bars all together for a piece of fruit or a handful of nuts instead. ”Our taste buds are forever changing and will adapt in a couple of weeks”.

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