How many times do you see the words "no added sugar" or "unsweetened" on a food packet or a label - this is usually in big letters somewhere on the front of the box. If you see this you might be forgiven for thinking that the product is a healthy one. However, these are weasel words from the marketing men to make the product seem more healthy than it actually is, I find amongst my clients that this is an endless source of confusion and opens people  up to making poor food choices.  

It certainly does not mean that the food contains no sugar or is even a low sugar product......it just means no sucrose has been added, the product could still be high in sugar from naturally available forms such as fructose in dried fruit.

The only way to determine whether a product is low in sugar or not is to read the nutrient label and the list of ingredients. On the nutrient label look for the section "Carbohydrates", then "of which sugars are......" the value will nearly always be given against 100g of the product. This is the best place to look to see how much sugar is contained in the product (relative to any other one):

According to the UK Food Standards Agency: 

• Under 5g sugar per 100g product is a LOW amount of sugar
• 5-15g is a MODERATE amount of sugar
• More than 15g sugar per 100g product is a HIGH amount of sugar

As an aside I swear that these ranges have changed since I trained to be a Nutritional Therapist. I am POSITIVE that a HIGH amount of sugar used to be classified as 10g / 100g or above...does anyone else remember this or am I going mad? (interestingly since this article has been written the amount of sugar that is considered HIGH has increased once again....now 22.5g/100g.....I am NOT joking, that is more than double what it was a few years ago)

The ingredients label will also give you more clues. You need to realise that there are many sneaky names for sugar: malt extract, honey, rice syrup, dextrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, lactose, grape juice, or apple juice to name a few. The higher up the ingredients list one of these sneaky sugars is, the more sugar is in the product.

Remember that 1 teaspoon of sugar is approximately 4g. Take any food product and divide the total amount of sugar contained in that product by 4 - you will see how many teaspoons are contained in it. A quick look at a few popular yoghurts in my local supermarket last night showed that some have as much as 5-6 teaspoons of sugar contained in them.

Checking the nutrition label is the only way to know what you are doing and not be conned by those weasel words on the front of the packet.  As an aside, I still tell my clients to aim for 10g/100g or less to keep the sugar levels moderate, no matter what the official view is.