different words for sugar

Identifying sugar on ingredients lists

The above image contains approximately 50 words that you may see in ingredients lists on food packaging.  You may even find some in recipes, including those for healthy or no-sugar creations.  However, once all those things have been broken down during digestion into their component parts, they are essentially the same as far as your body is concerned.

Obviously that is a lot to remember, so here are a few things to look out for to help you:

  • “sugar”
  • “juice”
  • “syrup”
  • words ending in ~ose
  • “honey”
  • “treacle”

This may not catch them all (a phrase I hear too often in a house with Pokemon fans!) but it will help you spot most.

The British Nutrition Foundation provides an explanation of the different ingredients here.


When reading ingredients lists the greatest quantity is listed first so you may think it will be easy to identify a food high in sugar as a result.  But, many products have more than one of these different sugars in them and in different quantities – once the smaller quantities are added up, they may become a large quantity.

Nutritional information

I don’t often recommend using the nutritional information to determine if a food is healthy, but in this case it can be helpful.

example product nutritional information table

Identify the product’s sugar content for quick comparison

The quickest way to get an idea of the sugar content is to look at the per 100g content of sugar.  In the (slightly manipulated) example above you can see that there is 0.7g per 100g of product, i.e. 0.7% a pretty tiny amount.

However, another product may have 20g per 100g.  Does 20g sound a lot?  What about 20%? How about saying that the product is one-fifth sugar?  Look at the item and visualise this portion.  In sugar cubes it would be five cubes (assuming a typical 4g cube).

Using the 100g indicator is the easiest way to compare products to work out which has the lower sugar content – the portion size often varies between products!

Put the figure into context: servings and health guidance

Of course the product serving plays a role here – if you consume a 200g serving of the product illustrated above you’d need to double the amount of sugar you are eating.  So you’d actually be consuming 1.4g of sugar.  While this is still a very small amount, ff you are adding up the amount of sugar you eat in the day it may become more significant.

For an adult, the UK guidance is a maximum of 30g per day, for a child age between 7 and 10 years the maximum guidance is 24g per day.  So our 200g product serving containing 1.4g sugar, is 4.7% of our daily recommended maximum (or 5.8% of a child’s intake).

How many things will you eat in the day containing sugar?  How quickly will those things add up to or beyond the recommended serving of sugar?  Do you give your child the same portion size that you would have of the product?

A couple of notes above labels

It is important to note here that you should not assume the portion size included on labels (especially on the front of products).  The portion is often smaller than people would expect.  For example, how many of you have a whole tin of soup in a single sitting?  The portion size info only relates to half the tin, so you need to double it when you have the whole tin!

Also, the “Sugars” information on UK labels, unless otherwise indicated, is the total amount of sugar in the food.  This includes naturally occurring sugar and not just the added sugar, which is the main focus of this article.

A note on sweeteners

While there continue to be studies into the health benefits of sweeteners, there are many that now indicate that they are not without their problems.  Of course, there are so many different sweeteners and studies, to go into this will require its own lengthy post.  So instead, I’m simply adding a couple things to this post for you to think about before you change to a product containing artificial sweeteners instead of sugar:

  • How much of the product do you consume?
  • How important is that item to your diet?
  • Is there a suitable alternative for your meal, snack or drink?