When it comes to making healthier food choices, one of the best things you can do for your overall health (and your waistline) is cut back on sugar.
Obvious sweet treats like cookies, cakes, and soda are easy enough to pick out and avoid, but what about the secret sugar bombs lurking in your “healthy” meals and snacks? Many seemingly diet-conscious salads, smoothies, and sauces contain more sugar than a can of soda. If you really want to work on slashing the sweet stuff from your diet, take a peek at these deceptive menu choices—all of which have more sugar than a can of Coke (39 grams)—to learn what items you need to avoid the next time you’re choosing a drink, snack, or meal.
1. Smoothie King’s Caribbean Way Smoothie
1 smoothie (20 oz): 380 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 10 mg sodium, 97 g carbs (4 g fiber, 83 g sugar), 1 g protein
This fruit-based beverage may sound innocent enough, but even its smallest size contains more sugar than two cans of Coke. In order to get that tropical taste, Smoothie King combines bananas and a papaya juice blend and throws in some turbinado sugar to sweeten the deal. Bananas and papayas both have quite a bit of natural sweetness and condensing them into liquid form (plus adding more sugar) means multiple fruit servings worth of sugar, all blended into one ominous cup.
2. Dunkin Donuts Vanilla Chai Latte
1 medium latte (14 oz):340 calories, 9 g fat (7 g saturated fat), 160 mg sodium, 56 g carbs (0 g fiber, 49 g sugar), 10 g protein
Chai lattes are deceptive. While the spicy tea variety itself is filled with antioxidants, lattes made with concentrated syrup are an entirely different story. The first ingredient listed in Dunkin Donuts’ Vanilla Chai Powder is sugar, so it’s no wonder that even a modestly-sized latte has close to 50 grams of the stuff.
3. Au Bon Pain Blueberry Yogurt and Wild Blueberry Parfait
1 parfait (10.2 oz):380 calories, 10 g fat (4 g saturated fat), 170 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (3 g fiber, 48 g sugar), 11 g protein
Blueberries are a bonafide superfood but the only thing super about this blueberry parfait is its sugar content. Au Bon Pain’s blueberry yogurt is sweetened with corn syrup and their granola contains both brown sugar and maple syrup, all of which account for the parfait’s cavity-inducing amount of sugar.
4. P.F. Chang’s Stir-Fried Eggplant
1 entree:480 calories, 23 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 3,730 mg sodium, 65 g carbs (9 g fiber, 41 g sugar), 7 g protein
Most in-the-know dieters are quick to avoid sweet and sour chicken and General Tso’s because they are high in sugar, but what about eggplant? AT P.F. Chang’s, this usually healthful vegetable gets coated in a sauce with over 40 grams of sugar, as well as 23 grams of fat. Stick to the steamed version of Budha’s Feast if you want to slash calories, sugar, and fat in one fell swoop.
5. P.F. Chang’s Walnut Shrimp with Melon
1 entree:1,410 calories, 112 g fat (18 g saturated fat), 1,340 mg sodium, 71 g carbs (13 g fiber, 49 g sugar), 34 g protein
Each of the namesake ingredients in this dish is super healthy, but unfortunately combining them into this entree is a major diet don’t. One serving contains close to 50 grams of sugar and well over 1,000 calories, which is exactly what you want to avoid if you’re trying to diet. Even if weight loss is not your goal, no one needs the kind of major blood sugar spike and crash that will come from polishing off this innocent-sounding dish.
6. Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Salad
1 entree:1,420 calories, 99 g fat (15 g saturated fat), 1,530 mg sodium, 96 g carbs (11 g fiber, 42 g sugar), 39 g protein
Salads are often a healthy option, but this is the last thing you want to pick if you are trying to eat light. While breaded chicken and crispy noodles aren’t doing this dish any favors, the main problem with this meal is the sugar-laden dressing. No other salad on Applebee’s menu has close to the same high sugar content, so be sure to avoid the oriental chicken at all costs.
7. Naked Juice Mighty Mango
1 bottle:290 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 20 mg sodium, 68 g carbs (0 g fiber, 57 g sugar), 2 g protein
Eating an entire mango, nearly 2 apples, half an orange, and a third of a banana in one sitting seems close to impossible, but that’s what you’re getting when you suck down one of these smoothies. Even though the ingredients themselves are wholesome, no one needs this much fruit sugar at once.
8. Jamba Juice’s Acai Primo Bowl
1 bowl:490 calories, 10 g fat (3 g saturated fat), 40 mg sodium, 99 g carbs (11 g fiber, 67 g sugar), 8 g protein
Acai bowls may be a buzzy food trend, but many come with quite a high-sugar price tag and Jamba Juice’s version is no exception. Honey, granola, bananas, and the acai juice blend itself all play a role in upping the sweetness factor of this bowl, which contains nearly 70 grams of sugar.
9. Red Mango Citrus Mango Greens Smoothie
1 smoothie (24 oz):250 calories, 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 40 mg sodium, 60 g carbs (6 g fiber, 46 g sugar), 5 g protein
Opting for a smoothie made with veggies doesn’t guarantee a low sugar content. Even though this beverage from Red Mango is made with plenty of spinach, it is also blended with orange juice, bananas, and mangos, all of which are high in sugar.
10. TGI Friday’s Pecan Crusted Chicken Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
1 salad:1,220 calories, 84 g fat (19 g saturated fat), 1,770 mg sodium, 82 g carbs (10 g fiber, 52 g sugar), 40 g protein
Another innocent-sounding salad that really isn’t so innocent after all. The combination of dried cranberries, glazed pecans, and orange slices all contribute to the salad’s sweetness. Once again, a generous coating of dressing accounts for a great portion of the entree’s 52 grams of sugar.
11. Jamba Juice’s Matcha Green Tea Blast
1 small (16 oz):300 calories, 0 g fat (0 g saturated fat), 220 mg sodium, 64 g carbs (1 g fiber, 57 g sugar), 10 g protein
Matcha is rich in antioxidants, but this is by far the worst way to get your green tea fix. Even if you order the smallest size, you’re looking at 300 calories and 57 grams of sugar. In order to create a tea blast, matcha powder is blended with sweetened soymilk and frozen yogurt, making this drink a glorified milkshake in disguise.
12. Chili’s Caribbean Salad
1 salad:540 calories, 23 g fat (3.5 g saturated fat), 340 mg sodium, 80 g carbs (8 g fiber, 66 g sugar), 5 g protein
Add this to your list of salads to avoid. Chili’s island-inspired salad contains super-sweet fruits such as pineapple, dried cranberries, and mandarin oranges, all of which are topped off with a saccharine honey lime dressing.
13. Red Lobster’s Sweet Chili Shrimp
1 entree:1,100 calories, 76 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 1,970 mg sodium, 77 g carbs (3 g fiber, 48 g sugar), 27 g protein
On their own, shrimp is a low-calorie way to pack in lots of protein. But after getting battered, deep-fried, and doused in a spicy sweet chili sauce, these shellfish are a dietary nightmare. Steer clear of this entree, which contains close to 50 grams of sugar as well as over 1,000 calories.
14. California Pizza Kitchen Waldorf Salad
1 full portion:1,320 calories, 94 g fat (22 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 2,020 mg sodium, 75 g carbs (10 g fiber, 55 g sugar), 54 g protein
Yet another salad shocker, this bowl of greens contains well over 50 grams of sugar. Between the candied walnuts, apples, grapes, and Dijon balsamic dressing, it’s no wonder this salad is nowhere near as virtuous as it may appear.
15. California Pizza Kitchen Thai Crunch Salad
1 full portion:1,180 calories, 73 g fat (9 g saturated fat, 1 g trans fat), 1,710 mg sodium, 88 g carbs (14 g fiber, 51 g sugar), 55 g protein
The Waldorf salad is not the only secret sugar bomb at California Pizza Kitchen. The Thai Crunch salad is a close runner-up when it comes to an excessive sugar content in a seemingly innocent salad. Most of the danger here lies in the salad’s abundant helping of sweet Thai peanut dressing. If you must order this, be sure to get the dressing on the side so you can reduce the amount of sugar you’re consuming.