Sneaky sugars are lurking in your food. Here’s how to spot them.

Sugar has lost its sweetness.

Diets and eating plans that banish the substance have become prevalent across Australia, with many celebrity chefs jumping on the bandwagon to release sugar free cookbooks.

But the question is, are these diets really as unsweetened as they seem?

Apparently not, according to GI Foundation Chief scientific officer Dr Alan Barclay, who called out celebrity chefs for peddling misleading information earlier this year. In particular, he took issue with 24-year-old Melbourne health blogger Kate Bradley and her then newly released cookbook Kenko Kitchen. The book became surrounded by controversy after experts disputed her claims that all of her recipes were sugar-free.

In 33 of her recipes, Bradley recommended several alternatives for sugar including maple syrup, coconut sugar and rice malt syrup – all of which include sugar. “We are seeing again an unqualified celebrity author making false claims and misleading people,” Dr Barclay told media. “These alternatives are still sugars, some of some of which are worse than table sugar in terms of calories and GI.”

Dr Barclay also identified cookbooks like TV chef Pete Evans’ Family Food and former MasterChef presenter Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar as misleadingly ‘sugar-free’. Other’s include nutritionist Lola Berry’s Happy Cookbook and My Kitchen Rules stars Luke and Scott’s Clean Living Paleo. Across all five books, a total of 151 recipes use sugar alternatives like rice malt syrup, molasses, maple syrup, honey or coconut sugar – all of which can be worse than normal sugar.

According to the Department of Health, food labels and recipe books can display nutrition claims which may be misleading. Deciphering the ingredients and looking at the nutrition information panel on products is the best way to make an informed choice and not get tricked into eating sneaky sugar.


Low Fat: Contains less than 3g fat per 100g.

Diet: The product has been artificially sweetened.

Reduced Fat/Salt: Contains at least 25 per cent less fat or salt than the regular product.

Light OR Lite: May be used to describe texture, colour, flavour. The product does not necessarily contain less fat or sugar.

No Added Sugar: No sugar is added to the product during production. The product could still be naturally high in sugar eg. fruit juice or dried fruit.

All natural: Generally indicates no artificial colourings, flavourings or preservatives have been added to the product. It may still be high in fat, sugar and/or salt.

It is important to remember that the term sugar is often replaced with artificial sweeteners, usually to make food appear healthier.

Common tricky names used for sugary ingredients include brown rice syrup, barley, malt, caramel, fructose, fruit juice concentrate, and anything involving corn syrup.

The many names for sugar include:

  • Agave nectar/syrup
  • Barley malt
  • Beet sugar
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Brown sugar
  • Cane sugar
  • Carob syrup
  • Caster sugar
  • Coconut sugar
  • Coffee sugar crystals
  • Confectioner’s sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Date sugar/syrup
  • Demerara
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Glucose
  • Golden syrup
  • Grape sugar/syrup
  • High-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • Honey
  • Icing sugar
  • Invert sugar
  • Lactose
  • Malt
  • Maltose
  • Maple syrup
  • Molasses
  • Muscovado
  • Palm sugar
  • Panela
  • Powdered sugar
  • Rapadura
  • Raw sugar
  • Rice syrup
  • Sucrose
  • Sugar
  • Treacle
  • Turbinado
  • White sugar

Do you think food labels should be clearer? Have your say in the comments below!