Toggle mobile menu visibility

Beware of hidden offenders

For some types of foods, it's easy to see if they're a healthy choice to eat, like fruit and vegetables. There are some foods though, that can have hidden amounts of unhelpful ingredients like sugars, fats and salts.

If you don't know about these 'hidden offenders', you might be eating more sugars, fats and salts than you realise. This means you're undoing some of the good work you're doing by trying to eat more healthily.

The recommended amount of added sugar you should be having per day is 30g for an adult, about 7 sugar cubes. 'Added sugars' mean sources of sugar which don't occur naturally in foods. These are added during the preparation or packaging of food.

The recommended amount of salt you should be having per day is 6g for an adult, or about 1 teaspoon.

See  What is healthy eating: the Eatwell Guide for more information.

The NHS also has some further information about foods high in added sugars and salt.

To learn more about how to spot these offenders like sugar, fats and salts, see our guide to reading food labels.

Below is a list of some common 'hidden offender' foods.

Foods that can have hidden amounts of added sugar and salt

Fizzy, carbonated drinks

Most people know cola has sugar in it, but it might surprise you to know just how much.

One 500ml bottle of cola (the bottles often sold as part of lunch meal deals) has as much as 17 cubes of sugar.


Fruit yoghurts

Many dairy-based foods also contain high amounts of sugar and fats. This includes fruit yoghurts.

Be aware that 'lower fat' versions of foods like yoghurts often make up for taste by adding extra sugar. Sugar and fat tend to make foods taste good.


Flavoured milks (including milkshakes)

These can also have surprisingly high amounts of sugar in them.

One 400ml bottle of flavoured milk (the size of a standard lunch box carton) can contain as much as 9 cubes of sugar.


Fruit juice, cordial or squash

Most of the added sugars we have tend to come from our non-alcoholic drinks. Fruit juice or fruit drinks are another source of high amounts of added sugar.

Fruit contains natural, non-added sugars. But pressing the fruit to make juice releases more added sugar.

This is why fruit juice or fruit drinks are often higher in sugars than fruit alone.


Pre-made sauces

Many pre-made sauces, such as ketchup (tomato sauce), pasta and curry sauces or salad cream are savoury, but they have high levels of added sugars.

You could try making you own tomato based pasta sauce - try this recipe from Slimming World.

Pasta sauces and ketchup can also have high amounts of salt as well as added sugars within them. Soy sauce is a particularly big offender for salt.



Many types of crisps contain sugar either in their flavouring or within the crisp itself.

Snacks without added flavourings are healthier alternatives. Try unsalted nuts, popcorn, or pretzels.



A lot of people do not include alcohol when thinking about their daily sugar and calorie intake.

Wine can have as many calories and as much sugar as chocolate.


Breads and breakfast cereals

These can contribute a lot of salt to our diet. It's not because they are high in salt but because we tend to eat a lot of these types of food.

Pickled or preserved food

These are foods like anchovies, olives, and gherkins. Salt is an ingredient used to pickle and preserve these foods so they last for longer.

Foods like olives can also have some health benefits as they are a fruit. This is why it's important to consume a range of products and remember not all 'healthy' products are quite the same.


Processed meats

Bacon, sausages, salami and ham also have high amounts of salt added to them too.

You should eat foods such as these less frequently and in small amounts.


What's next

If you're ready, start taking action to eat healthier.