Foods You Don’t Expect to Contain Artificial Sweeteners

Written By: Sofia Layarda, RD

Last Updated on:

Many of us have the best of intentions when it comes to eating well, so it is surprising to find that some seemingly healthy foods include artificial sweeteners in their ingredients. We went exploring down the grocery aisle recently, and here’s what we found:

Five Surprises: Five Healthy-Sounding Foods with Artificial Sweeteners

  1. Breakfast cereal

    fiber_one_cerealHaving breakfast certainly sets you up right for the rest of the day, but did you know some breakfast cereals contain artificial sweeteners? For example, Fiber One Original from General Mills contains aspartame. Take away the aspartame, and the cereal looks pretty decent, since it does contain some whole grains, it’s high in fiber, and it’s fortified with B vitamins and some minerals (iron, zinc, and calcium).

  2. Popcorn

    Yes, popcorn counts as whole grain, but many popcorn products out there also come coated with trans fat. Now it turns out there are products that use artificial sweeteners as well, such as Go Lightly Sugar-Free popcorn. While there may be a place for artificial sweeteners for someone with diabetes who is watching their sugar intake, it is not clear how artificial sweeteners benefit an average healthy individual.

  3. Yogurt

    Dannon’s Light & Fit line uses sucralose in combination with acesulfame potassium or ace-K. Your best bet when it comes to yogurt is to purchase plain unflavored yogurt, and sweeten it yourself. Or better yet, make a yogurt smoothie using fresh fruits.

  4. Light or diet beverages

    Not surprisingly, this category is where we find the most products with artificial sweeteners (mostly sucralose, sometimes in combination with acesulfame potassium or ace-K). No, we are not talking about diet sodas. Instead, examples here include drink mixes such as Ocean Spray On the Go, Crystal Light flavor packs, and “light” juice drinks such as Minute Maid Light Orange Juice Beverage.

    Get used to satisfying your thirst with plain water. If you want flavor, you can always add a splash of 100% fruit juice to plain or sparkling water. Other options include lime, lemon, or cucumber slices in water. If you like teas, brew up a pot of a flavored variety (tea bags or loose tea leaves) that uses interesting ingredients such as vanilla, dried rose hips, dried lavender or dried berries, which often turn out to be very tasty, flavorful beverages that do not require any sweetening.

  5. Snack bars

    We found sucralose in Quaker’s Chewy 25% Less Sugar Granola Bars, another healthy-sounding food that doesn’t turn out to be so healthy upon closer inspection. If you like the taste and texture of granola or other chewy snack bars, try making some at home. If you choose to buy prepackaged, opt for those with simple, recognizable ingredients.

The Bottom Line

It pays to be a label reader! If you are interested in a product, spend a bit of time skimming the ingredient list, particularly if the product is of the “diet” or “light” variety. Companies do not always disclose their use of artificial sweeteners on the big, flashy front label of the product.


acesulfame potassium, artificial sweeteners, grocery aisle, sucralose, sweeteners

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