How do I read a food label for sugar?

As well as observing the ingredients list, go into the specifics of how much sugar is in the item by finding ‘total carbohydrates’ on the label and then find the line that reads ‘of which are sugars’* under the column ‘100 grams’ 

As a guide, per 100 grams of product,  

  • a high amount of total sugars is anything over 22.5 grams,  

  • a medium amount is 5g-22.5 grams and  

  • a low amount would be 5 grams or under  


Another great tip is to look in the ‘per serving’ column and find the ‘of which are sugars’ line. Divide this number by four to get a rough estimate of the number of teaspoons of sugar in each serving. You may be shocked and surprised at just how many teaspoons of sugar are in some of the regular products you put in your shopping basket, including yoghurts, sauces or energy bars that are labelled as healthy.  


*The column ‘of which are sugars’ does not separate hidden sugars (which manufacturers add) from intrinsic sugars (naturally occurring sugars already present in the food), which are not so much of a problem. An example would be an unsweetened Greek yoghurt (which contains these ‘intrinsic sugars’) which might show 6 g of sugar. It is important to look at the list of ingredients and to check where that sugar is coming from. If the ingredients list is skimmed milk or lactose, this is not ‘added sugar. Similarly, a portion of fruit salad can contain 20g of total sugars, but these are all naturally present within the cellular structure of the fruit (rather than added) so they can be viewed as more natural and, therefore, as having less of an impact on your health than added sugars, as long as not consumed in large amounts.   


What are healthier alternatives when a sugar craving hits?

  • Fresh fruit (such as apple slices with peanut or almond butter spread on top) 

  • Nuts and seeds (with dried fruit) 

  • Greek yoghurt with seeds or berries on top 

  • Homemade low sugar banana bread  

  • A few squares of dark chocolate 

  • Grapes with cheese 

  • A healthy flapjack (read the label for sugar content or, better still, make your own!) 

  • A homemade smoothie 

  • Peanut butter spread on brown bread 

  • A handful of dates 


Learn more about healthy eating when you have arthritis, and other helpful self-management techniques by signing up to one of our Living Well with Arthritis courses.