8 BBQ Foods That Are Ridiculously High In Sugar


If you’re a health conscious guy, you probably think that you know exactly how to avoid sugar. Step one: avoid beer and soda. Simple.

But beverages aside, a traditional barbecue spread features a lot of foods that are surprisingly high in sugar. Classic barbecue condiments, sides, and even buns can come packed with the sweet stuff, says Jim White, R.D.N, an exercise physiologist and owner of Jim White Fitness & Nutrition Studios. The same is often true of store-bought spice rubs and dressings, adds William Duffy, MD, a physician and personalized medicine expert with Penn Medicine.

What’s the problem with sugar? If you’re referring to the type in whole fruits, vegetables, and dairy, there is none. But the added sugars found in many processed and packaged foods have been linked to everything from heart disease and obesity to liver damage. And that’s a problem, considering that the average American consumes roughly 82 grams of sugar a day, according to a report from the University of California, San Francisco — more than double the 39 gram limit recommended by the American Heart Association.

If you’re a fan of summer BBQ foods — and who isn’t? — here are some foods you should watch out for this summer, as well as some healthy alternatives.

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“Believe it or not, traditional buns can be loaded with sugar,” White says. While “loaded” is a relative term, especially on a scale that includes soft drinks, a single bun can pack up to 7 grams of sugar, which is well over a teaspoon, according to the USDA.

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Your favorite summer condiment may look relatively innocuous, but a single tablespoon of Heinz tomato ketchup contains 4 grams of sugar — much of it from high fructose corn syrup.

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The amount of sugar in barbecue varies a ton from sauce to sauce, but thick, tomato-based sauces are likely to be higher in sugar than thinner, vinegar-based ones.

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Baked beans are “just chock-full of sugar,” White says. Take Bush’s Best Original baked beans: we love ‘em, but they pack 12 grams of sugar per ½ cup.

The solution? Make your own baked beans, White says. Try this excellent recipe from Memphis-based Central BBQ. Just go easy on (or cut out) the brown sugar.

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Some popular salad dressings — including, perhaps surprisingly, many ranch-style dressings — are quite low in sugar. But White says many salad dressings in the supermarket contain heaps of sugar — especially low-fat or “light” dressings, which often substitute sugar for fat.

Fortunately, White says a simple blend of olive oil, vinegar, lemon, salt, and black pepper makes for a delicious dressing. Here’s another easy-to-make, no-sugar recipe for a simple vinaigrette.

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It probably won’t come as a surprise to learn that many pre-made, store-bought potato salads are high in sugar. But even if you’re enjoying homemade potato salad, you have to watch out for the relish. Depending on the brand you buy, relish can contain up to 4 grams of sugar per 1-tablespoon serving, according to the USDA.

To cut down on your sugar intake without skimping on your favorite side dish, White advocates a DIY approach. Skip the store-bought potato salads and make your own instead, like this low-sugar option. (Also, skip the relish.)

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While the amount of sugar varies from product to product, many spice rubs “are loaded with salt, sugar and preservatives,” Duffy says.

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Meat marinades can pack a ton of sugar—4 grams or more per serving, in some cases. That’s why White advocates for vinegar-based marinades infused with fresh or dried herbs like rosemary. Not only are they low in sugar, but “vinegar-based marinades help reduce the amount of carcinogens that form during high-heat cooking,” he says. “Adding herbs like rosemary may boost the protection from carcinogens.” Try this simple, no-nonsense marinade recipe.

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