20 Jan, 2020 Last updated: 10 Mar, 2021

Malt, dextrose or fructose - a sugar by any other name would taste as sweet.

Author: VicHealth works with health promotion experts to create a Victoria where everyone can enjoy better health and wellbeing.

Any information mentioned is accurate at the time this article was first published (20 January 2020).


Soft-drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, sports drinks, sweetened iced tea, flavoured water or cordial – the options are endless.  But with at least 40 different names for sugar on drinks labels, the drinks industry is making it hard for us to know just how much added sugar is packed into in our favourite thirst-quenchers.


Did you know sugar isn’t always called 'sugar' in an ingredients list? It could be called at least 40 other things. As a general rule, anything with the words 'paste', 'juice', 'syrup', 'cane' or, of course, 'sugar' should raise a red flag.

Here’s a few of the more common names for sugar found on food labels in Australia:

  • Fruit paste, juice, concentrate or extract (look for specific fruits, too)
  • Cane, raw, brown or invert sugar
  • Corn or golden syrup
  • Honey
  • Dextrose or Multidextrose
  • Disaccharides
  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Lactose
  • Malt or Malt extract
  • Molasses
  • Sorbitol
  • Sucrose

The way drinks are labelled doesn’t help anyone trying to cut down on sugar and avoid storing excess calories, and commonly there’s quite a lot of hidden sugars in every sip.

For example, in a 600mL bottle of standard soft-drink, there are about 16 teaspoons of sugar. That’s like adding four sugars to your coffee! So one sugary drink every day quickly adds up.

While drinks labels remain murky territory, here’s some tips to help you from drinking added sugar unawares.


3 tips to help you cut down on sugary drinks

1. After something extra sweet?

Woman holding a bowl of strawberries

Grab a piece of fruit - it will be hydrating and nutritious while adding extra fibre to your diet.


2. Dreaming about sweetened iced tea?

Glass of peppermint tea

Replace it with a herbal tea like peppermint tea.


3. Longing for fizz?

Lemon in sparkling water

Try adding some lemon juice to sparkling water.