Following on from my last blog ‘Eight reasons to quit sugar’, this next blog of the series has advice on how to avoid added sugar. Feel free to share your own tips and experiences!
Why should we reduce sugar consumption?
Britain has the second worst obesity levels in Europe, with six in ten adults classified as obese. The obesity crisis is so bad it is set to overtake smoking as the leading cause of cancer. Reducing sugar consumption is a key part of tackling obesity and an effective way to improve health.
“Children and adults consume more than double the amount of recommended added sugars per day. Teenagers are even worse, at more than three times the recommended amount.”
Figures from the latest National Diet and Nutrition Survey published in September 2016 paint a worrying picture of our sugar consumption as a nation. Children and adults consume more than double the amount of recommended added sugars per day. Teenagers are even worse, at more than three times the recommended amount.
So how much sugar is too much?
Below are the NHS recommended daily intakes for added sugar, but remember – it’s a limit, not a target!
- Children aged 4-6 years:
19g (equivalent to 5 cubes or teaspoons of sugar)
- Children aged 7-10 years:
24g (equivalent to 6 cubes or teaspoons of sugar)
- Children over 11 years old and adults:
30g (equivalent to 7 cubes or teaspoons of sugar)
Check whether sugar is listed as an ingredient on the label – this tells you if sugar has been added. Ingredients are listed in descending order of weight, so the nearer sugar is to the beginning, the more there is in there. Next, look at ‘Total Sugars per 100g’, under ‘Carbohydrates’ on the nutritional information label to get an idea of the amount of sugars contained in the product. Less than 5g of sugar is low and over 22.5g sugar per 100g is considered high.
Other names for sugar are numerous – there are in fact more than 60 different names that added sugar can hide under! In particular, look out for anything with the word ‘syrup’, ‘sugar’ or any word ending in ‘ose’ such as glucose. Here are some of the more common ones:
Invert syrup, agave syrup, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, maltose, fruit juice concentrate, molasses, treacle, caramel, isoglucose, crystalline sucrose and nectars.
For a comprehensive list, here is a link to the British Heart Foundation website:
Eight tips to avoid sugar
- Read the label! Check if there is sugar on the ingredients list, then look at the amount of sugar per 100g. Try to avoid products that have sugar listed in their ingredients.
- Stop adding sugar to tea and coffee, cereals and porridge (check your cereal doesn’t have added sugar). Add bananas or berries to cereals and porridge if extra sweetness is required.
- Replace sugary condiments such as tomato ketchup with alternatives such as mayonnaise, mustard, green pesto or soy sauce. Make your own salad dressings using olive oil, apple cider vinegar and a squeeze of lemon juice.
- Avoid ready-meals and pre-made sauces – try to cook from scratch whenever possible. A tin of tomatoes, some mixed herbs and a jar of green pesto goes a long way to creating a simple and delicious, tomato-based sauce.
- Alcoholic drinks can be surprisingly high in sugar, as are the obvious culprits such as soft drinks, fruit juices and cordials. Replace with DIY flavoured waters – use mint, ginger and lemon for refreshing drinks. Dilute fruit juice 50/50 with water or try herbal teas that have no added sugar but come in a variety of flavours and make a great drink for children also.
- Swap added-sugar-laden fruit yoghurts for plain yoghurt, and add your own fruit, cinnamon, chopped nuts, etc.
- Keep a good supply of non-sugary snacks handy. Try rice or corn cakes with butter, nuts roasted in coconut oil and cinnamon, bombay mix, fruit, dark chocolate if you really need it (it’s very low in sugar and hard to eat a lot of!), or a hard boiled egg is an excellent traveller!
- If making a recipe that uses sugar, cut the amount in half. As you reduce sugar in the diet, your taste buds will adjust, needing less sweetness to get the same effect.
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