5 tips to cut down on sugar
Sugar has certainly been a hot topic of debate in nutrition in recent years which has led to increasing concern and confusion about sugar in the diet. The sugar debate is not a new concept but in 2015 the World Health Organisation (WHO) updated guidelines recommending that ‘free’ or added sugars should be less than 10% of total calorie intake with a view to reducing this figure to be less than 5% of total calorie intake. No wonder people are suddenly unsure about what sugar they can or cannot have.
Firstly break it down…sugars come from Carbohydrates. Carbohydrates include starchy foods like potatoes and rice and also refined carbohydrates like sugar and honey. Almost all of the carbohydrates we eat will ultimately be converted into glucose, which is the bodies preferred source of fuel. In fact the brain can only use glucose as a fuel source. So what we need to focus on is taking less added sugars and choosing the healthier forms of carbohydrates in the right portion size!
Understanding the difference between natural and added sugars is important. Natural sugars are those that occur naturally in the food e.g. lactose is the natural sugar in milk and fructose in the natural sugar in fruit and vegetables. These foods are important foods in our diets and offer lots of nutritional benefits. The WHO guideline is not referring to these types of sugars. Added or ‘free’ sugars are the sugars that are added to a food either in production or by us. These sugars can include table sugar, glucose, sucrose, honey, syrup, agave nectar and more. Once they have been added to the food they are considered a ‘free sugar’. These are the ones we need to reduce in our diets.
Focus on including lots of wholegrains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins in your diet. By choosing healthier foods to include everyday and limiting treats your overall diet will become healthy and balanced. Avoid sugary drinks and offer your family milk or water with meals.
5 Tips to cut down on sugar
- Be Sugar savvy! Start reading the back of packs. All the nutritional information (including the sugar content) is on the back of every pack. Take a second to read this before putting the item into your basket.
- Beware of artificial sweeteners. They may not contain the same calorie load as sugar but they can condition the palate to crave sweet food and they are unnatural ingredients.
- Portion control. It’s very hard to go cold turkey on sweet things so instead of having a full chocolate bar or bag of sweets, go funsize!
- Cut down on fizzy drinks. Drink sparkling water with fruit added for flavour. Save the fizzy drinks for treats.
- Switch out sweets & chocolate snacks with more savoury and healthier options such as a handful of nuts, some vegetable sticks or a rice cake.