Nine steps to re­duc­ing your su­gar in­take

Wor­ried you’re con­sum­ing too much sweet stuff? Liz Connor asks the ex­perts for ad­vice on cut­ting down sen­si­bly

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - Health -

SU­GAR has be­come pub­lic en­emy num­ber one over re­cent years, as the alarm­ing amounts of the sweet stuff we un­wit­tingly con­sume has come to light.

We’ve had it drummed into us since child­hood that su­gar is ter­ri­ble for our teeth, but eat­ing too much added su­gar is also as­so­ci­ated with a whole host of health prob­lems, like obe­sity and an in­creased risk of heart dis­ease and type 2 di­a­betes.

“The rec­om­mended limit for adults is 30g of free su­gar per day, for chil­dren aged seven to 10 it’s 24g per day, and for chil­dren aged four to six, it’s 19g per day,” says GP Pru­dence Knight.

Free sug­ars are those added to foods or found in syrup, honey or fruit juice and smooth­ies, and don’t in­clude the nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring sug­ars we con­sume in things like milk, whole fruits, and veg­eta­bles.

Here, Knight, along with lead­ing nu­tri­tion­ist Rhi­an­non Lambert, share top tips for curb­ing the white stuff for good...

1. Check the back of the pack­ag­ing

“There are a va­ri­ety of foods and drinks on the shelves these days and it is of­ten dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine just how good for us they are,” says Lambert. “For ex­am­ple, a ‘healthy’ drink that may ap­pear to be a good choice, may con­tain 20 or 30g of su­gar per serv­ing.”

She rec­om­mends al­ways check­ing the back of the pack­ag­ing — look un­der ‘car­bo­hy­drate: Of which sug­ars’ on the food la­belling.

“An­other key area to watch out for is condi­ments, as sauces of­ten have a lot of su­gar,” she adds.

2. Check the su­gar con­tent per 100g

Flip over the back of your prod­uct and you’ll find that nu­tri­tion in­for­ma­tion is usu­ally pro­vided per 100g, and it’s some­times noted per por­tion of the food too.

“If you go by the 100g fig­ure, you can eas­ily com­pare the su­gar con­tent of one prod­uct to an­other,” says Lambert. “Many prod­ucts will give you macronu­tri­ents based on ‘por­tion size’, which might only be a quar­ter or half of what you would con­sume.

“From 100g, it’s then usu­ally easy to work out the su­gar con­tent of the whole prod­uct, if it’s not al­ready listed. For ex­am­ple, if there is 5g su­gar per 100g in a 400g con­tainer, that means there’s 20g in the whole prod­uct.”

3. Re-ed­u­cate your palate

The eas­i­est way to kick those perky mid­day choco­late crav­ings at work? Put a block on your sweet tooth out­side of the of­fice.

“Try to re­duce the amount of sweet­en­ers you con­sume,” says Dr Knight. “This can help you get used to less sweet tastes which, in turn, should re­duce your su­gar con­sump­tion.”

4. Look for hid­den sug­ars

“Sug­ars can be la­belled in more than one way,” says Lambert, “and if you’re not fa­mil­iar with them, you may not re­alise you’re eat­ing them.”

Nec­tar, dex­trose, fruc­tose and mo­lasses are all ex­am­ples of sug­ars un­der dif­fer­ent guises — so keep an eye on the in­gre­di­ents list and, if in doubt, a quick Google check should clar­ify.

5. Keep fruit juice and smooth­ies to 150ml or less each day

There’s noth­ing bet­ter than a cold glass of OJ in the morn­ing, but overindulging on break­fast juices is an easy way to go well over the rec­om­mended su­gar in­take be­fore you’ve even left the house.

“While they do con­tain vi­ta­mins and min­er­als, it’s easy to over con­sume juices, and they’re ter­ri­ble for your teeth due to the com­bi­na­tion of high acid and su­gar lev­els,” says Knight. She rec­om­mends drink­ing no more than a 150ml serv­ing a day.

6. Choose low-su­gar al­ter­na­tives

Opt­ing for a low-su­gar al­ter­na­tive is the sim­plest way of cut­ting down your daily in­take.

“If you switch an 85g pot of fruit fro­mage frais for plain Greek yo­ghurt sweet­ened with chopped fruit, you’ll save 10g of su­gar, which is half the daily rec­om­mended amount for a six-year-old,” says Knight. “Mean­while, stan­dard tomato ketchup has around 23% su­gar, but you could eas­ily switch this for a re­duced or su­gar-free ver­sion in­stead.”

7. Re­think your snacks

Ev­ery­one needs a snack be­tween meals oc­ca­sion­ally — but too many sug­ary treats can eas­ily start to add up.

“Snack foods such as pro­tein bars of­ten con­tain added sug­ars and ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers,” warns Lambert. For a nu­tri­tious and cheap pick-me-up, she sug­gests grab­bing a hand­ful of nuts and a ba­nana in­stead.

8. Say good­bye to fizzy drinks

“Many fizzy drinks have a lot of added su­gar,” says Knight. “In fact, a can of cola has 35g of added su­gar, which is more than the rec­om­mended limit for an adult.”

She rec­om­mends switch­ing your high-calo­rie fizzy drinks for wa­ter, tea or diet drinks, which con­tain no added su­gar.

9. Make small man­age­able changes over time

Fi­nally, it’s cru­cial to think of quit­ting su­gar as a grad­ual process, rather than a habit you’re go­ing to quash overnight. Many of us are un­know­ingly ad­dicted to su­gar, which makes it a dif­fi­cult cy­cle to break free from.

“Start small,” says Knight, “this way, you’re more likely to stick to your changes, than throw­ing out all of your old habits then get­ting fed up af­ter a week.”

TASTY TREATS: Sug­ary delights like glazed dough­nuts may be tempt­ing but con­sum­ing too many sweet things can lead to a host of health prob­lems.

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