In keeping with the sugar theme, I thought some practical information is called for. There is merit to reducing refined and added sugars. It isn’t just beneficial for your teeth but can reduce you overall calorie intake which in turn helps with weight management. The jury is still out on whether sugary foods and foods with a mix of sugar and fat are addictive but there is evidence that sugar does not affect hormones that tell the brain whether we need to eat or not. But there is no doubt that sweet foods and foods with lots of hidden sugar are going to contribute to calories.
It can be hard to eat less sugar when there is so much sugar hidden in foods where you wouldn’t necessarily expect – a portion of tomato and basil pasta sauce may have 3 teaspoons in an average portion or 6 teaspoons hiding in an average portion of sweet and sour sauce from a jar. We know sweet foods and drinks have sugar but there can be a surprising amount. 8 or 9 teaspoons in a can of cola is a lot – you would never dream of putting that in a cup of tea!
So what can we do to reduce the sugar in the food we eat leaving us to choose when to have a little sugary treat in moderation? Here are a few tips to help reduce the amount of refined and added sugar that you consume:
- Look at labels – words ending in -ose e.g. sucrose, fructose, dextrose etc are all sugars. The higher up the ingredients list they are the bigger proportion of the food they are – you may be surprised how high up the list they can be in savoury products.
- Traffic light labelling can help – look for green or amber and avoid red where you have choice. Swapping to a lower sugar product e.g. breakfast cereal, cans and jars of sauces etc will help to reduce sugar.
- Cooking from scratch more and avoiding prepared sauces and ready meals can remove sugar from your diet. Ensure you have a good stock cupboard, plenty of spices, herbs, canned tomatoes, canned pulses (canned in water), supplies in the freezer etc.
- Gradually reduce the amount of sugar in your tea and coffee. It may seem hard at first but after a few weeks you will get accustomed to the taste and prefer it.
- Try to quench your thirst with water and have sugary drinks (including fruit juices and smoothies) less often, choose drinks that have less sugar. Try to choose less sweet drinks rather than always opting for an artificially sweetened product. If we consume less sweet foods and drinks we can reform that sweet tooth!
- Making cakes at home? You can, for many recipes, reduce the sugar by between a quarter and a third.
A few tips to start with. Hopefully, the campaign Action on Sugar will get industry to do some serious reformulation and reduce the unnecessary sugar as they have with salt. Unfortunately, sugar and syrups are really cheap ingredients so there is little incentive to do so. Market forces help so if the public opt for lower sugar products, like choosing unsweetened breakfast cereals, demand can help push that change. So look at the sugar content of products you buy and compare like for like products and buy those with less sugar. Let’s create the demand. Retailers in particular do respond – market share is so important to their business.