Is your sugar intake sickeningly sweet? A surprising amount of us exceed our recommended daily allowance and are completely unaware of doing so.
The National Sugar Smart Campaign
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How much sugar is too much?
Experts have stated current sugar consumption needs to be halved to reduce obesity, diabetes and dental decay.
- Sugar consumption has doubled over the past 30 years.
- Tooth decay and resultant tooth extractions on children are rising.
- Nearly 10% of children in their first year of school in England are obese.
What you really need to know is...
What is the recommended daily sugar intake?
- For adults and teens - 7 teaspoons/30g daily
- Older children - 6 teaspoons/24g daily
- Small children - 5 teaspoons/19g daily
For the big tea drinkers among you, it's easy to see how a few sugary cups of tea can lead you to exceed the RDA.
It's essential to understand:
Which foods are high in sugar?
Sugar in its pure form is relatively easy to keep track of, but what about 'hidden sugars?'
Common sense (and our tastebuds) tell us that biscuits, chocolate and sweets are full of the sweet stuff, but in other foods, sugar can be surprisingly difficult to distinguish.
You may be shocked to find out how much sugar is lurking in your 'healthy' cereal, yoghurts and condiments. Even savoury food, which most of us would assume to be sugar-free, can have a high sugar content.
If you REALLY want to be sure...
...it's always best to check the packaging and nutritional info. Bare in mind your RDA, and make educated choices accordingly.
Are all sugars the same?
Absolutely not. Sugars are extremely complex things, and come in many different forms.
Some have additional nutritional value and have a lesser impact on our blood sugar levels - these are considered much more beneficial. To simplify things, it's easier to split sugars into two groups.
What are free sugars?
Free sugars are the sugariest kind of sugars. They include sugar added to foods by the manufacturer, as well as pure forms of sugar such as honey, fruit juices and syrup.
If you want to be healthier, opt for:
Naturally occurring sugars
Naturally occurring sugars are those found in whole fruit and vegetables and dairy products. They're much more beneficial to the body, as they come with other nutritional benefits. This also makes them more easily digestible.
So, you want to be naturally sweet?
6 sugar smart swaps to make for a naturally sweeter you
Cutting down on sugar doesn't have to suck. Now you know more about sugar, and more importantly, your sugar allowance, keeping track of your intake will be much easier.
It's all a matter of making educated choices: always try and opt for foods that are low in sugar, and when you do want a sugary hit, go natural.
To help you get started, here are 6 sugar smart swaps you can start making today.
1. How to make healthy cakes
If you're serious about cutting the sugar, I'm afraid traditional Victoria Sponge is strictly off the menu.
There are, however, many other, low-sugar, healthy bakes you can try. Lots of recipes out there now omit refined sugar entirely, instead using bananas to sweeten and bind.
Unsweetened Caroline has loads of amazing, sugar-free recipes. Her Sugar-Free Cardomon Blueberry Muffins are particular favourites of ours!
2. How much sugar is in my cereal?
It may shock you to discover just how much sugar is hiding in your cereal. Nestlé recommends a portion size of 30-45g for adults. Choose 'Clusters' for your breakfast, and you could be starting the day with 9.9g of sugar - more than your RDA! Add milk, a few berries or a banana, and it's clear to see how easy it is to overdose on sugar for breakfast.
Looking for a sugar smart swap?
We recommend always checking the label, to ensure your cereal contains no added sugars. Watch out, these could be in the form of:
- Hydrolysed starch
- Agave nectar
- Corn syrup
- Rice malt syrup
- Golden syrup
Sugar-safe cereals include Shredded Wheat (0.9g sugar/100g), Weetabix ( 4.4g sugar/100g) and of course, the old faithful, porridge oats (1.1g sugar/100g).
3. Is dried fruit bad for you?
The benefits of dried fruit are often debated. Whilst gram for gram, they are much more calorie-dense than fresh fruit, they are also more nutritious.
As with most things though, the type of dried fruit you choose to snack on is important.
Raisins are OK, but if you want to really pack a punch, prunes are your best bet. Gram for gram, they are lower in sugar and also contain more fibre, aiding digestion.
Prunes are also very rich, which is sure to satisfy that sweet tooth!
The key to cutting down on sugar is easier than you think...
4. Is chocolate healthy?
It'll come as no surprise that chocolate is extremely high in sugar. Sugar makes up more than half of Dairy Milk's contents (56g/100g).
Enjoying a standard, 45g bar just a few times a week will really up your sugar intake, and your body and mind will pay the price for it.
If you're not quite ready to give up the chocolate just yet (and after all, who can blame you), why not give dark chocolate a go?
Chocolate with a cocoa contents of 70% or more will not only reduce your sugar intake by almost half, but benefit you in lots of other surprising ways too.
Discover how eating the RIGHT kind of chocolate can benefit you today in our other blog post.
5. Are flavoured yoghurts healthy?
Think plain yoghurt is horrible? We've got something even more horrible to reveal to you: flavoured yoghurts often contain more than three-times the sugar of plain. What's more, unlike plain yoghurt, flavoured yoghurt sugars are free sugars, i.e, provide little-to-no nutritional benefits.
Instead of opting for a yoghurt full of refined, added sugar, it's much better to make your own concoction. Start with plain yoghurt, and add some toppings for that 'sweet' kick. We like to sprinkle on a few blueberries (full of antioxidants and only naturally-occurring sugars) and almonds - delicious!
Could snacking be your downfall? Time to find out...
6. Which is the healthiest biscuit?
If you really want to reduce your sugar intake, it's important to consider all aspects of your eating habits. Lots of people eat very healthy, balanced meals, but find themselves snacking on high-sugar, processed foods in between - is this your downfall?
If your biscuit of choice happens to be a Fox's Chocolate Shortcake Ring, it's bad news. Just one biscuit and you'll have obliterated that 7g RDA (each one contains 8.2g/sugar).
If your favourite happens to be a classic McVitie's Digestive, you're in luck! These contain 2.4g of sugar/biscuit which, whilst still isn't ideal, is much improved on the former.
Our recommendation is to skip the biscuits all together in favour of something a little healthier. A small handful of nuts are surprisingly filling, and full of nutrients including protein and healthy fats. They contain very few sugars too - good news for your sugar intake!
Do you make a conscious effort to regulate your sugar intake? Let us know some of your favoruite low-sugar tips in the comments below.