As experts now claim it’s sugar not fat that’s behind our obesity crisis, editor Anna Magee has found some practical ways to eat less of the white stuff, without feeling deprived
What do you eat in a typical day? Cereal for breakfast, soup and juice at lunch, a mid-afternoon cereal bar, pasta with chilli salsa and yoghurt for supper? Believe it or not, that could contain around 60-80 teaspoons of sugar. That’s because an overload of sugar is found not only in cakes, chocolates and treats but also lurking in pasta sauces, ketchups, canned vegetables, beans and even pre-packaged soups. In fact, a Which? study found some ready meals contained as much sugar as ice-cream. Why is this a problem? According to a growing band of doctors and dieticians the excess sugar in our diets – both overt and covert – may be making us overweight also contributing to mood issues and increasing our risks of heart disease and Type-2 diabetes. If you’re looking to cut back on your sugar intake, Healthista have produced some guidelines to help make it relatively painless.
Spot hidden sugars
We consume around 20 teaspoons of sugar a day, about twice what the British Dietetic Association (BDA) says we should which is around ten teaspoons (or 50 grams). That doesn’t even count sugar from fruit and adds up quickly because many sugars are hidden in foods where we least expect them. Here are some examples of everyday foods containing hidden sugars.
- Canned corn ½ teaspoon per 100g
- Ketchup just under 1 teaspoon per tablespoon
- Baked beans 1-2 teaspoons per half can
- Savoury crackers 3 teaspoons per 100 g – about four crackers
- Fruit flavoured yoghurt drink 15 teaspoons per 250ml bottle
2. Read the back
Compare brands and look at sugars per 100g on labels. 15 grams or more per 100 grams is a high sugar food and five grams of sugar per 100 grams or less is a low sugar food according to the BDA.
3. Know sugar’s aliases
Sugar can be disguised as anything ending in –ose. For example maltose, dextrose and fructose are all sugars. It may also be listed as molasses, treacle, high-fructose corn syrup and maldodextrin. Honey, brown sugar and most syrups, even agave nectar that is often touted as a healthy alternative are all sugars.
4. Spot sneaky listing
If sugar is in the top three ingredients, that’s a high sugar food. But manufacturers sometimes sneakily list sugar in different forms on labels to trick people, which is why what ultimately matters is that ‘per 100g’ listing. See number one.
5. Add cinnamon
6. Eat protein at every meal
Have a little protein such as eggs, nuts, seeds, lean meats and poultry, soya products, tahini or nut butters at breakfast, lunch and dinner and in two snacks mid-morning and mid-afternoon to maintain your blood sugar.
7. Stay hydrated
Or you may mistake thirst for sweet craving so drink your eight glasses of water throughout the day. To help your body’s absorption of the water you drink you need good mineral balance which you can enhance by eating more fruit and vegetables especially potassium-rich foods such as celery and green veggies.
8. Get snack happy
If you know your weak spot for sweet cravings is 5pm, schedule a healthy snack for one hour before that to stop the massive blood sugar crash that causes you to crave sweets in its tracks. A small handful raw almonds or walnuts and a piece of fresh fruit or a teaspoon sugar-free peanut, hazelnut, cashew or almond butter on an oatcake would do the trick.
9. Supplement help
10. Take a 15 minute walk
A study published in the journal Appetite from Exeter University found regular chocolate eaters who went for a daily 15 minute walk during their work day halved the amount of chocolate they ate, even when doing stressful jobs.
11. Replace it
Stevia is a sweetener that comes made from a plant and would be my first choice in sugar alternatives – I use it to sweeten smoothies and sorbets as I find a little goes a long way. For baking and celebratory times stevia is a safe alternative that doesn’t spike blood sugar. It’s derived from the leaves of a South American plant of the same name and has been used to centuries as a sweetener in South America and for 40 years in Japan. It’s 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar which is why you invariably only ever need a tiny bit! What’s also helpful to know is that stevia is not absorbed through the digestive tract and has no calories, making it a great choice if you’re trying to lose weight. Try Truvia Sweetener Jar, 270g, which has a great taste, works well in both baking and raw recipes and comes in a spoonable granulated format for sprinkling (in a jar or pouch) and as tablets for coffee and tea.