Did you know that fruit juice can contain a similar amount of sugar per 100ml as a fizzy drink? And at 7 cubes per can that's the sum total amount of sugar an adult should be consuming in an entire day!
Eating sugar in excess is not healthy and new guidelines in the UK recommend that we reduce the amount of sugar in our diets. Sugar, like salt, hides in much of the processed foods we buy, so we can consume too much without even knowing it.
Too much sugar means too many calories which leads to weight gain. This all adds up to increased risk of obesity and serious illnesses such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
Based on current trends, if we don't cut down on sugar, 1 in 3 people will be obese by 2034.
How much sugar is too much?
Nutrition labels tell you how much sugar a food contains. Food that has 15g or more per 100g is considered high in sugar. Anything under 5g of total sugar per 100g is low.
New recommendations say that adults (and children over 11) should be consuming no more than 30 grams (7 cubes) of sugar each day. On average, this is about half the amount of sugar an adult currently consumes per day. Teenagers are consuming about 3 times the recommended amount.
Children from 7-10 should consume no more than 24g (6 cubes) and children from 4-6 a 19g maximum (5 cubes).
What sugars should we avoid?
Foods that contain free sugars are the ones we should be cutting down on. Free sugars include any sugar that’s added to a product by manufacturers, cooks or consumers or the sugar naturally present in syrups, honey and fruit juices. It doesn’t include sugars in dairy products.
There are lots of different ways free sugar can be listed on ingredients labels such as:
- fruit juice
- hydrolysed starch
- invert sugar
- corn syrup
Tips to decrease sugar intake
Here are some simple tips to help you gradually cut down on the amount of added sugar in your diet.
Nearly a quarter of the added sugar in our diets comes from sugary drinks such as fizzy drinks, juices and cordials. A 500ml bottle of cola contains the equivalent of 17 cubes of sugar!
- Choose water or milk over juice or fizzy.
- Eat your fruit, don't drink it. If you want to drink juice, choose the real stuff ('fruit juice' not 'fruit drink') and dilute it: 1 part juice to 10 parts water. Try mixing soda water with juice for a healthy fizzy drink.
- If you take sugar in hot drinks try to cut back gradually – small steps may hurt less than cold turkey. If you can't kick the habit, try artificial sweeteners.
- Herbal teas are flavoursome alternatives without any added sugar.
Many breakfast cereals are high in sugar. Read the nutrition label and choose only products that have less than 15g or less of sugar per 100g.
- Porridge oats are cheap, nourishing and naturally low in sugar.
- Break the sugar habit. Try sprinkling a little cinnamon or adding fresh fruit to your breakfast cereals instead of sugar.
- Avoid flavoured or fruit yoghurts which can be high in sugar. Opt for plain, unsweetened yoghurt and add your own berries (use frozen ones in winter) to flavour it.
- Choose toast spreads that are low in sugar, such as marmite/ vegemite, peanut butter (check label for added sugar) or low-sugar jams. If you can't resist jam, honey, chocolate spread or marmalade, try to reduce the amount you use.
For healthy, affordable and easy breakfast ideas check out the My Family Food website.
Main meals & desserts
Remember, high sugar = 15g or more per 100g food, low sugar = 2g or less per 100g food. Write it down and pop it in your wallet to retrieve when you're grocery shopping, or bookmark this page on your cell phone.
- Sugar on your pasta?! You bet – 150g of pasta sauce can contain 3 tsp of sugar. Sugar is often added for flavour to ready-made sauces, soups and meals.
- Condiments and sauces such as ketchup can have as much as 23g of sugar in 100g – roughly half a teaspoon per serving. This can add up over the course of a day.
- Do you need to have dessert every day? Try reducing the amount of dessert you have, or how often you have it. Desserts low in added sugar includ fruit (fresh, frozen, dried or tinned – choose those canned in juice rather than syrup), rice pudding and plain unsweetened yoghurt.
For low sugar, affordable and easy dessert ideas check out these dessert ideas from the My Family Food website.
Rethink your approach to snacks. Do you have to have chocolate, biscuits and cake every day? Why not try reaching for a piece of fruit first?
- Other healthier snack options without added sugar such as vegetable sticks & hummus, unsalted nuts, unsalted rice crackers or homemade plain popcorn.
- Can't resist that sticky slice? Cut it in half and offer it round, or save it for the next day.
- Think twice before you surrender to that great ‘2 for 1' deal or ‘good value’ chocolate bar offer where you pay slightly more for a great deal more sugar, fat and kilojoules. Buy smaller packs spend the same amount of money on one healthier option.
- Think about switching to other ways to sweeten your cooking, eg, dates for baking, stevia, rice malt sugar, etc
For healthy, affordable and easy snack ideas check out the My Family Food website.