Recent advice from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) isn’t good news for those of you with a sweet tooth. The experts advised the government that adults should consume no more than 7 teaspoons (or cubes) of sugar in one day, which is half of what is currently recommended.
This means a single can of Coke (other fizzy, sugary drinks are available) will take a person over their daily sugar allowance. However it’s vital to make the change if we want to put a stop to growing obesity levels and reduce cases of diabetes, said SACN, an independent body of expert nutritionists.
For the purposes of the report “sugar” includes free sugar i.e. that which is added to food, such as sucrose (table sugar) and glucose, as well as sugar naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices. It doesn’t include lactose in milk or milk products or sugar naturally present in intact fruit and vegetables.
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The Carbohydrates and Health report recommends that free sugars account for no more than 5 percent of a person’s daily energy intake, which is the equivalent of:
- For children aged 4 to 6 years old: 19 grams or 5 sugar cubes per day
- For children aged 7 to 10 years old: 24 grams or 6 sugar cubes per day
- For those aged 11 and over: 30 grams or 7 sugar cubes per day
2. Replace fizzy, sugary drinks and squash with water, no-added sugar drinks and low-fat milk.
3. Limit fruit juice to no more than 150 millilitres per day (from juice and/or smoothies) — fruit juice is still sugary but it does count towards your five-a-day.
4. Avoid processed and packaged foods, which often have hidden sugar. Get into the habit of buying food with the least amount of packaging as possible.
5. Make more of your meals from scratch. Manufactured soups, sauces and salad dressing often contain sugar whereas your home-cooked versions won’t need it.
6. Educate yourself. Knowing exactly what’s in your food lets you make informed decisions about what you put into your body. Fructose, glucose, lactose, maltodextrin and dextrose are all just scientific names for one thing: sugar.
7. Indulge your sweet tooth in the most natural way possible. Fruit, honey and maple syrup may still contain sugar but they’re better options than processed sugary foods because they give you the benefit of lots of vitamins and minerals.
8. Cut out sugar from your tea and coffee and resolve to stick to it. You’ll find that it doesn’t take long to get used to the new taste and within a short time you’ll more than likely not miss it. This minor change can cut out several teaspoons of sugar every day.
9. Get rid of the sweetie jar/tin/cupboard. If it’s not there you won’t be drawn to it. Try out some new, sugar-free snacks when you need an energy boost, such as chopped carrot and cucumber dipped in hummus, handfuls of mixed nuts and a fresh fruit salad.
10. Don’t beat yourself up for having a sugary treat now and again. Most people would struggle to cut out sugar completely. Just make more health-conscious decisions — for example, instead of pigging out on a family-size bar of milk chocolate have a couple of squares of good quality dark chocolate.
For more tips on how to make healthier food choices and live a healthier lifestyle, visit Public Health England’s Change4Life.