Cutting back free/added sugar from your diet

What is free or added sugar?

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) free sugars include monosaccharides like glucose, fructose and galactose and disaccharides like sucrose, lactose and maltose that are added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, and sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. WHO recommends that adults consume no more than 6 teaspoons of added sugar per day and children have no more than 3 or 4. This recommendation is based on evidence showing lower incidence of obesity and tooth decay in people who consume less added sugar. By taking simple steps to reduce the amount of free sugar in your diet you can also reduce the risk of getting other serious, chronic health conditions like heart disease and diabetes.

Try the following to reduce your own sugar consumption

Remove sweetened beverages from your shopping

For many people cutting back on sugar sweetened beverages may be the first step in reducing their free sugar consumption. Drinks which commonly have free or added sugar are soft drinks, fizzy drinks, fruit drinks, cordials, flavoured milks, powdered drinks, flavoured waters, iced teas and coffees. For example, a can of fizzy drink (355 ml) can contain up to 9 teaspoons of sugar. This is well above the WHO recommendation.

Start reading the food labels

Another way to cut back on free or added sugar is to start reading food labels. Many people would be surprised to find out how much sugar is added to products we regularly buy and which are considered “healthy” foods. Breakfast cereals like muesli or flavoured yogurts are all good foods but they can contain lots of free sugar. Some foods with added sugars are quite obvious like muesli bars, biscuits, cakes, muffins and pastries. Other foods which also have added sugars like chutney, bread, pickle and mayonnaise may be less obvious to us as sugary foods. And lastly there are foods we expect the least to find added sugars like in crackers, frozen potato vegges or even sausages.

Quench your thirst with water

To help you get started with cutting back on sugar you may try reducing sugary drinks from your regular shopping and create your own refreshing drink. Experiment with adding a slice of lemon, lime or orange and mint leaves to sparkly water. You may replace citrus and add berry fruit, melon or cucumber pieces to water to get different flavours.

Give a herbal tea a chance

Herbal fruit flavoured teas do not need added sugars as they are naturally sweater in taste than green or black tea, or coffee.

Swap biscuits with fruit or other sweet tasting vegetables

Replace biscuits with extra pieces of fresh fruit in your shopping basket, and get onto creating delicious fruit salads and smoothies. Train your taste buds to fall in love with fresh flavours while you are weaning them from processed sugar laden foods. And soon you will start noticing how sweet some food really is without adding extra sugar. Kumara, kamokamo, pumpkin, carrot, beetroot, sweet corn and green peas are all naturally sweet tasty foods.

What about artificial sweeteners?

Be mindful of artificial sweeteners. They are very low in calories, but they are up to thousand times sweeter than table sugar. And taste buds overstimulated by use of sweeteners can get desensitised to naturally sweet foods leading to fresh healthy foods appearing less appetizing.

Want more?

To find out more about eating well for your health subscribe to our GoodNutrition Newsletter or contact our NZ Registered Nutritionist.

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