TAKE HOME POINT: It’s really less about the sugar and more about the lack of other nutrients those high sugar items contain. Think BIG PICTURE!
- How much sugar can we have? The World Health Organisation is recommending that 5% of our intake a day is to come from added sugars, the equivalent of around 6 teaspoons of sugar per day for the average adult and 4-6 teaspoons for children. This is a recommendation – the danger with these things is that we get obsessed or feel under pressure. If you’re aiming for variety and to get lots of nutrition from those single ingredient foods, don’t worry too much 😉
- What’s included in ‘added sugars’ then? Any added sugar on a food label is included, EVEN honey, fruit juices and syrups. A few other names for it are: Sucrose, Maltose, Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Galactose, Lactose, High fructose corn syrup, Glucose solids, Cane juice, Dehydrated cane juice, Dextrin, Maltodextrin, Dextran, Beet sugar, Corn syrup, Caramel, Buttered syrup, Carob syrup, Brown sugar, Date sugar, Diatase, Golden syrup, Turbinado, Sorghum syrup, Refiner’s syrup, Ethyl maltol.
- So what isn’t included in the 6 teaspoons? Fruit in it’s whole form, milk sugars, sugar alcohols and sweeteners.
- What do I look for on a label? If you’re looking at a label, remember that these foods are for fun, mental wellbeing and enjoyment – maybe it’s worth just thinking about the big picture of your overall diet and deciding if you’re relying heavily on those foods and whether your nutritional needs are being met. Don’t worry too much about the label and zoom out – does this food feel good for my overall physical health/mental health/budget situation? Am I getting my needs met nutritionally? Can this just be an enjoyment item and move on?
- Sneaky places you might find added sugar? Jar sauces (curry/tomato/creamy etc), dressings and side sauces (ketchup is a killer), cereals, crisps (yes!), pre-cooked meats, flavoured yogurts, ready meals, flavoured packet rice…BUT… we don’t need to worry about all that since we know you’re aiming for variety and not leaning heavily on any one thing 😉
- Oh and one more thing – don’t be confused by whole food carbohydrates like oats, potatoes and rice. These labels may well say they contain sugars but remember we’re talking ADDED sugars. Single ingredient whole-food carbohydrates like these and fruit are the most nutrient dense places to get your carbohydrate intake from.
So… if that sounds over-complicated or worrying…most of the time, focusing on variety means this whole process can be easily tucked to the back of your mind. It’s pretty much when we pick things from packets or boxes (which we do and it’s ok!) that it gets more likely sugar content increases. It’s really less about the sugar and more about the lack of other nutrients it contains. Knowing these facts can help you take the pressure off and realise that it’s more about the big picture than the individual item you’re eating.
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