With experts urging the government to halve the recommended daily intake of sugar, how easy is it to cut down on the white stuff?
Birmingham Public Health’s healthy eating expert, Charlene Mulhern suggests some easy ways to reduce your sugar intake without leaving a sour taste.
- Don’t skip breakfast
If you skip breakfast, by 11am or midday you’re likely to become hungry and crave sugar, as your blood sugar levels drop too low. Look for breakfast cereals that have wholegrains and that are lower in sugar (and check the salt and fat levels too. If you’re having a little trouble swapping to plain cereal, you could start by mixing a little sugary cereal with the plain and increase the plain a little each day until you’ve totally swapped. Healthy breakfast tips http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/Pages/breakfast-for-life.aspx
- Limit your alcohol intake
Many people are unaware of the sugar content in alcoholic drinks. Alcohol raises blood sugar, but being a liquid, it is even more quickly absorbed into the bloodstream than sugar. Calories and sugar in alcohol http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/alcohol/Pages/calories-in-alcohol.aspx
- Cut down on soft drinks and fruit juice
Nearly a quarter (25%) of the added sugar in our diet comes from soft drinks, fruit juice and other non-alcoholic drinks. The levels are even higher among children aged 11 to 18 years, who get 40% of their added sugar from drinks. Swap the full sugar versions for low calorie or calorie-free ones instead. Better for your teeth and your waistline.”
- Quit sugar, not snacks
A healthy snack between meals can help while you’re giving up sugar, as it stops your sugar levels dropping too low, which can cause sweet cravings. Healthier snack options are those without added sugar such as fruit (fresh, dried, tinned or frozen), unsalted nuts, unsalted rice cakes, oatcakes or homemade plain popcorn. Healthier snack ideas http://www.nhs.uk/Change4Life/Pages/healthy-snacks.aspx
Moderate exercise can help to control stress levels and also support blood sugar control, helping you avoid dips that will induce cravings. Benefits of exercise http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/fitness/Pages/whybeactive.aspx
- Drink less tea and coffee
Caffeine is a stimulant that causes our body’s stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline to be released, which in turn cause a cycle of energy dips and peaks, and make you more likely to crave sugar later on. Decaffeinated coffee and tea contains other stimulants, so try better options such as naturally caffeine free rooibos tea or grain based coffee alternatives.
- Reduce your stress
Stress is one of the primary triggers for sugar cravings, as our body is being prepared for physical action. So try in any way you can to reduce stress. Reduced stress will often mean better sleep as well, which will mean better energy levels the next day. Ten stress busters http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/stress-anxiety-depression/pages/reduce-stress.aspx
- Eat healthier puddings
Cutting down on sugar doesn’t have to mean no more puds. Switch from things like sugary puddings to more refreshing ones like fruit, which also count toward your 5 A DAY.
- Eat fewer ready meals
Some ready-made soups, stir-in sauces and ready meals can also be higher in sugar than you think. Some of this sugar will come from the fruit and vegetables they contain, such as tomatoes – which we don’t need to cut down on – but sugar is often added for flavour.
- Sugar Swaps
Try these easy swap ideas to reduce the amount of sugar you and your kids eat throughout the day! http://www.nhs.uk/change4life/Pages/sugar-swap-ideas.aspx