It was good to hear the government are finally taking some action on sugar in soft drinks (in 2 years’ time!) with the soft drinks levy. Hopefully other measures to reduce sugar in foods will soon be announced.
It is difficult to escape the fact that, many soft drinks contain a lot of sugar, and so these are one of the first things to avoid when trying to reduce your sugar intake. But most processed foods also contain some sugar so reducing and replacing these in your diet, is a good way to reduce your sugar intake.
So what can you eat instead of processed foods such as chocolate, biscuits, shop-bought cakes, cereal bars, ready meals, sugary breakfast cereals? And what do you drink instead of soft drinks?
1. Chocolate. Sorry guys, chocolate contains a lot of sugar! Milk chocolate contains around double the amount of sugar that dark chocolate does, although some of this will be milk sugars (which are not classed as free sugars) but unfortunately this is not specified on the label. So try to reduce your chocolate intake if this is something you eat a lot of, or switch to dark chocolate (in moderation!). A few squares of dark chocolate with a handful of nuts makes a good alternative to a whole chocolate bar.
Maybe start to make the changes after Easter!
2. Biscuits, shop-bought cake, and cereal bars. These all contain a lot of sugar and processed fats so are best kept to a minimum, also for the moreish reasons. Make your own biscuits, cakes cereal bars where you can, reducing the sugar in the recipe and adding nutritious additives such as nuts, or dried fruit, and even making them with wholemeal flour or ground almonds. Home-baked cakes and cereal bars add some variety to your diet.
3. Ready-meals. Try to avoid these and check the amount of sugar they contain. If you are in a rush try these quick meals instead:
- Omelette with mushrooms, chopped ham, or cheese, with a few boiled potatoes and some vegetables or salad.
- Scrambled eggs on wholemeal toast with a fried mushrooms or smoked salmon and a handful of watercress.
- Stir fried vegetables with frozen prawns and rice.
- Pasta with a tomato-based sauce and chopped good-quality ham.
4. Breakfast cereals. The sugary versions can also add a lot of sugar to your diet. Check how much sugar they contain per 100g and go for the ones with the least amount of sugar, less than 5g per 100g if possible. Add some fresh fruit or a few raisins to sweeten.
5. Soft drinks (canned or bottled). Check labels for the amount of sugar per whole product and remember that one teaspoon of sugar is equivalent to 4g. If you find it difficult to stop drinking soft drinks, start reducing them and then gradually cut them out. The best thing to replace them with is water. Making this kind of change can take time and it is a process of building up the amount of water you drink.
Remember a can of cola has 9 teaspoons of sugar (over the maximum recommended amount for an adult of 30g or 7 ½ teaspoons per day). Also orange juice and other fruit juices count towards your free sugar intake as the fruit sugars have been taken out of the fruit. 150ml orange juice counts towards your intake of free sugars as 3-4 teaspoons. It is better to have the fruit instead.
6. Alcoholic drinks. Opt for wine or spirits as these contain less sugar and calories than other drinks, but drink in moderation (of course!). Most mixers contain lots of sugar so have these occasionally or have spirits on their own or with a dash of water.
I hope you have found this helpful. Remember it takes time to reduce your sugar intake, so do it in stages.
Have a good Easter,