Let’s Talk About Sugar

We know that eating too much sugar can not only cause us to gain weight but can lead to a host of other health problems including tooth decay, coronary heart disease and diabetes.

The World Health Organisation recommends that no more than 10% of a person’s energy intake (calories) should come from free sugars. This equates to no more than 10-14 teaspoons of sugar per day. However, the average Irish diet contains over 15% of energy from free sugars!

But what exactly do we mean when we say, “free sugar”?

Our diet is full of naturally occurring sugars found in foods like fruit, milk, and natural yoghurts. We do not need to worry about these sugars as they come packed with many other nutrients and bring a wealth of health benefits to you.

What we need to try and decrease is the “free sugars”, the “empty calories” that are found in processed, sweetened foods such as biscuits, cakes, confectionery and fizzy drinks.

So what can we do to reduce the amount of added sugars in our diet? Let’s Talk About… Sugar.

Let’s Talk About… Sugar

Eat Fruit!

Let’s Talk About… Sugar

It’s true that watching the amount of added sugars in your diet is a good idea, but this shouldn’t be confused with naturally occurring sources, including whole fruits, which bring a wealth of health benefits to you and your gut microbes. The more fresh fruit and high fibre foods you include in your diet, the less room there will be for free sugars!

Watch Your Drinks

Choose water or low-fat milk instead of fizzy sugar sweetened drinks. If you take sugar in tea or coffee, gradually reduce the amount down until you can cut it out altogether. If you struggle to drink water, add fresh fruit to your water can make it taste nicer or use sparkling water to get that fizz sensation!

Limit fruit juice or smoothies to no more than 150mls per day. You can count fruit juice or smoothies as one of your five a day, but it’s always best to choose fresh, whole fruit as they contain extra fibre that is typically removed during the juicing process.

Cook from Scratch

Most packaged sauces have a high sugar content so making homemade sauces from scratch where possible will help to reduce your sugar intake. When it comes to sauces like ketchup, barbeque sauce and sweet chilli sauce, be mindful of your portions. A single tablespoon of ketchup contains 4g sugar which is 1 teaspoon! Try to use other ways to flavour foods such as herbs, fresh chilli or pesto.

While we all enjoy a Friday night takeaway, many of the popular curries, sweet and sour dishes and sweet chilli meals contain a lot of added sugars. At Gourmet Fuel, we offer a range of healthy fakeaways that can be a great alternative to these high sugar takeaways; such as our Beef Chilli and Turkey Chilli Taco Fries, Thai Green Chicken Curry and Beef Barbacoa Burrito Bowl.

Read Food Labels

Let’s Talk About… Sugar

Take some time to read the food labels of products that are usually on your shopping list. Check the nutrition labels on food to help you pick the foods with less added sugar or choose the reduced or lower sugar option.

Watch out for other words used to describe the sugars added to food and drinks, such as cane sugar, honey, brown sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate/purées, corn syrup, fructose, sucrose, glucose, crystalline sucrose, nectars (such as blossom), maple and agave syrups, dextrose, maltose, molasses and treacle.

As a rule of thumb, foods are considered low in sugar if they have less than 5g sugar per 100g and high sugar foods would be those containing more than 15g sugar per 100g.

Did You Know?

Choosing the healthiest yoghurt in the supermarket can be a minefield! With there being such a huge variety of “low fat” “sugar-free” “reduced sugar” “diet yoghurt” “high protein” yoghurts it can be difficult to make the right choice. Generally, natural yoghurt (yoghurt containing no added sugars) contains about 5g sugar per 100g. When choosing the flavoured yoghurt option, less than 9g sugar per 100g would be considered a low sugar option. When choosing a yoghurt try to choose the plain, unflavoured or Greek yogurt (link our porridge with Greek yoghurt breakfast here) option and choose 0% fat or fat free options. Also, be mindful of portion sizes!

Hit That Sweet Spot!

While it is obvious that too much sugar is not good for our health, it is all about finding that balanced middle ground and consuming free sugars in moderation. Food is to be enjoyed and it is completely okay to enjoy a sweet treat every so often while still following a healthy, balanced diet. Don’t we all need a bit of sweetness in our lives!

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Niamh Lonergan

Niamh Lonergan

Senior Nutritionist

Niamh is our Senior Nutritionist here at Gourmet Fuel. Niamh completed her BSc (Hons) in Nutritional Sciences at University College Cork and has recently completed a Master’s in Public Health Nutrition from University College Dublin. Before joining the team at GourmetFuel, she worked in the food and drinks industry both in Ireland and in San Francisco and gained valuable insight into the major role the industry can play in improving healthy eating and allowing us to make healthier food choices. Her areas of interest include health promotion, food sustainability, communication and nutrition research. 

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