We all love to have a sweet treat, whether it is dessert, sugary drinks or cakes and biscuits, and there’s no doubt we have had our fair share of these over Christmas and the holidays. But the question is, how much are we having and how much are we having that we may not realise? With so many of the foods in our daily diet containing hidden sugars, it’s no wonder our bodies are struggling to break it down and continuously stimulate our sugar cravings. According to several health organisations, added sugar should be limited to no more than 6-7 percent of your total daily calories. This is ‘added sugars’, and does not include naturally occurring sugars found in fruits (fructose) and dairy products (lactose).
Here are a couple of examples of hidden sugars that usually have a common place in our daily diets.
Bought orange juice around 450ml or a small caramel Frappuccino, typically contains 11 teaspoons of sugar and lacks the fibre of a fresh piece of fruit.
The average tomato, BBQ or pasta sauce contains 1 teaspoon of sugar per tablespoon of sauce. So for tomato-based meals like spaghetti bolognese that’s at least 1 to 2 teaspoons of sugar per serving.
Some cereals (especially children’s brands) can contain up to 5 teaspoons of sugar in just a 50g serving.
Yoghurts, especially low-fat varieties, can contain 3-6 teaspoons of sugar in just one small tub.
FIVE TOP TIPS TO AVOID HIDDEN SUGARS AND BEAT SUGAR CRAVINGS
1. Read the label
When reading the nutrition label you’re not going to see how many ‘teaspoons’ of sugar are contained in the product so look at the grams of sugars in the per 100g column – less than 5g per 100g is low, more than 15g per 100g is high. If it is above the 15g per 100g, then it’s not considered a healthy serving size of sugar. As a general rule, if the food item does not contain fruit (therefore naturally occurring sugar) then it’s best to aim for 10 grams or less per 100 grams.
Check the listed ingredients for anything ending in ‘ose’ such as glucose, sucrose (table sugar), fructose (fruit sugar), lactose, maltose. These, along with honey, agave, molasses and syrups like corn and rice syrup are all forms of sugar.
2. Watch low-fat foods
Be mindful of low-fat foods as they generally tend to be high in sugars. You may be better off having smaller portions of the non-low-fat variety.
3. Be wary of ‘sugar-free’ foods.
Foods advertised as sugar-free often contain synthetic sweeteners like sucralose, saccharin and aspartame. Although these may allow the food to taste sweet, they tend to send confusing messages to the brain and do not satisfy sugar cravings. This can lead to even more sugar cravings and thus over-eating.
4. Replace sugary drinks
Reduce or remove the sugar you add to hot drinks. It is recommended you do this gradually to give your taste buds time to adjust. Cinnamon is a great alternative as it helps stabilise blood sugar levels and adds flavour without the sweetness. Try herbal teas instead, or replace juices and soft drinks with water and include slices of fruits such as lemon, orange and even kiwifruit or mint leaves.
5. Replace your snacks and cereals
Have a piece of whole fruit with some protein-rich foods such as a handful of nuts, boiled egg or a small tub of plain yoghurt (remember some yoghurts are high in sugar so read the label first). Protein helps balance blood sugar and energy levels and slow stomach emptying, which helps manage cravings. Swap white bread, rice and pasta for wholegrain options like oats, granary, wholemeal bread, brown rice or brown pasta.
Written by Deputy Education Manager, Steph McCaul
Dieticians Association of Australia
National Health Service UK