It can be difficult to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. In the food industry sugar has various functions: to counter acidic, bitter tastes, to add volume and texture and to preserve food. It is also vital for many cooking processes from the browning of bread to the production of alcohol. Sugar is also present naturally in fruits, vegetables, cereals and dairy products. Most people consume much more than the recommended sugar limit of 5% of your daily calorie intake. So, how can you aim towards a low sugar diet?
Try not to add sugar to things you eat and drink
Reducing sugar can be as simple as not adding sugar to your breakfast cereal or your hot drinks. If you struggle with no sugar in your daily tea and coffee, try using honey for example instead. If you enjoy baking or cooking, reduce the amount of sugar you use in your recipe – you will need to experiment to find what works best for you.
Watch out for sugar in your drinks
If you like fizzy drinks, choosing the sugar-free option is another path towards reducing sugar in your diet. When you are thirsty, drink water or add a drop of sugar-free squash. Be careful of fruit juices and smoothies – they have a lot of sugar content, so try to keep to the recommended 150 mls each day.
Check the nutrition labels on food packaging
When you are pursuing a low sugar diet, another useful method is to look for ‘carbohydrates of which sugars’ on labels, as this gives an indication of the sugar content. Avoid foods that contain sugars of more than 22.5g in each 100g. Sugars come under various guises such as corn syrup, fructose and maltose. If you want to reduce your sugar intake you will need to become sugar-savvy: read up on the different types of sugar that are used in food, so you can spot them on the food labels. Being alert to the traffic light system on food packaging can also help your low sugar diet: red indicates high amounts, green low.
Be aware that foods you may not expect could be high in sugar
You need to be particularly vigilant when it comes to foods that are not labelled, such as take away. Reducing sugar in your diet may involve ditching your sweet and sour Chinese food, or your favourite salad dressing or condiment.
Substitution can help maintain a low sugar diet
Choose healthier snacks such as oatcakes instead of biscuits. Try low-fat frozen yogurt instead of ice-cream or sorbets for dessert. Try to choose whole foods rather than processed. Planning your meals in advance can reduce the temptation to snack or to reach for a ready meal.
Ultimately to follow a low sugar diet you need to make sustainable changes. Reducing sugar will help you and your family keep healthy and may even help you lose weight. Your teeth will thank you for it and you will reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The effort will be worth it.
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