In the UK, the average adult eats twice the recommended amount of sugar, while children and teenagers eat up to three times what’s recommended. And eating too much sugar can lead to health problems like obesity, heart disease, diabetes and tooth decay.
The good news is – cutting down on your sugar intake doesn’t have to mean giving up the treats you love altogether. By being mindful of what you’re eating and making a few small changes to some everyday foods, reducing your sugar intake is easier than you might think. Take a look at our quick and easy swaps below to help you get started.
What are added sugars?
It’s important to note that the recommendations to cut down on sugar refer to added sugars, also known as free sugars. These are all the sugars that are added to food and drink and also include the naturally occurring sugars in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juice. It’s these free sugars that can be harmful to your health. Foods that tend to be high in free sugars include:
- non-diet fizzy drinks
- sweet pastries
- fruit juice
- ice cream
- some alcoholic drinks
The naturally occurring sugars found in milk, dairy products and whole fruit and vegetables don’t count as free or added sugars. They can make up part of a healthy diet, so there’s no need to limit these.
How much sugar should I eat?
The amount of added or free sugars you eat shouldn’t be any more than 5% of your total energy intake. That’s the same as:
- five cubes of sugar, or 19g/day, for 4–6-year-olds
- six cubes of sugar, or 24g/day, for 7–10-year-olds
- seven cubes of sugar, or 30g/day, from age 11 and up, including adults
What are the different types of sugar?
There are many different types of sugar with many different names, so trying to identify sugar on an ingredients list isn’t always easy. What’s more, there are no regulations for food manufacturers to distinguish between free sugars and other sugars on food labels just yet. So when you check out the ingredients list, you’ll often only find the ‘total sugars’ of that product. This includes both free sugars and natural sugars.
What you can do though, is keep an eye out for some of the following names in the ingredients list:
- invert sugar
- corn syrup
- fruit juice concentrate
All of these are other ways of listing added sugar, so try to avoid products with these ingredients where you can. And remember – the higher up on the ingredients list something appears, the more of it there is in the product.
Sugar swap 1: Frozen treats
Resist the lure of the ice cream van jingle and have fun making your own healthy homemade versions instead.
- To make banana ice cream: Freeze a bunch of ripe bananas and once frozen, mash them using a fork or food processor. Enjoy the cool creamy texture and naturally sweet taste straight from the bowl.
- To make fruit smoothie ice-lollies: Combine milk and frozen fruits of your choice in a blender. Once blended, pour the mixture into fun ice-lolly moulds and freeze. Remember to check the ingredients list of your frozen fruits to make sure they don’t contain any added sugars.