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Eating less sugar

2020 04 29 LSP 350

Sugar is a carbohydrate and a source of energy (kilojoules) for our bodies and can be found naturally in foods such as in milk (lactose) and fruit (fructose).

The sweet stuff we commonly know as sugar, is refined from sugarcane or other plants and is then added to food and drinks when processed or prepared.

On a food or drink label, ‘sugar’ has different names depending on where it comes from including:

  • sucrose
  • glucose
  • corn syrup
  • maltose
  • dextrose
  • raw sugar
  • cane sugar
  • malt extract
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • molasses

But ultimately, they’re all sugars.

Apart from what we add to food like tea, coffee and cereal, and the sugar we use in cooking, the majority (81%) of the sugar we eat comes from processed and pre-packaged foods and drinks such as:

  • soft drinks
  • fruit juices
  • cakes
  • biscuits
  • lollies
  • chocolates
  • ice creams
  • sweetened cereals

Did you know that?

On average Australians consume around 25 teaspoons of sugar (both added and natural) each day. This is about twice as much as is recommended. The majority (81%) of sugar consumed by Australians comes from sometimes foods.

Is sugar bad?

You’ll be happy to know that small amounts of sugar and high-sugar foods, such as a spread of jam or sugar added to sweeten fruit yoghurt, will not harm us.

However, if we eat lots of high-sugar foods (or drinks) that have little nutritional value it can:

  • make it much harder to eat healthy, and be active and full of vitality
  • be very easy to consume extra kilojoules, which can lead to weight gain and the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

It’s not just about sugar – nutritional value is key

The foods and drinks that are high in sugar and also have little nutritional value are the ones to watch out for. These include sugary drinks, lollies, chocolates, biscuits and cakes.

Here are some examples of food or drinks that have high sugar levels (added and natural) and are also low in nutritional value:

Foods and drinks Teaspoons of sugar
1 can (375 mls) soft drink 10 teaspoons sugar
250 ml glass cordial 6 teaspoons sugar
375 ml sports drink 7 teaspoons sugar
50g rocky road 6 teaspoons sugar
1 chocolate bar (50 g) 7 teaspoons sugar
1 lollipop (16 g) 4 teaspoons sugar
3 boiled sweets 3 teaspoons sugar
1 danish pastry 4 teaspoons sugar
2 chocolate biscuits 3 teaspoons sugar

Seven easy ways to cut down on sugar

  1. Follow the Australian Guide to Healthy Eating and base your diet on wholegrain breads and cereals, fruit and vegetables, lean meat, chicken, fish and legumes and low-fat dairy foods.
  2. Reduce the added sugar to cereal, tea, coffee and other drinks and try other natural sweeteners such as fruit or yoghurt on cereal instead.
  3. Keep the unhealthy high-sugar foods and drinks such as lollies, chocolates, soft drinks, energy and sports drinks, fruit drinks, cordials as well as fancy cakes, biscuits and ice creams to small serve sizes sometimes rather than everyday foods.
  4. Drink plain tap water instead of sugary drinks.
  5. When shopping, check the sugar amounts on food labels and look for ‘no added sugar’ alternatives.
  6. If you need a snack, try swapping over to yoghurt, fresh fruit or a small handful of unsalted nuts instead of grabbing a biscuit, cake, lolly or chocolate.
  7. Have a go at some healthier recipes which are lower in fat, sugar and/or salt but are higher in fibre… and delicious too.

In times of uncertainty, having foods that are a source of comfort can be beneficial to our mental wellbeing. Foods which are higher in sugar, such as chocolate or biscuits may provide a source of comfort and enjoyment. While you don’t need to eat much, if you choose to, enjoy them sometimes and in small amounts.