How to Reduce Your Sugar Intake
After the excesses of Christmas have passed, many of us start looking at ways we can change our lifestyle. A lot of people start healthy eating plans and hit the gym, and may want to reduce the amount of sugar in their diet.
Sugar can be found in its natural state in many fruits, vegetables and dairy products (as fructose or lactose). It is vital for our bodies to function and is a relatively harmless carbohydrate.
However, when sugar is added to foods and drinks during processing to add flavour, colour or texture it can become a problem. Processed sugar is full of empty calories and causes a number of health issues – the most obvious being weight gain – but it can also mess with your metabolism, drive your insulin levels up, increase your blood pressure and cause dental issues.
Reducing your sugar intake can have a positive effect on your weight, your general mood, energy levels, your skin and your brain.
So if you would like to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet, what’s the best way to do it? Here’s a few handy hints and tips:
- Sugar comes in many guises and has many different names. Read up on the different types of sugar, where they are found and whether they are naturally occurring sugars or the kind that are added during processing. A bit of knowledge can help you decipher ingredients on labels and highlight sugars which are hidden under different names.
- Reduce the amount of sugar you add to foods and drinks. If you take sugar in your tea and coffee, start by cutting it in half and then decreasing it further over time. If you have several cups a day, it really adds up. Also try not to add sugar to breakfast cereals or stewed fruit.
- When baking, reduce the sugar in your recipe down to half or a third of the suggested amount. Often you won’t notice the difference.
- Condiments such as tomato ketchup, BBQ sauce and sweet chilli sauce are often loaded with sugar. Try using low sugar versions or use alternatives such as passata instead of ketchup.
- Always check the sugar content of the foods you are eating. A lot of foods have unexpectedly high levels of sugar including breakfast cereals, ready made soups, cereal bars, stir in sauces, pasta sauces and ready meals. Look for low sugar alternatives that you can eat instead.
- If sugary snacks are your downfall make up snack packs of low sugar alternatives such as fruit, nuts, plain homemade popcorn, rice cakes, oatcakes or vegetable crudites so you can reach for those when you need them.
- Fizzy drinks, squashes, fruit juices and cordials are one of the worst contributors to excess sugar in our diets. They account for almost a quarter of our intake! If you like to drink these, the easiest way to cut down on sugar is to swap to unsweeneted or low sugar alternatives. Even better … switch to lower fat milk, plain water or sparkling water with a dash of fruit juice such as lemon or lime.
- Cut back on chocolate, cakes, ice cream and sweet treats – try to reduce the amount of desserts you eat and when choosing desserts always compare sugar content as sometimes low fat varieties actually contain more sugar.
- Start seeing sweet treats as exactly that … a treat. If you have them every day they just become part of your regular diet instead of being saved for special occasions.
Hopefully this has given you a few ideas to help you reduce your sugar intake. If you have any other tips you would like to suggest, please feel free to leave them in the comments below.
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