The Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN), which advises Public Health England and other government agencies on nutrition, has recommended that we reduce our sugar intake by half of the current recommendation, to no more than 5% of daily energy intake.*
The report has classed sugar as ‘free sugars’ which includes all sugar added to food and drink plus sugar naturally found in syrups, honey and fruit juice: but excludes sugar naturally found in milk and in fruit (fresh/frozen/dried/tinned).
The maximum sugar recommendations per day
- 19g sugar for children 4-6yrs (5 cubes of sugar)
- 24g sugar for children 7-10yrs (6 cubes of sugar)
- 30g sugar for 11yrs and above (7 cubes of sugar)
The main sources of sugar in the diet are sweetened drinks and cereal, confectionery, fruit juice, and sugar added at the table.
Follow these simple tips to help you reduce your intake:
Many cereals can be high in sugar. Switching from a sugary breakfast cereal to ‘no added sugar’ cereals such as porridge, sugar-free muesli or shredded wheat can cut out 70g (22 sugar cubes) from your diet over the week.
Many ready-made sauces, meals, soups, contain added sugar. Making your own can help reduce your sugar intake. When eating out, be aware of dishes that will be particularly high in sugar, including sweet and sour sauce and salad dressings. Condiments such as ketchup can also be high in sugar, so use sparingly and aim to use the reduced sugar varieties.
Try to limit the frequency of desserts consumption and choose those high in fruit and lower in sugar, such as oat-based apple crumble, baked apple with natural yoghurt or banana with homemade custard. Fruit yogurts can often have 3-4 sugar cubes of added sugar, with low fat yogurts the worst offenders. Try either natural yoghurt or – if picking a fruit yoghurt – aim for one under 70kcal per 125g, as these will be low sugar as well as in fat.
Healthier snack ideas include oat cakes, carrot sticks with hummus, popcorn, unsalted nuts, fruit, toast or seeds. If you’re craving cake, try a plainer cake such as scone, fruit scone or a tea cake as these tend to be lower in sugar. Low-calorie hot chocolate drinks can be useful when craving chocolate. Watch out for cereal bars; these can be very high in sugar. Try to pick ones that are under 100kcal per bar as these generally will be lower in sugar – or better yet, have a go at making your own healthy cereal bars. Dried fruit is a good snack but not so good for your teeth. Aim to consume dried fruit as part of a meal rather than on its own to help protect your teeth.
Almost a quarter of our sugar intake comes from sugary drinks**. A 330ml can of cola contains 36g sugar (9 cubes of sugar) over the recommended daily amount for an adult. Fruit juice, whilst providing vitamin C, is also high in sugar and should therefore be limited to no more than 150ml per day. Better options are fizzy water with a slice of lemon or lime or with a splash of juice.
Despite the prevalence of hidden sugar in our meals, with just a few small changes to our diet, we can all ensure that we easily meet the daily allowance.
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* SACN Carbohydrates and Health report
** National Diet and Nutrition Survey (NDNS) Rolling Programme 2008-2012. Source: Bates et al. 2014