Most of us are aware that it’s important to avoid eating too much sugar, but that can be easier said than done.
You might be conscious of the sugar in cakes, biscuits and sweets, but there are many other sources of hidden sugar that you may not be so aware of.
Reading labels is important. The amount of sugar in a product will be listed in the nutrition chart on the back of most food packaging and is the best way to know for sure how much sugar a food contains.
Here, nutritionist Kim Pearson talks us through the most common sources of hidden sugar to look out for.
It goes without saying that it’s generally better to make your own when it comes to sauces so you know exactly what you’re eating. Shop-bought stir fry, Chinese and pasta sauces often have added sugar to sweeten them. A typical sweet chilli dipping sauce, for example, is over one third sugar.
DIY sauces don’t have to be time consuming. Garlic, ginger, sesame oil and tamari soya sauce make for a flavourful stir fry while a simple tomato pasta sauce can be whipped up in 15 minutes. If making a sauce from scratch is unrealistic, check out brands like Mr Organic’s tomato pasta sauce, Seggiano’s pesto, or Blend Bros Smoky BBQ and Sweet Chilli sauces.
Chocolate and honey-flavoured kids’ cereals are well-known to be offenders when it comes to sugary foods, but a lot of people don’t realise just how much sugar is in their healthy-looking cereal. For example, many ‘fruit and nut’ granolas list sugar as their second highest ingredient. Want a healthy breakfast? Start your day with a protein and veg based meal like eggs and avocado with spinach or a protein smoothie that will provide slow-released energy to power your morning and prevent a mid-morning blood sugar crash.
‘Healthy’ snack bars
Fruit, nut and oat-based snack bars are often marketed as a healthy alternative to chocolate bars, but in truth they can be very high in sugar. Many contain honey, brown sugar, fructose syrup or corn syrup and some are coated in yoghurt or chocolate which further ramp up the sugar content. And don’t think that just because something contains no added sugar it is low in sugar, bars made mostly from dried fruit are also high in sugar. While the ingredients are predominantly fruit, dried fruit is far higher in sugar than fresh.
Speaking of which, keep dried fruit as a treat, and don’t consider it a substitute for fresh. Drying fruits decreases the size but concentrates the sugar content so it’s much easier to consume a lot more sugar when eating dried fruit.
Imagine how many raisins you’d eat in one sitting compared with how many grapes. Pound for pound, raisins contain nearly four times the amount of sugar as grapes, so limit your portion sizes and mix with nuts to fill you up and provide your body with healthy fats.
It’s easy to forget about drinks when it comes to considering sugar intake, but soft drinks are actually one of the biggest sources of sugar in many people’s diets. Try swapping sugary soft drinks for sparking water infused with fresh fruits or mint and lemon. Cold brew green tea can easily be made at home by steeping a couple of green tea bags in a jug of water overnight. Or try herbal or fruit teas to warm you up as the weather cools down.
Alcohol is another factor that people (conveniently) forget about when trying to cut down on their sugar intake. Cocktails, ciders and mixed drinks are all main offenders, while a small glass of dry wine with dinner is a much healthier option.
Kim Pearson is a qualified nutritionist and weight loss specialist based on London’s Harley Street. She consults clients in London and internationally via her virtual consulting room. For more information about Kim and the services she offers, visit her website kim-pearson.com