Let’s not sugar-coat it

It's Sugar Awareness Week

You're probably thinking this will be a diatribe on the dangers of sugar. Well, to a degree…but some sugars are actually not bad for you. These are naturally-occurring sugars, found in whole fruit, vegetables and milk-based products. These are not considered harmful for health, although they still contain calories. With these sugars (or rather, the food they are in) come fibre, protein and vitamins.

The ones that we worry about are free sugars – these include monosaccharides and disaccharides added to foods and beverages by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, as well as sugars naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit juice concentrates. Free sugars are found in a range of foods, e.g. sweets, cakes, biscuits, juices and fizzy drinks.

Foods containing free sugars often have very little or no nutritional benefit.

Why worry?

  • Eating too much sugar can contribute to people having too many calories, which can lead to weight gain
  • Being overweight increases your risk of health problems such as heart disease, some cancers and type-2 diabetes
  • There is a direct link between consumption of sugars and dental cavities
  • There is a possible link between consuming excess sugars and high cholesterol, high blood pressure, some cancers and non-alcoholic liver disease.

What's Sugar Awareness Week?

It’s an opportunity to celebrate the progress so far on educating people about sugar, reducing sugar in food and to discuss the future for sugar and calorie reduction and its place in the government’s Childhood Obesity Plan.

This year’s theme is "Eating out"

Action on Sugar wants to see clear nutrition labelling when we eat out and a reduction in portion size, sugar and calories. More than 25% of adults and 20% of children eat out at least once a week.

Top tips for making healthier choices:

  • Ask for smaller portion sizes
  • Say no to super-size food
  • Ask for your sauces to be served separately
  • Share a dessert (50:50!!)
  • Opt for fruit-based desserts
  • Ask for nutrition labelling.

How much sugar can I eat?

The government recommends that free or added sugars shouldn't make up more than 5% of the energy (calories) you get from food and drink each day.

That's a maximum of 30g of added sugar a day for adults, which is roughly seven sugar cubes.

Children should have less – no more than 19g a day for children aged four to six years old (five sugar cubes), and no more than 24g (six sugar cubes) for children aged seven to ten years old.

Fortunately, there's free and easy-to-use app to help you find out what’s in the food you’re eating, so you can make simple switches to healthier options. See below.

FoodSwitch UK

Allows you to scan food & drink barcodes to see if they are high, medium or low in fat, saturates, sugars and salt. It also searches the database for similar but healthier alternative products, making it easier than ever to switch to healthier food choices.

Find the app