Sugar-free days

Where would we be without sugar?

It’s sweet and delicious and eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet will not harm our health, however, according to Public Health England, most of us are eating far too much of it.

Sugar is often hidden in foods and used as a preservative or a flavour enhancer. It is all too easy to be unaware of how much we are eating as it can be found from white bread to cereal bars, pasta sauces to condiments and many foods in between – it is not surprising that many of us go over the recommended limit of 30g a day!

What to look out for

Sugars come in many forms so it is important to know how to read the labels on food and drink. ‘Free’ sugars are those which we tend to eat too much of and as well as being bad for our general health can lead to us carrying extra weight. ‘Free’ sugars are typically those which have been removed from an original food source and added to our food and drinks – however, watch out as sugars found in syrups or honey are also put in this category.

Our AXA PPP healthcare physiologist, Georgina Camfield tells us: “eating ‘free’ sugars give us calories we don’t need and are of little nutritional benefit. Foods such as snack bars, honey, desserts and fizzy soft drinks all contain amounts of ‘free’ sugars. Ideally, no more than 5% of ‘free’ sugars should make up our total daily calorie count.”

The most common ‘free’ sugars to look out for are:

  • Sucrose
  • Glucose
  • Maltose
  • Dextrose
  • Cane sugar
  • Corn syrup
  • Honey

However, our bodies do need naturally occurring sugars and these can be found in such foods as fruit and milk. Along with sugar, these foods contain minerals and fibre which are essential for maintaining a healthy body. As naturally occurring sugars are accompanied by fibre, protein and water they will be absorbed at a much slower rate than ‘free’ sugars.

By cutting down the quantity of ‘free’ sugars we consume we reduce the risk of many common health conditions such as type 2 diabetes as well as helping with weight loss.

Going ‘free’ sugar-free

“Having sugar-free days may lead us to consider how much sugar we are actually consuming on any given day” says Georgina.

“Including sugar-free days into our week is a great way to encourage us to cut down on our ‘free’ sugar intake. It is important to make the days fit into our lifestyles as this way we are more likely to stick at it. So, if we are on holiday or entertaining guests then we can work our sugar-free days around those times.”

Some easy things to swap for sugar-free:

  • Try choosing water or low-fat milk instead of fizzy drinks or squash. You can even dilute fruit juice with plain or sparkling water.
  • Reduce the amount of fruit juice you drink as it lacks the fibre content found in raw fruit – no more than 150ml a day is ideal
  • Breakfast cereals tend to be full of sugar so try making some homemade granola and have it with Greek yoghurt and berries or how about having a bowl of porridge or a poached egg on wholemeal toast instead?
  • If you like honey, jam or marmalade to spread on your toast then why not go for a more savoury option such as lightly mashed avocado or try peanut, almond or cashew butter with sliced banana as a treat.
  • Cereal bars can be full of sugar so swap it for sliced apple or carrots with hummus or have a handful of nuts and dried fruit.
  • If you must eat chocolate then switch to dark with a minimum of 70% cocoa
  • Ditch the white bread and go for whole grain as it has less sugar and more fibre per slice.

For more tips on how to eat healthily go to our section on diet and exercise where you will find lots of recipe ideas.

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