Jackie Lynch shares some helpful tips from her book The Right Bite to help you effortlessly limit the sugar in your diet.
If you’ve been following the headlines recently, you’ll have seen that sugar has been firmly cast as the villain of the piece in health terms which makes it a smart move to keep it to a minimum. Unfortunately, that can be easier said than done as sugar is highly addictive and seems to be added to everything, from bread to soups and pasta sauces. Here are 4 simple strategies which will help you significantly reduce sugar without too much effort.
1. Read the label carefully
Sugar comes in many different guises, and can often feature two or three times on a label in a form that you might not recognise, which means high levels of sugar can slip under the radar, if you’re not careful. Anything that ends in –ose is a sugar, for example sucrose, fructose, dextrose or maltose. Corn syrup, maple syrup (or any other syrup, for that matter), treacle, molasses, maltodextrin and hydrolysed starch are all commonly used terms to look out for, as they are just sugar under another name. Don’t be fooled into thinking that honey is a healthier form of sugar, as it’s just sugar in a liquid form (and that doesn’t change if it’s raw, organic or Manuka honey – it’s all sugar). Avoiding products that contain high levels of these hidden sugars could help you cut sugar consumption quite dramatically. If you want to do the maths when you check the label, a teaspoon of sugar adds up to about 4g.
2. Ensure protein features in every meal or snack
It’s incredibly difficult to limit your sugar intake if you’ve allowed your blood sugar to drop. Low blood sugar leads to increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol which creates powerful cravings for sugar, carbs or caffeine to restore blood sugar balance. When your hormones start to determine your food choices, it’s almost impossible not to give into the temptation of the nearest sugary snack. Protein is hard to digest and helps to slow down the release of sugars and carbohydrate in the body, keeping your blood sugar balanced. A protein-rich lunch will make it much easier to say no to a sugary snack mid-afternoon and including protein in all your meals or snacks will go a long way to helping you stay on the straight and narrow.
3. Avoid the low-fat trap
A common misconception is to opt for low-fat foods as a means of losing weight. This is likely to be extremely counter-productive, as sugar not fat is the principal culprit when it comes to gaining abdominal fat. When fat is stripped out of a product, there is a significant loss of flavour and manufacturers will often add sugar (or salt) to enhance the flavour. A typical example of this would be the so-called skinny muffin in coffee shops. This often contains more sugar than the classic version which means it isn’t the healthy treat you might imagine. Make sure you do a label comparison next time you grab your favourite low-fat product at the supermarket so that you don’t fall into the low-fat trap.
4. Steer clear of dried fruit, fruit juices and smoothies
Swapping dried fruit for fresh fruit can make huge inroads into your sugar intake. The dehydration process considerably intensifies the sugar content of the fruit – for example raisins contain about four times as much sugar as grapes. It’s also important to be wary of fruit juices and smoothies – a glass of orange juice with your breakfast may seem like a healthy option, but it contains the equivalent of 6 teaspoons of sugar and a 250ml smoothie bottle contains even more, with sugar content averaging at the equivalent of 7-8 teaspoons. Opting for vegetable juices will help to keep the sugar content down, as long as you make sure there isn’t too much fruit hidden in there. Or you could just drink water!
Jackie Lynch is a Registered Nutritional Therapist and runs the WellWellWell clinics in West London. Passionate about the importance of good nutrition for optimum health, she creates practical nutrition programmes suitable for a busy 21st century lifestyle. Jackie also provides advice and support for a range of blue chip companies, in the form of individual consultations for staff, nutrition workshops and menu analysis and has acted as a food consultant for brands such as Tetley. She is a regular contributor to the Mail on Sunday and the Net Doctor website and her advice features in a wide range of other national media. Visit her website.