Sugar is getting a lot of flack at the moment. It’s evil. It’s poisonous and oh yes of course it WILL kill you (come to think of it I did choke a bit the last time I had some cake).
Bottom line. We are all eating too much of the white stuff. Sugary foods are not packed with vitamins and minerals whereas fruit and vegetables and foods high in protein, like egg or nuts are. Sugar is really just empty energy. Fizzy drinks, cakes, sweets and biscuits do nothing for your long term energy levels. A quick burst for you then to crash and feel rubbish later on. Too much sugar (like any other nutrient) will contribute to weight gain and will rot your teeth. Ultimately, we could all do with cutting down.
Some people have report how going sugar-free has been life-changing. Certain conditions, such as Type 2 Diabetes can benefit from cutting down sugar intake. Insulin does not work as effectively which can lead to higher blood sugars and poor control. So, if cutting down or even out the sugar has worked in these cases; this is brilliant. Also there will be healthy people who have cut down/cut out sugar and feel completely great. This is fine, as long as the restriction can be maintained, the diet is varied and nutritionally complete and a person is happy.
On the contrary many other people seem like they are really struggling with trying to go sugar-free, feeling unhappy and guilty when they succumb to a cup-cake! This bothers me. Of course if you cut down on sugar you may lose weight; you are eating less calories. However, you may find you don’t if you compensate for the lack of sugar and eat other foods, like crisps or chips.
Sugar has been around forever and now it is everywhere and I do mean everywhere. Our diet has changed, foods have changed and we are reaching for more processed foods that have sugar added. The worst thing is some of these foods are marketed as healthy. Tins of soup, pasta sauces, ketchup, yoghurts, low fat products, jars of food, ready meals and take-aways.
So what is the solution? If you want to cut down on sugar but still enjoy an occasional treat do that. You choose when you have some sugar, rather than consume something where it has been added and you would have never guessed. I try and model my eating on this. If I want a small amount of chocolate after my main meal, I’m going to have it. Because I’ve chosen to have that sugar. It’s not been added to a food that I thought was “healthy”. I then try and avoid foods where extra sugar has been added and here’s how:
- Trying to cook from scratch – it’s hard doing this all the time but batch cooking can really help so meals can just be warmed up later on. This avoids jars, packets and ready meals where sugar is added.
- I don’t tend to have low-fat products, just small amounts of normal foods. Often low fat foods have sugar and sweeteners added to them to enhance the flavour lost from taking the fat out. So I have a blob of Greek yoghurt and berries for pudding and steer clear of low-fat yoghurts. I’d rather have 2-3 squares of chocolate, than have a low-fat alternative.
- I avoid sugary breakfast cereals and start the day with a boiled egg and granary toast.
- I snack on almonds, fruit (yes fruit has natural sugar in it but is also has vitamins, anti-oxidants and fibre) and seedy crackers and soft cheese or hommous. This avoids the obvious cakes, biscuits, cereal bars, chocolate and sweets.
- I don’t really drink juice or smoothies – yes they contain some vitamin-packed fruit but they are very concentrated in sugar and, do you really want to drink your sugar?
- The obvious avoidance of sugary fizzy drinks and squashes.
Life is to be enjoyed. Food is to be enjoyed so there is no need to completely cut out sugar. Cut down where you can and if the rest of your diet is balanced, the odd treat in moderation is fine. Of course don’t cut down on your sugar but then eat a whole family-size bar of Dairy Milk! A treat is a treat and should be a small amount but ultimately allowing yourself that makes eating healthily the majority of the time, a lot easier. You will feel happier and really a little bit isn’t going to hurt!