This weekend saw the launch of a high profile and ambitious Sugar Smart campaign in Bristol. Cakes, sweets, biscuits and sugary drinks are all things we turn to at times of celebration or when we crave comfort and reward. They taste delicious and give us an instant ‘lift’. But we now know that that pleasant sugar rush can lead to unhealthy eating patterns and all sorts of health issues. The Jamie Oliver backed initiative is a campaign to increase our awareness of the harm of too much sugar – both on our weight and dental health. To mark the launch of this campaign in Bristol I asked Rosie Letts nutritionist to write article to help us get ‘sugar smart’. Here’s her advice:
“You may have heard that the latest research shows sugar, not fat (as previously thought) to be largely responsible for our national obesity epidemic and increased cholesterol levels. This discovery prompted a recent change in government guidelines on sugar consumption. It is now recommended that sugar should account for just 5% of our daily energy intake. Yet it is estimated that on average we consume 3 times this upper limit each day. Adults should look to eat and drink no more than 30g of sugar daily, but just as a reference, a can of Coke contains 39g and a glass of orange juice has 22-30g of sugar. So many of us unwittingly reach our limit by breakfast.
I am a firm believer that an occasional treat when following a healthy balanced diet is harmless, but excessive daily sugar intake causes an array of health problems, including tooth decay, type 2 diabetes and fatty liver disease, to mention a few. In my clinic I notice that eating too much sugar is almost always a key contributor to mood swings, fatigue, insomnia and food cravings.
Part of the problem is that hidden sugars find their way into our diets through many dairy and bakery products, breakfast cereals and condiments. Just avoiding the obvious processed sugar sources like fizzy drinks and sweets may not be enough anymore. We need to be more mindful of the amount of sugar in our favourite foods, we need to get sugar smart.
Here are a few simple steps to reduce daily sugar intake by addressing most overlooked areas of our diets:
Read your food labels
Reading the label is the only accurate way to see if a product includes added sugars. Be aware though, manufacturers use at least 60 different names for hidden sugars including maltose, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup and barley malt.
Watch-out for “diet” products
As concerns about our waist lines rise, countless fat-free, sugar-free and calorie-free alternatives are appearing on supermarket shelves. Often these products are stripped of naturally occurring nutrition and fats, (which are beneficial to our wellbeing) and then supplemented with sugar (or artificial sugar replacements) to give them taste and substance. Artificial sweeteners are man made chemicals that our bodies can’t recognise or process properly. In my opinion all ‘diet’ foods should be avoided completely.
Be mindful at snack time
Most of us now know that daily snacking on biscuits or cake is damaging to our health, however it is often overlooked that so perceived “healthy alternatives” can also rank as top sugar sources.
‘Healthy’ nut or protein bars are loaded with sugars to improve the taste, whereas many ‘raw food’ alternatives count heavily on dried fruit and dates, which also have a high sugar content and should be consumed sensibly. Moreover, dried fruits are often excessively covered in sugar syrup and should be altogether avoided.
Monitor your fruit intake
British Association for Nutritional Therapy (BANT) recently had to clarify government guidelines for daily fruit and vegetable consumption, as it was misleading to think that up to 5 portions of fruit per day was part of a healthy diet. Consuming 5 portions of vegetables and up to 2 portions of fruit daily is much more nourishing.
The easiest way to control the amount of sugar you eat is to prepare more of your food at home from fresh ingredients. These no bake cranberry, almond and oat energy balls are a really easy to make, low sugar snack and my overnight oats with raspberries a nutritional and low sugar breakfast.”
You can join the #sugarsmartbristol conversation on twitter and get more information on how sugar in our diet affects our health via this NHS link.
Thank you for taking the time to answer our survey. It is vital we have your input to make sure we’re moving in the right direction. Here’s what you told us..
- You’d like more one and a half hour walks (most popular), half day walks and two hour walks.
- Mornings were best for you and weekdays were more popular than weekends (although we have more weekday walkers in total).
- When asked ‘how can we improve our walks' you were very complimentary (lovely to read) but you have asked for more individual attention on technique within sessions.
So moving forward into 2017 we feel we have some positive direction from you. As you know we have already added two new weekday 10am walks, we’d also like to add a longer weekday walk and another at the weekend as soon as we can. For these new walks we may need new instructors, so please bear with us. We are also holding monthly meetings with our instructors to focus on technique, best practice and to ensure we are all doing our best for you.