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Sugar Smart

Improving diet

As a Public Health Nutritionist, I spend much of my time educating audiences and individuals on how to improve their diet. Most people are receptive and truly want to make their diet more nutritious.

But how?

One key ‘take home message’ that I try to emphasise, as I wrap up a presentation or consultation is, “Consciously commit to reducing your sugar intake”. If EVERYONE in the UK pedantically curbed the amount of sugar they consumed we

If EVERYONE in the UK pedantically curbed the amount of sugar they consumed we would be taking a significant step in the right direction to improve the Health of the Nation. And, as a consequence, place significant less strain on the NHS...and on our bodies!

Through magazines, television and the wider media, we increasingly recognize that we are avid (or is that ‘addicted’?) consumers of that over refined white stuff – via savoury foods, manufactured drinks, biscuits, cakes and all things sweet and sticky. In

In Europe we are ‘Top of the League’ for the consumption of cakes, biscuits and sweets. This is not an accolade to be proud of….but it is our reality. And doctors and dentists see the impact of this ‘habit’ on a daily basis in their sugaries…Sorry, I mean ‘surgeries’!!!

Our bodies NEED protein to survive and thrive. Our bodies NEED fat to survive and thrive. Our bodies NEED carbohydrate to survive and thrive, but our bodies do not NEED refined or added sugar – not in any way shape or form. It is a fact that if we removed all added sugar from our diet we would, without any further effort, be improving the nutrient density of our diet. Surely this can only be a good thing?

How can we take steps to reduce our consumption of added sugars without making our lives truly miserable or our diets unpalatable? The answer to this depends on your personality and the degree of importance you place on your long term health. Artifical sweeteners are not the way; we are better off trying to adapt our palate and reduce our ‘expectation’ of sweetness. We can do this by weaning ourselves off sugar gradually or going ‘cold turkey’ – depending on your personality type.

Substituting a sweet snack for a savoury one is a good start. Swapping processed foods (which can contain surprisingly high levels of added sugar) for something unprocessed eg fruit; fruit is the ultimate ‘fast food’, or veggie sticks or cubes of cheese (NOT the over-processed plastic ‘sticks’ that come individually wrapped). In fact it is a good rule of thumb to avoid all ‘individually wrapped’ foods – because the packaging itself suggests it is processed; and ‘processed’ usually means added this and added that – additions (including sugar) that simply don’t need to be there, and invariably do not improve our nutrition.

Read labels

This might sound obvious but food labels are a tool that are often overlooked – or, often, deemed ‘confusing’. (maybe a topic for a future blog?).

Try to avoid foods that contain more than 15g sugar per 100g ie. Anything containing more than 15% sugar needs to be considered a ‘treat’ not an ‘every day’ food. Look for ‘low-sugar’ foods (5% or less) or ‘moderate’ levels of sugar (10%) and make an INFORMED choice, rather than guessing at the sugar content.

Most consumers are genuinely surprised at how much sugar is in some of their ‘every day’ foods!

This article was written by Tamara Bennett. Tamara is our in-house nutritionist.

Rebekah Pearson
Rebekah Pearson
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