Unless you have been living in a Tibetan monastery, completely cut off from the world for the past five years, you will know that eating too much sugar is bad for your health.
One of the biggest issues with sugar is that it can increase inflammation throughout the body, causing a host of reactions that are potentially damaging.
Sugar stimulates the production of free fatty acids in the liver. When the body digests these free fatty acids, the resulting compounds can trigger inflammatory processes. Inflammation is not all bad – it’s part of our body’s healing process. But chronic low-grade inflammation has been linked with heart disease, diabetes, cancer and allergies.
Too much sweet stuff can also impact our mood – when we eat foods such as lollies or biscuits, our blood sugar levels rise quickly. This gives us a burst of energy – sometimes referred to as a sugar high. The problem occurs when those blood sugar levels drop, leaving us feeling jittery and anxious. If this happens repeatedly, it can have an effect on our mood. Some studies even suggest that high sugar intake can lead to an increased risk of depression.
So let’s get to grips with sugar and how to cut it out of our diets for the sake of our physical, mental and emotional health.
Understand how much sugar you can safely consume
The World Health Organisation recommends eating no more than 50g of sugar a day (that’s around 12 teaspoons). It sounds like a lot but research shows that the average adult consumes about 37 teaspoons of sugar in what we eat and drink each day.
A 300ml can of soft drink contains about eight teaspoons of sugar, a 350ml serve of fruit juice contains about 10 teaspoons of sugar and a 750ml bottle of sports drink contains a whopping 15 teaspoons of sugar. Sometimes we are over our daily limit even before we start looking at what’s in our food!
Two Griffin’s gingernut biscuits contain 10 grams of sugar – that’s two and a half teaspoons of sugar. A commercially made muesli bar can contain as much as 11 or 12 grams of sugar. Even pasta sauce can contain seven or eight grams of sugar per serving.
Read food labels
Check out our earlier blog on how to read a food label so you know exactly what you are eating. Food that has 15g or more per 100g is considered high in sugar. Anything under five grams of total sugar per 100g is low.
Have a low-sugar breakfast
Many people will be surprised at how much sugar they eat in their first meal of the day. A review of breakfast cereals by Consumer in 2012 found that the average was 18.9g of sugar per 100g and many contained more than 20g of sugar per 100g. Children’s cereals, on average, are even worse, with some containing 30g or more of sugar per 100g.
Te Atatu Toasted Mueslis are all less than 15g of sugar per 100g and our Healthy Blend has only 2.9 grams of sugar per 100g. Enjoy them with fruit and plain yoghurt for a healthy breakfast.
Gradually cut out sugar
We can all get used to eating less sugar, but sometimes it takes time, especially for children who have been accustomed to higher amounts. You may find gradually cutting it out will help.
Stop adding sugar to tea and coffee or slowly reduce how much you are having. Swap fruit juice or fizzy drinks for soda water or plain water with a squeeze of lemon. Buy tinned fruit in natural juice rather than syrup. Eat fresh foods rather than processed foods. Use herbs and spices to add flavour to food rather than relying on sugary sauces.
Make your own low-sugar treats
Our website has several recipes for low-sugar treats so your family can cut down their intake without feeling as through they are missing out.
Bliss Balls Here's a super easy recipe for bliss balls created by Kate from Lifespark Nutrition that are grain free, gluten free, sugar free, vegan and yum! Keep them in the fridge and have one (or two!) with an afternoon cuppa or after dinner as a very healthy but satisfying dessert. You can also roll them in whatever you like for different flavours - we'll give you some suggestions and then you can come up with your own! Here’s the recipe
Healthy Breakfast Cookies These are perfect for busy mornings or teenagers who need a low-sugar breakfast but can't face eating a bowl of cereal. They are high fibre, high protein and low in sugar and salt so you know they are a healthy breakfast option. You can also have them as a snack or put them in the kids’ lunchboxes. Get the recipe
Baked Cheesecake Crumble
If you like cheesecake and you like crumble, you are going to love this delicious dessert that’s a combination of both. We found a few tricks to make it lower in sugar and fat and still taste yum! Get the recipe
Lisa’s Grain-Free Cookies Here's a delicious healthy recipe sent in by one of the fans of the fabulous Te Atatu Toasted Grain Free porridge. They are easy to make, so tasty and not too sweet. Get Lisa’s recipe
Healthy Flapjacks Another great option for breakfast on the run, these are already low sugar but using Natvia or similar will make them even lower in sugar. They are already a great source of protein but if you want to make protein bars, replace the LSA with protein powder. Check out the recipe from Kate at Lifespark Nutrition.
Te Atatu Oat Cakes Divine with cheese and chutneys, these make a healthy addition to any snack platter you are putting together this summer. Containing only a few ingredients, they are simple to prepare. The recipe makes about 25 biscuits – get the instructions here.
Four Ingredient Grain-Free Pikelets This is another recipe from a Te Atatu Toasted fan – this delicious creation came courtesy of the lovely Jacqui. It makes about eight pikelets that you can serve with your favourite toppings. We love with plain Greek yoghurt, blueberries and a drizzle of rice bran syrup. Here’s the recipe
Remember, life can be sweet without adding too much sugar!