Healthy diet: Five easy tips to ‘slowly but surely’ cut sugar out of your life

The instant ‘hit’ we get from sugary food and drink is why so many Brits turn to a sweet treat when we are tired, or in need of comfort or a reward. As a result, in the UK people of all ages consume almost twice as much sugar on a daily basis.

It is not always as easy as cutting out that can of fizzy drink, as many of the everyday foods we consume have sugar added to them, which can make choosing a healthy lifestyle difficult. Everyday items like bread, pasta, or soup are regularly reinforced with sugar to improve their taste and shelf life – but there are a few simple ways to cut back on sugar in your diet.

This is important as high sugar diets are seen by dieticians as a stronger factor in the rise in morbid obesity than the proliferation of saturated fats. These sugar-rich lifestyles are also seen by diabetes charities as responsible for cases of the disease doubling in the last 15 years.

Cutting back does not have to be a torturous process of self-denial though, according to healthy lifestyle campaigner Ruari Fairbains, CEO of One Year No Beer, who told Metro that the best way to make that change is “slowly but surely”.

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Why should I reduce my sugar intake?

The recommended intake of sugar is between 20g and 30g per day but, with 39g in one can of Coca Cola, most adults in the UK easily consume almost twice that limit – 55g.

According to the NHS, this sort of diet will lead to tooth decay, obesity, and diabetes. While sugar is a normal part of our body’s functioning, the sheer amount of “hidden” or “free” sugars incorporated into our food makes it difficult to keep our sugar intake down.

Government health experts say we should look at cutting “free” sugars as they are not part of a healthy diet, unlike healthier sugars in fruits, milk and vegetables. Free sugars are found in foods such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and some fizzy drinks and juice drinks. These are the sugary foods we should cut down on.

What the expert says

1. Get a good night’s sleep

Getting your sleep routine right can improve your life in general


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Much like drinking more water, getting more high-quality sleep can have a massive impact on our physical and mental health – it even helps regulate how our body processes sugar.

In a study of over 4,000 people reporting the amount of sleep they got each night, those who got less than 6 hours were twice as likely to have cells that were less sensitive to insulin or to have full-blown diabetes. This was true even after the researchers took other lifestyle habits into account.

Typically, our body’s blood sugars spike between 4am and 8am, mirroring the healthy waking cycle of a typical sleep pattern. However, if your body is not fully rested or is used to a high-sugar breakfast, this can actually make you feel more tired in the morning.

Getting a good night’s sleep will help your body wake up for the day, without sugar in your coffee or cereal. Ruari Fairbains explains: “Sometimes all you need to do to keep sugar cravings at bay is to fix your sleeping habits.

“People who are sleep deprived consume more junk food, mainly from high-calorie fatty foods than people who meet their daily sleep quota.”

2. Cut down on your alcohol consumption

If you love an ice-cold beer in the sun, there is some bad news for you


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Unless you are drinking neat vodka and choose for your drunken snack some celery sticks and hummus, your alcohol consumption might be the easiest way to cut down on your sugar content.

Beer, cider, and wine all use both added sugar and natural sugar as part of the fermentation process, so it can be difficult to avoid extra sugar when you are having a tipple.

Unlike other sugary drinks, we often consume multiple beers, or glasses of wine, in an evening of drinking which causes your blood sugar to peak before crashing – causing those late-night kebab binges.

Fairbains explains that surveys show alcoholic beverages account for about 11 per cent of 30 to 64-year-olds in the UK’s daily intake of sugar.

“These drinks also stimulate your appetite, which can cause hunger pangs, leading to overeating. Alcohol can also affect your willpower and judgment, setting you up for bad food choices.”

3. Find low or no sugar alternatives

By far the easiest change you can make in your diet is to purchase by default the low-sugar alternatives that are available for most daily foodstuffs.

While there are plenty of low or no-sugar versions of common fizzy drinks, cutting out some of your favorite juices can be difficult. BBC Good Food recommends adding sparkling water to low-sugar fruit squashes if you’re struggling to find a good alternative.

Ruari explains a few other alternatives: “Instead of stocking your cupboards with sugary snacks, replace the cereals, desserts, chocolate bars, chips, and any other sugar-rich food, with healthy snacking options.

“These include whole wheat pretzels, popcorn, apple slices dipped in almond butter, unsweetened yogurts, flavored almonds, veggies, and hummus.

“Sugary snacks are not going to taunt when they’re not within arm’s reach. Your future self will thank you in the long run!”

4. Cut down on the corn

Getting your five-a-day is important, but picking the right vegetables can be just as important


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Well, not just corn, but all starchy veggies that will break down from complex carbohydrates into simple carbohydrates (sugar) – so if you’re cutting sugar it can be important to miss out on the corn-on-the-cob or roast potatoes .

This means avoiding peas, carrots, corn, sweet potatoes, and lima beans if you want to bring your sugar intake under control. While eliminating these foods from your diet is unlikely, thinking about how much of these veggies you consume can help you make healthier decisions.

Fairbains said: “Starchy greens contain higher amounts of sugar, therefore, eating them can quickly ramp up your sugar intake—and as you know, the more sugar you consume, the more you crave.

“Instead, choose low-carb veggies, such as onions, asparagus, mushrooms, broccoli, or cauliflower.”

5. Get better at reading labels

Food labeling has come on leaps and bounds over the past decade, and all of the included and added sugars in food products have to be declared on the label.

This means that, while it might be hard to find products with zero sugar, you can still make the healthiest choice possible and take a look behind a company’s low-sugar claims.

Fairbains explains that peanut butter, tomato ketchup, and an array of different sauces and condiments have sugar hidden in them.

‘It’s hard to spot the word sugar on food labels because it can go by as many 60 names—all standing for added sugar in one form or the other. For example, sucrose, glucose, and other words ending in “ose”.’

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