Every day people tell me innocently that they don’t eat sugar... We need to get waaay more savvy than that. Food manufacturer's simply don't speak our language. They like to write in code names like grams, units and traffic lights (what??)
In fact, there are 61 different names for sugar. So without even realising it, many of us are consuming popular everyday items (such as bread, soups, crisps, yoghurts, pasta sauces and ready-meals) all containing added sugar and we are none the wiser. Sugar is everywhere.
Understanding food labels
I was in a popular high street coffee chain this weekend and noticed that they have updated their food labels with the sugar content of all their cakes. Great news! But...
How many of us actually know what 24g or 28g of sugar equates to in actual sugar?? Can you visualise it? I certainly can’t!
How much sugar is too much sugar?
The World Health Organisation set the recommended daily intake of refined sugar to no more than 6 teaspoons per day for adults with a healthy body mass index (BMI). (Less for children). Most of us eat much more than this without even realising. For example, one tin of a popular British tomato soup contains 5 teaspoons of sugar. Add a bread roll to that for lunch and you could easily reach 6 teaspoons of sugar. That’s just lunch.
How to translate 28g of sugar into something meaningful
The good news is some simple primary school maths is all we need. Let’s break 28g down into something everyone can relate to: Teaspoons!
Let's do the maths
1 teaspoon of sugar = 4g of sugar
1 slice of high street coffee shop carrot cake (pictured below right) contains 28g of sugar
Simply divide 28g by 4g
The answer is 7 teaspoons of sugar.
How does that make you feel? Is it what you expected? Or are you surprised?
That small slice of cake in the high street coffee shop window contains seven teaspoons of sugar. That's more than our recommended intake of sugar for our entire day. That is heaps considering the size of the slice. Now add on the sugar in your milky coffee (lactose) or your coffee chain 'free from' milk (most will contain sugar) and if you prefer a caramel latte or a gingerbread latte keep on adding...
- Locate where it says ‘carbohydrates of which sugars’ on the label. On this cake label 'carbohydrates of which sugars' is displayed as ‘sugars’ underneath the word carbohydrate.
- Now check the serving size under each column. The individual serving size of this item is one sixth of the entire cake: 23.53g (let’s make it 24g for ease).
- Simply divide 24g by 4g = 6 teaspoons per serving.
Six teaspoons is your sugar allowance for an entire day. And that is before we devour the second serving of birthday cake which we all inevitably like to have ;)
Get sugar savvy
Sugar comes in many products. Not just cakes. Look at your bread label, your packaged soup label, ready-meals, pasta sauce and stock cubes. Remember to divide by four and you’ll soon be way more sugar savvy.
Key points to remember:
- Divide by 4.
- LOW in sugar = 5g or less per 100 g.
- HIGH in sugar = 15g or more per 100g.
- Remember to consider the serving size as well.
I hope this helps you navigate the aisles a bit better. If you have any questions please get in touch