Cutting Down Sugar at Meal Times
Before you freak and throw out everything in your kitchen, take a moment to fully understand the official sugar recommendation and the difference between added sugar and naturally-occurring sugar.
Fruits, veggies and plain dairy products have naturally occurring sugar that you shouldn’t overly concern you. Because fruits and veggies contain other nutrients like fiber and healthy fats, the liver doesn’t process the sugar in the same way it would a cookie or a Twix bar. In other words, the sugar in apples and peppers won’t contribute to weight gain and diabetes like a soda will. Here are ways to help you cut down on sugar:
As well as steering towards plain, low-sugar cereals and fresh fruit without the honey, open your tastebuds to enjoying other types of breakfast. Here are some suggestions:
- Savoury porridge – while many of us are used to having porridge topped with honey and fruit in traditional porridge is more on the savoury side – made with jumbo rolled oats and water. Top with toasted coconut flakes, toasted chopped nuts, and, if you do fancy it, a few sultanas or raisins.
- Mushrooms on toast – sauté mushrooms with a little unsalted butter, olive oil and a pinch of dried herbs such as thyme. Try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon at the end instead of adding salt. Serve on top of unsalted buttered toast.
- Kippers on toast – smokey and savoury, this old-fashioned British breakfast is rich in healthy oils and protein to keep you going through to lunch. Many people love kippers but not the smell it leaves after cooking, but this is easy to fix – after cooking, splash some ordinary white vinegar into the pan and it will instantly absorb the smell both from the pan and in the room.
- Eggs – go to work on an egg. Whether fried, poached, scrambled or soft-boiled with soldiers, eggs are packed with protein that will help stave off sugar cravings, especially in the mid-morning.
- Plain yogurt with muesli and some chopped fruits.
Each day, the average woman should aim to consume no more than 2000 calories, and average man no more than 2500. It is thought that lunch should be the smallest meal of the day in terms of calories, and therefore that it should make up around 500-600 calories. Eating healthily at lunch can be hard because often we are tempted by the meal deals and unhealthy food options from supermarkets or cafes. If you can, try to pack your own lunch each day – this will save you money and ultimately help you reduce sugar intake. If you don’t have time to pack your own lunch or would prefer to buy lunch, try to always have a look at the labels and choose the healthier options. Here are some tips on how to eat a healthy lunch:
- Salad – an excellent choice for lunch and there are a huge variety of healthy but tasty options. You can add vegetables, meat, fish or even cheese (avoid cheese however if you are trying to cut down on salt). If you find yourself wanting something more filling, try making a pasta or couscous salad. Avoid using honey, sugar or too much salt to make the salad dressing, instead try adding some lemon juice. To give it a sweeter taste, perhaps add some fresh or dried fruit.
- Sandwiches – if you find yourself craving carbohydrates at lunch then try making yourself a sandwich. Again, there are many different fillings that you can choose from to make your sandwich healthy but tasty. Try to use wholemeal bread and avoid salted butter, too much mayonnaise or ketchup.
- Drinks – try not to drink fizzy drinks or other sugars-sweetened beverages for lunch as they will add unnecessary calories as well as high amounts of added sugar into your diet. Stick to water instead. If you like to have coffee or tea with or after your lunch, try to avoid adding sugar or sweeteners. If you are accustomed to adding sugar or sweeteners, reduce the amount you add each day slowly, and you’ll find that you won’t need the sweet taste anymore.
- Snacks – if you want a sweet snack after lunch, go for healthier options such as fruit.
A healthy and nutritious dinner should include roughly around 600-700 calories. It is important to remember that healthy does not equal bland, and that there are many different foods that you can cook that will be tasty but nutritious. Here are some tips on how to eat a healthy dinner:
- Avoid adding sugar, salt or too much butter to any of your cooking. Instead, add flavour by using herbs, spices or lemon juice.
- Try to stay away from condiments such as ketchup or sweet chili sauce, which are very high in sugar (up to 30%).
- Try to grill, bake or steam foods rather than frying them.
Calculate how much you will cook with the aim of being satisfied rather than completely full at the end of the meal. Don’t make portion sizes too large.
- Try to substitute cakes, biscuits or ice cream with fruit salads, sugar-free jelly or simply a couple of squares of dark chocolate for desert. Avoid choosing fruits that are canned in syrup, instead choose fruits that are canned in their own juice.
- Avoid fizzy drinks that are packed with sugar, try sticking to still or sparkling water.
AUTHOR: Shivani Padmini Poinoosawmy, Bsc (diet), PG dip (diet), Msc (diet)