I often see clients that want to cut out all sugars. This is easier said than done. To be able to cut out sugars we need to know what sugars are and where we find them. It is also important to know that not all sugars are bad for our health: fruit, vegetables, dairy and whole grains contain glucose, fructose and lactose – a natural from of sugar. With the sugar they also contain vitamins, minerals and fiber that we need on a daily basis for optimal health. We should rather aim to cut out added sugars – sweetened products like beverages, breakfast cereals, drinking yogurt, sugar coated dried fruit, sweets and desserts, etc.
Flavoured dairy products:
When flavouring dairy products they add sugar and sweeteners to enhance the flavor. Rather choose plain yogurt / milk instead of the flavoured option.
Fresh fruit contain natural sugars, so it can be consumed in moderate quantities. Dried fruit, fruit juices and canned fruit can contain added sugar. Rather opt for a fresh fruit as it also contains fiber and larger quantities of vitamins and minerals. Certain vitamins and minerals can be damaged by light and heat.
Muesli and cereals:
Most muesli and cereals have added sugar to make it more palatable. Below is an info graphic of the amount of sugar in popular cereals (excluding muesli). Also be careful of instant flavoured oats as sugar is added in the form of chocolate and dried fruit.
Muesli is often roasted and coated with honey / syrup / sugar to give it a crunchy texture and to make it more palatables. Choose a muesli mixture of natural oats, nuts and seeds or make your own: mix hi-fiber bran with oats, nuts, seeds and a small amount of raisins.
These are high in carbohydrates, sugar and energy and low in protein. Rather have a fresh fruit with yogurt and nuts or some cereal with milk and seeds.
Energy bars / protein bars:
These are all laden with sugars (to provide quick energy). Only consume these when you are an active individual partaking in an exercise event. The average South African does not need one of these bars on a regular basis.
These drinks are high in sugar and contain small amounts of electrolytes. These drinks are only recommended to active individuals. Rather consume food to replenish lost energy and electrolytes.
Vitamin water / flavoured water:
These drinks are a gimmick and are manufactured by large fizzy drink companies. They contain a lot of sugar and small amounts of vitamins and minerals. A fresh fruit and glass of water will provide much more vitamins and minerals, without the added sugar.
It’s often associated with main meals or savoury dishes, but these products can be packed with sugar. An info graph (below) indicates the amount of sugar in well-known sauces in South Africa.
Pasta sauces and other ready-to eat sauces:
Sauces can contain a lot of sugars, so where possible make your own by using fresh tomatoes or tinned tomatoes.
Commercial salad dressings can contain a lot of added sugars, rather make your own by using lemon juice, olive oil and herbs, etc.
Salads and vegetables at restaurants:
These can seem like healthier alternatives to chips and carbohydrates. In fact they contain a lot of added sugar (think sweetened butternut, coleslaw, pumpkin fritters). Opt for a fresh salad instead.
Energy drinks, cold drinks and ice-tea:
Ice tea seems like a great alternative to cold drinks and energy drinks, but it still contains the same amount of sugar compared to one glass of regular coke. Make your own homemade ice-tea by brewing rooibos tea and adding one teaspoon of honey to 1L tea. Choose a clear juice (apple / grape / cranberry) and add one can to 1L tea. You can also add lemon wedges and mint or ginger instead of fruit juice.