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Supermarket Confusion: Too Much Sugar

As Canadians we are eating too much ‘added sugar.’ Sugar gives us energy but not much else. Consuming too much sugar puts us at risk for heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood cholesterol, cancer and of course cavities.

The Heart and Stroke Foundation is recommending that we decrease our consumption of ‘added sugar’ to no more than 10 per cent of our daily calories. Added sugars includes sugar ingredients you find in packaged foods like glucose, fructose, sucrose, brown sugar, honey, corn syrup, maple syrup, molasses, fruit puree and juice etc. The Foundation is also including the fruit juice you drink and honey and maple syrup that you purchase to add to foods at home as ‘added sugars’.

Added sugars do not include the sugars that are found naturally in foods such as fruit, vegetables, milk, grains and other plant-based foods such as legumes and nuts. These foods all provide us with lots of good nutrition.

So 10 per cent of our daily calories are equal to 12 teaspoons of sugar if you are consuming a 2,000 calorie diet. It doesn’t take too long to reach the 12 teaspoons if you are consuming sugar sweetened beverages. One can of pop contains 40 grams of sugar or 10 teaspoons!

Here are nine ways to help you reduce your ‘added sugar’ intake and eat healthily:

1. Thirsty? Drink water or lower fat (2 per cent milk fat or less) plain milk. Flavour your water with lemon, orange or lime slices, strawberries or fresh mint. Milk has naturally occurring sugar in the form of lactose and provides lots of nutrients, such as calcium and Vitamin D. Soft drinks and fruit drinks are high in sugar, with no nutritional value. Fruit juice is high in sugar with less nutritional value and more sugar than whole fruit.

2. Time for a coffee or tea break? Be selective and stay away from the fancy drinks with added sugars. Instead of ordering a chai latte, order chai tea and ask them to add steamed milk. Order a latte instead of a mocha coffee. Add the nutmeg and cinnamon toppings provided for extra flavour.

3. Hungry for a meal? Try whole foods. Whole foods are foods that are as close to their natural state as possible. Examples are: fresh or frozen vegetables and fruit; lean meats, poultry and fish; meat alternatives such as beans, lentils or tofu; whole grains such as brown rice, whole wheat couscous, barley, freekeh and whole grain breads; dairy products such as plain lower fat milk, plain yogurt and cheeses. There are so many delicious options.

4. Need a snack? Stock up on healthy snacks such as roasted nuts; lower-fat cheese and crackers; veggies and dip; plain yogurt and fresh fruit. Try to avoid baked goods, sweet desserts, candies and chocolates that are all high in added sugar.

5. Buying breakfast cereal? Choose cereals with less than 6 grams of sugar and more than 4 grams of fibre per 1 cup (30 gram) serving. Look high and low on the supermarket shelves. Many of the healthier cereals will be either on the top or bottom shelves. The sugar sweetened cereals are placed at eye level to make them easy for kids to find.

6. Cook at home more often. For great ideas on healthy home cooking, visit heartandstroke.ca/recipes for a wide variety of delicious recipes. Select recipes that are lower in sugar. And, experiment with your favourite recipes by reducing the amount of sugar by one-quarter to one-third. Try vanilla, cinnamon or almond extract to add flavour to your baking without added sugar.

7. Save restaurants for special occasions. When eating out, choose your restaurant wisely. Look for menus with freshly made unprocessed foods and nutrition information to help you make a healthy choice. Consider sharing a meal or ordering the appetizer size to help limit the portion size.

8. When you buy packaged foods read the Nutrition Facts table and the ingredient list. Pay special attention to the total amount of sugar and read the ingredient list. The Nutrition Facts table will tell you the total amount of sugar in the product (from both naturally occurring and added sugars) and the ingredient list will let you know where the sugar is coming from. Naturally occurring sugars are found in fruit, vegetables, plain dairy products, starches, grains and plant based foods. These foods provide us with valuable nutrients.

Added sugars such as glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, evaporated cane juice; fruit puree, molasses, corn syrup, dextrose, concentrated fruit juice, etc. provide calories without nutritional benefits.

9. Understand what claims for sugar mean on packaged foods.
– No added sugar– The product contains no added sugar such as glucose, fructose, honey or molasses. However it may contain naturally occurring sugars such as those from fruit or dairy products.
– Reduced or lower in sugar – The food contains at least 25 per cent and 5g less sugar than the food to which it is compared.
– Unsweetened – The food contains no added sugars or sweeteners such as aspartame or sucralose.
– Sugar-free or sugarless– Each standard serving contains less than 0.5g of sugar and less than 5 calories.

If you have questions about what you are hearing in the news but are not sure what it means to you, please e-mail me at [email protected] and follow me on twitter at @CarolD_RD

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