We don’t eat too much sugar because we are idiots, we eat too much sugar because the food and drink industry is greedy. It loads food with sugar to make low grade ingredients taste good, something especially necessary as fat is removed from so many things.
Three things have annoyed me about the sugar bashing today. Firstly, the implied severity of a sugar free diet. The anti-sugar fanatics paraded on the news at ten are off-putting; mothers in hemp cardigans feeding their traumatised children rye bread and spinach are not going to reach us normal folk. There are easier ways to reduce sugar than becoming a food bore.
Secondly, there has been no explanation as to why sugar is bad. This is unhelpful too. If we can understand why something is bad, we can better motivate ourselves to find ‘good’ alternatives.
Finally, the way to encourage people to avoid sugar is to understand how the food industry has corrupted our food (and therefore palettes) by using too much sugar, and then using that education to help people make better food decisions. No responsibility in the reporting today was placed on manufacturers. There is a good reason for this; the food lobby is powerful and has an easy ride from parliament and the public. Life is easy if your products don’t give people lung cancer or hangovers. Put simply, apathy, lack of knowledge and the fear of the nanny state means mud does not stick.
Avoiding sugar is not hard work. He is some information that wasn’t really reported today. Which annoyed me. Hence this post.
Reducing sugar is easier than you think.
- Cook your main meals from scratch and try not to use convenience sauces like Ragu or Uncle Ben (but if you must use one, use Uncle Ben and support a brother). These sauces normally have added sugar to hide their blandness. Your food does not have to look like the below. There is only a tiny amount of sugar in a curry and roti and curry and roti is amazing.
- Read nutrition labels as much as you can. This is a chore, but we automatically place food into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ categories based on perception and not fact. So, we think a bag of Haribo is ‘bad’ and a fruit smoothie is ‘good’. Actually, they are as bad as each other.
We need to start basing our categorisations on fact and that comes with being informed. Look for ‘carbohydrates which sugar’, divide the number by 5, and bingo, you have the number of teaspoons of sugar you are about to consume/change your mind about consuming.
- Sugar isn’t causing obesity. Sugar and inactivity is. The problem is that sugar turns to fat very quickly if it is not expended. If you really can’t cut back on sugar, change the times at which you consciously eat it. More sugar in the morning is great because you will spend your day (hopefully) walking up escalators, running for buses and sending emails, all useful ways to burn off that energy. Drink a can of Cola at night and you are asking for a cavities and high blood pressure.
- Look for reasonable alternatives. Instead of full sugar soft drinks, consume limited amounts of the diet versions. Drink more water. Boring, I know, but if the fluid that gave this planet life isn’t exciting enough, add some fruit cordial. Coconut water is brilliant. Dilute fruit juice with fizzy water (my personal trick). Swap confectionary for nuts, or popcorn (unsweetened of course). I am a big fan of rice cakes and peanut butter, (crunchy, not smooth). I eat this instead of Snickers and such like. Pretzels make for a good snacking alternative. I like nothing better than a Tupperware box full of carrot sticks. Join me.
- Understand how the food industry works. There is no legislation to control how manufacturers promote their products; a product can be marketed as ‘light’ based on colour and not on nutritional content! Again, the food lobby has a big hand in this.
Beware of the following versions of any food product:
Fat is almost always replaced with sugar which means you would be better off with the fatty version, which is more likely to be satiating and tasty, both qualities food used to have before profit got in the way. Don’t think for a second Amanda Holden eats pots of ‘greek style’ yoghurt with an inch of jam at the bottom. She’s just paid to make you think she does.
The bottom line is that the industry has got us addicted to sugar because the government lets them do what they like. Now the government is in a muddle because it wants us to be healthier, but not at the expense their industry mates’ margins. Then we get think tanks telling us we should be eating no more than 1.4. Kit Kat Chunkies a day if we want to stay alive, with no context and crucially, no practical information and advice.
Sugar, in excess, is not a good thing. But, positioning a reduced sugar diet as drastic and unattractive is misleading and unhelpful. Understand how corrupt the industry is, read the labels on food and slowly build alternatives for the sugary things you consume every day. Don’t forget to break into a sweat every now and again. And stay away from hemp cardigans. You can avoid sugar and still be cool.