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Nutrition for families - Top tips for reducing sugar intake

Do you have any idea how much sugar you or your family are consuming day to day?

It is difficult to track the exact amount of sugar in your diet, especially if you lead a busy lifestyle. For most of us, there are enough pressures from work or home life to give much consideration to monitoring our sugar intake.

Nonetheless, many clients come to us and just don’t realize how high the levels of free sugars are in many everyday foods and snacks. It is not until we have carried out the initial nutrition evaluation on their current dietary intake that they become aware of the problem. Sadly, this is even more the case with children and is reflected in the current health issues we are experiencing, with increasing levels of obesity and diabetes.

Last year, SACN (Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition) cut the recommended sugar intake by half, stating that no more than 5% of our energy intake should come from free sugars.

That equates to:

  • 19g or five sugar cubes/5 teaspoons for children aged four to six years old

  • 24g or six sugar cubes/6 teaspoons for children aged seven to 10

  • 30g or seven sugar cubes/7 teaspoons for those aged 11 and over

Free sugars are those that have been added to foods or those present naturally in honey, syrups and fruit juices. Therefore, the highest amounts of free sugars are found in processed foods like chocolate, sweets, biscuits and drinks. Intrinsic sugars are naturally found in whole fruit and vegetables and are good for us.

This diagram from healthy foods illustrates just how easy it is to consume too many free sugars. Comparing it to the guidelines above, a small chocolate bar has 7tsp of free sugars. Children should have a maximum of between 5-7tsp of free sugars a day, thus it takes most children over their free sugar intake in just one snack!

I myself have a daughter of 6 so I appreciate that it is not an easy task, here are some tips that can really help reduce the amount of free sugars you and your family consume.

  • Check labels to get an idea where possible, this diagram is really useful. Always compare per 100g not serving size, for sugar it is no more than 15g per 100g. This is a general guide, you still need to consider the amount of sugar recommended for depending on age as sated above e.g. 5 tsp a day for a 5 year old.

  • Make healthy snacks easy to reach and unhealthy snacks away e.g. bowl of fruit and/or nuts in living room.

  • Avoid fizzy drinks and those labelled ‘fruit juice drinks’ where possible. This is a confusing area especially with the clever labelling on many drinks aimed at kids. Be on the safe side and stick to water and diluted fresh juice. Add fruit to water to give it more flavour. Flavoured milk is one of the worst culprits, why not try our quick and easy homemade shakes, click here for recipe.

  • Swap flavoured yogurts for plain Greek yogurt and fruit. Flavoured yogurts contain a lot of sugar; this applies to kids yogurts as well.

  • Eat more fruit and vegetables; they don’t count as a free sugar (5 portions a day, 2-3 to be fruit). Get creative!

  • When your own sauces. Many processed sauces including pasta sauces and Chinese stir-fry sauces e.g. sweet and sour contain more sugar than you would think. You are much better off making your own sauces, click here for a simple tomato sauce you can use with many dishes.

  • Be realistic, one step at a time. You wont be able to change everything at once. Start by just trying to swap one snack or drink and see if that can be maintained over a few weeks.

It is almost impossible to know the exact amount of sugar you or your family are consuming but by avoiding certain foods and being aware of their sugar content will ensure you can make wise choices. As well as, empowering our children to make positive habit changes that can last a lifetime.

For more advice on reducing your sugar consumption or an nutritional analysis of your current intakes please contact us at

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