Sugar is ''hidden'' in lots of foods where you might not expect to find it - such as many savoury biscuits, salad dressings, canned and packet soups, tomato sauce, baked beans, canned vegetables, breakfast cereals, yoghurt and fruit juices. It is also found in obvious food sources like many soft drinks, cordials, jams, chocolates, ice-creams, cakes, pastries and confectionery.
It is important to read the ingredient labels on processed and packaged foods for sugar ingredients and quantities. Other ingredient names for sugar include: sucrose, glucose, lactose, fructose, sorbitol, mannitol, corn syrup, honey, malt, malt extract, maltose, rice extract, molasses, golden syrup, and invert sugar.
If sugar or a sugary ingredient is listed as one of the first three ingredients, it is likely that the product is high in sugar.
Total sugars vs added sugars
Most nutrition panels found on food packaging state the total amount of ‘sugars’ present in a product. This total includes ‘added sugar’ as well as naturally occurring sugars from fresh, dried, canned and frozen fruit, and milk components.
A product that is high in ‘sugars’ can be low in ‘added sugar’ if much of the total sugars come from fruit or milk components. This is important to keep in mind when choosing products, such as breakfast cereals. A cereal containing dried fruit may be high in total ‘sugars’ but actually contain little ‘added sugar’. This is because most of the sugars in the product may come from those naturally present in the dried fruit. On the other hand, if a product is high in total ‘sugars’ but doesn’t contain fruit or milk in the ingredients list, it is likely to be high in ‘added sugar’.
How to cut down on sugar
- Reduce the amount of sugar you add to beverages and foods, such as breakfast cereals. Top your breakfast cereals with fruit instead.
- Reach for a piece of fresh fruit for a snack or dessert, instead of a biscuit or a sweet.
- Choose fruit juices with no ‘added sugar’.
- Drink iced water instead of soft drink or cordial. A can of regular soft drink contains approximately 9 teaspoons of sugar.
- Reduce the amount of sugar in foods you prepare at home. Experiment with spices such as cinnamon, cardamon, coriander and nutmeg to enhance the flavour of foods.
- Check the ingredient lists on food packaging for sugar - remember it can be listed as a variety of names. Ingredients are listed in order, starting with those present in the greatest amounts.
It is recommended that we only consume sugar and foods containing added sugars in moderation. While sugar doesn’t cause heart disease, hyperactivity or diabetes, it can contribute to tooth decay. It has also been linked with increased colorectal cancer risk and can provide extra kilojoules (or calories) - which may be a problem for those wanting to lose weight. In addition, refined sugar provides kilojoules without other beneficial nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals and dietary fibre.
Enjoy sugar in moderation, as part of a well-balanced diet. Save sugary foods for occasional treats.