2015 will definitely be known as the year that sugar takes the spotlight for its role in our global obesity crisis. The focus has moved away from fats and carbs, which have previously been labelled as the worst culprits. It is now time to look at our sugar consumption. We all know that a chocolate bar or a slice of cake counts directly towards our daily sugar intake but what if you were exceeding the daily limit without even realising it?
I recently asked a friend if she knew what the official sugar guidelines were. There was a long pause, after which she admitted she had no idea but she assumed she was well within limits. Aside from a fizzy drink over lunch and an afternoon sweet treat there was nothing else she could think of that contained any sugar.
This is true for must of us. Very few of us know the official guidelines and what’s worse is that we have no idea that one can of coca cola or one chocolate bar not only takes up to our daily limit, it exceeds it. A can of coca cola contains around 9 teaspoons of sugar and a standard mars bar contains another 8 teaspoons.
According to the American Health Association, women should be consuming 25g of sugar per day. To put this more simply, that’s around 6 teaspoons of sugar. Men have a slightly larger allowance of 9 teaspoons, which equates to 35g in total per day.
So without even realising it, her consumption was more than double the recommended guidelines each day, and that was only when counting the foods that very obviously contained sugar. When I probed further about her meals she told me about the healthy choices she makes throughout the day. The day starts with a low fat fruit yoghurt to give her some energy before her PT session. Lunch consists of a salad with low fat dressing and dinner is most often a quick pasta dish or something similarly as easy to throw together. If she is off to the gym she may have a banana or something small as a pre-workout snack.
It’s startling when we break this down. A 150g serving of Yeo Valley 0% Fat yoghurt at breakfast adds 5 teaspoons to her total. The dollop of Heinz Salad Cream on her lunch adds another teaspoon while half a jar of Ragu Tomato and Basil Sauce adds another 3. Her sugar consumption level for the day totalled 26 teaspoons – over four times the amount recommended by health experts.
What is most shocking is that foods perceived as healthy are very often the worst offenders. Low fat yoghurts, canned soups, fruit juices, granola bars and salad dressings all contain hidden sugar.
Until major food distributors make our food labelling more transparent we are all at risk of sugar addiction. A useful way we motivate our clients to make better food choices is by helping them understand this in exercise terms. You would need to walk around London’s Green Park four times to burn of a standard bottle of Coca Cola (590ml). That’s a lot of work for a casual drink at lunch! A 1.2 mile run would burn the equivalent of the calories gained from a sugary Muller Light yoghurt. It’s clearly not as healthy as it sounds. Check your food labelling and question the content of low fat products. Getting wise to hidden sugar is the best way of getting healthy!