On 6 April the UK joined a small number of countries to introduce a sugar tax on sugary drinks as part of an anti-obesity policy.
This ground-breaking sugar tax means that we are now paying more for high-sugar drinks. Here at Champneys we explore what the sugar tax is, how sugar affects our bodies share some experts tips on how you can avoid sugar on a daily basis.
Now you have to pay an additional 18p or 24p per litre depending on how much extra sugar has been added to your drink of choice.
The new UK levy is much the same as a similar tax in Mexico, France and Norway.
The result of the sugar tax has meant brands such as Fanta, Ribena and Lucozade have revisited their recipes and have all cut the amount of sugar used in their drinks.
As part of our spa breaks in the UK we offer a number of fitness packages and boot camps that concentrate on food and nutrition. During these camps you’ll learn about eating healthier and how to control your sugar intake as we’re sure you’ll already know that eating too much sugar can be bad for you.
Here are some of the affects sugar can have on your body:
- Your mood: sugar gives you a quick burst of energy by raising your blood sugar levels, but when these levels drop you can feel jittery and anxious.
- Your teeth: too much sugar can rot your teeth.
- Your heart: eating too much sugar can affect your arteries and causes their walls to grow faster, which adds stress to your heart and damages it over time. This can cause heart attacks, heart disease and strokes.
- Your weight: it has been revealed that people who drink too many sugary drinks are at a higher risk of type 2 diabetes and are likely to gain more weight.
This may seem like a simple suggestion, but it is something a lot of us don’t bother doing, but as Alan Williams Coaching explains it is very important.
“Many of us aren’t aware of how much sugar we’re consuming each day. Unfortunately we make decisions based on the front of a package, rather than the back. If it ‘looks healthy’ we’ll buy it. The front of the product is designed by marketing experts to sell the product, the real information is on the back. Look for the sugar content on the back. One spoon of sugar is equal to 4g. An adult recommended daily allowance is 6 spoons (24g). By understanding food labels you can see exactly how much sugar is in each product.
“Another way to check for sugar is to look at the list of ingredients. Ingredients are listed in order of how much is contained in the product so if sugar is near the top it’s one to be wary of. Be aware, also, that it won’t always be listed as sugar. If you see words such as Fructose, Sucrose, any word ending in ‘ose’, corn syrup, maple syrup, they are all sugar too.”
As we’ve mentioned, the sugar tax has meant there are a lot of drinks retailers that are changing their recipes to avoid the levy. However, there are a lot of manufacturers that are sticking with their original recipes and Katrin, who runs the Sugar Free Londoner blog that is dedicated to family food without sugar, says you should avoid these sugary drinks.
“My next tip would be to stay away from sugary drinks and fruit juices. A can of coca cola contains 9 teaspoons of sugar, an apple juice around 7. Eat your fruit, but don’t drink it! Drink water or tea instead.”
Libby Jenkinson runs the Ditch the Carbs website to help people start a low carb and sugar free lifestyle and she recommends cutting back on sugary drinks as well as other obvious foods first.
“The easiest way to cut back sugar is to start with the most obvious places first. So for many, it is sugary drinks such as soda, juice, smoothies and flavoured milks. The next hurdle to tackle is the morning routine of sugary cereals, fruit yoghurts and juice. They all have the ‘health halo’, a term given to foods which appear to be healthy, and are marketed as healthy, but in fact are packed with hidden sugars. So why not scrambled eggs with cheese, bacon, last night's leftovers or some natural unsweetened yogurt. You'll be amazed at your energy levels and you won't get that 10am slump when you want to reach for a chocolate bar from the vending machine.”
We all love to go out and eat as you don’t have to bother with cleaning any pots or pans, but the benefits of eating home cooked foods are high. As well as saving you money, you’ll be healthier as you can decide on what ingredients to include and how much sugar you eat.
James Wythe is a fully-qualified health coach and food blogger who runs the Healthy Living James blog and he believes home cooking will help reduce your daily sugar intake.
“Making sure that you’re eating home cooked nutrient dense food as the majority of processed food is packed full of sugar, salt and preservatives.”
Katrin from Sugar Free Londoner, adds, “The easiest way to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet is to start cooking from scratch using natural ingredients. Buy vegetables. Buy fruit. Buy meat, fish, yoghurt – any food that has one ingredient only and is neither bagged nor boxed. If you prepare your own food, you know what you’re eating.
“There is a lot of hidden sugar in ready-made food products, even savoury ones such as pasta sauces, ketchup or microwave meals. Manufacturers add sugar because it acts as a preservative and extends shelf life. It’s cheap and it adds taste. Sugar is not good for our bodies, but it’s good for business.”
While you may think it will best to just go cold turkey and cut out all sugars, Alan Williams recommends making gradual changes.
“Don’t try to overhaul everything. One small change at a time will give you more chance of success. Maybe look at starting the day with a good breakfast. Many people consume breakfast cereals, which are high in sugar. If you start the day with sugar you’re setting yourself up to crave sugar throughout the day. Starting with a good protein source is a good alternative. One of my favourites is boiled eggs with a slice of brown bread. The protein will help keep you full, which also cuts down on snacking between meals.
“The more you deprive yourself of something, the more you’ll want it. Reduce sugar intake gradually, as opposed to cutting it out altogether. The occasional treat will make things more sustainable for you in the long run.”
Lisa, who talks about how she’s used a sugar-free, low-carb diet via her blog Low Carb Yum, says you need to eat whole foods without refined carbohydrates and recommends trying a range of alternatives.
“Unrefined sugars like honey and maple syrup are better options, but I avoid those because they both will spike blood sugar. That's why the alternatives I recommend are concentrated stevia or monk fruit which are both natural based sweeteners. However, sweet foods should be consumed in moderation. When I feel the need for a sweet treat, I like to grab a handful of berries which is just enough to satisfy.”
Katrin says she sweetens her desserts with natural sugar alternatives, “I sweeten my desserts with natural sugar alternatives such as stevia or erythritol, which are calorie free and won’t spike insulin levels.
“Stevia is extracted from the stevia plant, which is native in South America. Only four drops of stevia have the same sweetness as one teaspoon of table sugar.
“Erythritol is a sugar alcohol. It occurs naturally in some fruits and fermented food. Our bodies can’t break it down, so it simply passes through our system. Even better, it causes no tooth decay. Erythritol looks just like sugar and can be replaced in recipes 1:1.”
Libby Jenkinson believes savoury flavoured foods are a great alternative to try.
“My top tip is to begin by always opting for savoury flavours. So if you are craving a sweet sugary snack, go for cheese, nuts, or some deli meat. This will help you to gradually reduce your sweet tooth. If you are really hankering after a sweet treat, why not have some low-sugar berries with natural unsweetened yoghurt? Healthy, nutrient dense and low-sugar.”
By drinking more water you can help reduce your sugar intake and if you’ve always drunk sugary drinks it will be a very good alternative.
Alan Williams Coaching, adds, “Most people know that fizzy drinks are high in sugar and should be avoided. However some of the drinks you perceive to be healthy are not always as good as you think. Flavoured water, for example, can be quite high in sugar. As can smoothies, iced teas, and energy drinks. Your best option? Good old water. You’ll also find your energy levels and skin much improved when you get used to drinking 2L per day.”
James Wythe says eating at regular intervals is another great tactic for you to follow if you’re trying to reduce your sugar intake.
“Make sure you eat at regular intervals, and snacking high in protein or high in healthy fat based foods such as avocados. Make sure to eat at the same time each day and always have prepared/planned what you are going to consume.”
Food blogger Katrin says it’s important to reduce the amount of carbohydrates you’re eating, “Reduce the amount of carbohydrates you’re eating, specifically cereals, bread, pasta and rice. Instead, eat more eggs, nuts and seeds, healthy fats and vegetables. For the Italians, pasta is never the main course. It’s a starter. And did you know 2 slices of wholegrain bread raises your blood sugar levels higher than eating 6 spoonful’s of sugar? You’re much better off eating eggs for breakfast, or a granola made with nuts and seeds.”
So, how will the sugar tax really reduce the amount we consume?
Alan Williams Coaching believes it will have an impact on the manufacturers. He says, “I think it may help from the point of view that it’s putting pressure on the manufacturers. We’ve already seen quite a large number of soft drink manufacturers go back to the drawing board to reformulate their drinks. Avoiding the higher tax clearly matters to them. However I’m not convinced a sugar tax alone is enough to tackle the obesity epidemic.”
James Wythe, adds, “I think the sugar tax should be a great way to help raise awareness around how much sugar people are consuming. In turn hopefully this will reduce sugar intake but education is still vital and needs to go alongside the tax in my opinion.”
Katrin, says, “The sugar tax is a great step in the right direction. I’m sure we’ll see an impact on public health in time. What the government needs to do now is make people more aware of the health implications of sugar and stop allowing companies to sell it as ‘healthy’, ‘sporty’ or ‘fun’. The sugar in drinks amounts to hundreds of calories we’re not aware of. You can glug down a fizzy drink and you won’t feel any more satisfied than if you had drunk a glass of water. At least if you eat a piece of cake, you’ll feel full for a while.”