Julie Meek, a Nutritionist and Accredited Practising Dietitian gives us her thoughts on going going 'sugar free'.
The sugar free way of eating has been gathering strength and momentum for some time now and as a nutritionist, its something that I get asked about a LOT.
Let’s just establish straight away that sugar is not heroin, ICE or any other hard drug, despite that fact that I hear people talking about it in the same hushed tones one would reserve for serious addiction and disease.
Discussing the sugar free diet with friends or acquaintances has become akin to bringing up the awkward topic of religion or politics and sugar certainly generates similar heated conversations.
Sugar Free is not always sugar free
You will often see the tag of refined sugar free but there are many other sources of ‘natural’ sugar in recipes or meal plans like rice malt syrup, agave syrup, maple syrup, honey and coconut sugar. They are all sugar and all ‘natural’ but still contain calories.
There are obvious sources of refined sugar such as cakes, muffins, biscuits, lollies and chocolate but it's the stealthy ones that you need to keep a lookout for too. Soft drinks, energy drinks, cordials, fruit juices, flavoured milk drinks, alcohol and even some savoury foods all fit into the stealthy gang.
What about Honey?
Although from a different source, honey and cane sugar are both sugars and contain the same amount of calories. One is not healthier for you than the other.
Will cutting out sugar lead to weight loss?
It is very difficult to eat a completely sugar free diet but it is possible and advisable to eat less of the high glycemic index carbohydrates that are refined and low in fibre. If we reduce our intake of these (such as the high sugar items above) and focus on the high fibre, wholegrain carbohydrates, it is much more difficult to overeat these as their sheer physical volume is far greater helping us feel fuller. For some people, reducing sugar intake when it has been in excess need will usually lead to weight loss.
I’m trying to sort out whether to include bread or not on a sugar free diet? What are your tips?
Wholemeal with wholegrain bread or rye bread should definitely be included as a great source of grains, fibre and Vitamin B.
Can I eat fruit if I am reducing my sugar intake?
The Australian Dietary Guidelines recommend that we eat two pieces of fruit each day, which provides essential vitamins, antioxidants and fibre.
Fruit does contain sugar in the form of fructose and for some people with Irritable Bowel Syndrome or gastrointestinal issues this can be an issue. Fruits that contain a lower level of fructose include: banana, blueberries, rockmelon, honeydew, kiwifruit, lemon and lime, rhubarb and raspberries.
How can you reduce your sugar intake?
- Don't drink sugar – soft drinks, cordials, fruit juice and flavoured milks
- Don't add sugar – especially to cereals and beverages
- Choose protein instead of sugar when you are hungry – a handful of nuts, small tin of baked beans, small tin of tuna or an egg which will curb your appetite and give you longer lasting energy
- Avoid sugary mixers with alcohol – think premixed bottled alcohol or bourbon and coke, gin and tonic. Look for mixers without sugar like soda water and lime.
- Get rid of the lolly jar – if you walk past it 10 times each day at work or home, try adding up the number of lollies you may have had – its scary. Every time you eat five strawberry and cream lollies (or any lolly similar in size), you have just clocked up the equivalent of a slice of bread or medium banana.
While keeping our sugar intake low is important, lets not forget that there are a multitude of dietary factors that can improve our health and wellbeing. It is often not one single thing (i.e. sugar) in our diets that improves our health; it’s a combination of choosing healthy fats, decreasing excessive calorie intake, increasing vitamins and minerals or getting more fibre."
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