8 surprising tips to manage sugar intake

Are you worried about eating too much sugar?

Qualified Nutritionist (BSc, MSc, RNutr)
Ask Emma

17 October 2019

How to reduce sugar intake gradually

According to the NHS, adults should have no more than 30g of sugar a day, yet a can of fizzy juice can contain as much as 35g of sugar! Cutting down on fizzy juice is, therefore, one of the simpler ways to reduce your consumption of sugar.

Today, however, I am going to look at a few more surprising tips to help manage sugar intake that you may not have considered. These include:

  1. Eating regularly
  2. Cooking with lentils
  3. Consuming more fruit
  4. Drinking lots of water
  5. Be wary of low-fat products
  6. Limiting salty foods
  7. Being cautious of artificial sweeteners
  8. Avoiding processed foods

1. Eat regularly

Blood sugar levels need to remain steady to ensure glucose reaches the brain, which it fuels. If blood sugar levels drop, the body will seek the fastest available source of glucose in order to keep the brain functioning properly.

Complex carbohydrates (quinoa, root vegetables, fruit and more) are usually broken down into sugars but, if levels drop too low, this would take too long. As a result, you may be inclined to reach for sugary drinks, chocolate and sweets to get a quicker hit of sugar.

Too much sugar in the blood is equally undesirable, however, as your body will quickly start to pack it away into storage. Blood sugar may then begin to fall, thus resulting in a new desire for cake...

Eating regular, filling meals (including breakfast!), as well as small, healthy snacks throughout the day, may help to keep blood sugar levels stable and prevent this urge for a sugar hit.

2. Cook with lentils

Lentils are nutritionally dense and highly versatile. They can be used as a meat substitute in the likes of chilli or bolognese, but also make a filling addition to soups and stews. They are rich in iron, magnesium, soluble fibre and folate which together are beneficial for heart health and digestion.

The high fibre content and the complex carbohydrates found in lentils ensure they provide slow-burning energy. As a result of this, you may be less likely to get hungry between meals and snack on sugary foods.

Cooking with fresh lentils is always going to contain less sugar than a processed meal but, in addition, recent research suggests that lentils may help to lower blood sugar levels.1

The study revealed that lentils could possibly reduce blood sugar levels by 20% when eaten in the place of rice, whilst switching a serving of potatoes for lentils reduced levels by 35%.

These results may be to do with the fact that lentils help to slow digestion, thus controlling the flow of sugars into the bloodstream.

3. Consume more fruit

If you feel the need for something sweet, both fresh and dried fruit are both excellent options. These are full of nutritional benefits that can aid everything from digestion to stress levels. Oranges, kiwi and strawberries, in particular, contain vitamin C which is well known to strengthen the immune system.

On top of this, fresh fruit will provide energy long-term and, therefore, prevent the urge for more unhealthy snacking. So, why not mix up a fruit salad for your next afternoon snack or try one of our tasty smoothie recipes instead of a fizzy drink or sweetened tea?

4. Drink lots of water

Hunger pangs can sometimes indicate you are not drinking enough water. In this instance the body will automatically crave sugary snacks, however, I'd recommend drinking a big glass of water first to see if this satisfies your cravings. You can always add in a little fresh fruit if you feel the water would benefit from a little extra flavour.

For more tips like this, just take a look at my blog on how to drink more water.

5. Be wary of low-fat products

Although low fat products may seem like a healthier option, they frequently have added sugars to provide flavour in the absence of fat.

If you are trying to eat healthily, but also want to watch your sugar intake, I'd recommend eating fresh and cooking from scratch as much as possible. You can explore our recipe hub for lots of healthy meals that won't take up too much time.

6. Limit salty foods

Do you regularly seek a piece of chocolate or a dessert after dinner? Well, it could be that your main meal has excess salt in it!

Too much salt can result in sugar cravings, so go easy on the seasoning when you're cooking and limit the number of salty snacks you consume. I'd recommend replacing crisps or salty peanuts with our Roasted Spicy Nut Mix – it's delicious and healthy!

My Top Tip:

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7. Be cautious of artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners may confuse the body and won't train your taste buds to prefer lower sweetness levels.

If you are used to flavouring hot drinks with sugar, try using a natural sweeter such as honey. Alternatively, if you gradually reduce the amount of sugar in your drink, your taste buds will eventually get used to this.

The flavour of some foods can also be enhanced using spices like cinnamon and ginger rather than sugar.

8. Avoid processed foods

Processed foods such as canned soup, ready-made sauces, microwaveable meals, cereal bars and even white bread can be surprisingly high in sugar.

Product labels will indicate how much sugar these foods contain and should highlight if the amount is excessive. If you'd like more information on eating well and cutting down on sugar, however, you may find it helpful to read my blog 'What are the world's healthiest diets?'.

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