It’s been difficult to avoid all the talk about sugar in the news recently. Even if you don’t keep up with the news that well, I’m sure you’re aware that the government ‘sugar tax’, otherwise known as the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, came into force in April this year. The idea behind this government initiative is to reduce obesity rates by encouraging companies to make healthy soft drinks. The money raised will be invested in physical activity programmes for school children. So sugar was very much in my mind, when Pomegreat got in touch ans asked if we would like to work with them in an attempt to go sugar-free.
Pomegreat is a naturally sweetened drink which uses Stevia, a natural substance. It tastes great. I find it the right balance between being sweet enough to be pleasant and a bit of a treat, but not so sweet that it’s too much. I love that it’s got rich pomegranate taste and it is a great dark red colour that helps too. I do find it a great way of drinking something delicious, but doing your body good at the same time as it’s packed full of vitamins.
So we started out with a good look through the store cupboard reading labels to see how much sugar was added to things that we eat regularly. It might be more that you think and in products you don’t think about as being sweet. I was a bit shocked by the amount of sugar in a can of baked beans for instance or a jar of pasta sauce or a jar of mayonnaise – these are all things I see as being savoury, so I was confused as to why there was so much sugar in them. Some of these things I think could be made just as nicely without sugar, so I’ve stopped using pre-made pasta sauce and I’m just making my own with tomatoes instead. It’s not really any extra work as I always cooked up a lot of extra veggies to go with the sauce anyway, so it’s just as easy to add some tinned tomatoes and a few herbs (and it’s cheaper too).
In a way though I’ve found it easier with main meals as I often cook from scratch anyway. It has spurred me on to try cooking a few different meals and I’ve found that making use of herbs and spices is a great way to add flavour without adding sugar. It’s always nice to add the odd new meal to my family cooking repertoire, so that’s been worthwhile.
Other meals have been more difficult. We both have yoghurt for breakfast on a regular basis. H’s yoghurt contains quite a lot of sugar. I tend to buy different brands/supermarket own brands and I was surprised how much the sugar content varied between brands for a very similar tasting low-fat yoghurt. I noticed that some of the cheaper brands just used sugar to add sweetness, but other brands added fruit purees which at least have the benefit of bringing more fruit into your diet. So I’ve put together a few ideas on how to reduce your sugar intake based on our experience.
My tips for cutting back on sugar
Buy Full-Fat Versions – Sugar is often added to make something fat-free taste like it’s the full-fat version. It’s worth thinking about these choices in your diet and it might make more sense to opt fur full-fat and just eat less sometimes. Sugar is quite high in sauces and you only have quite a small quantity of these generally, so full fat might be better than a reduced fat version.
Buy Reduced Sugar Products – Opt for reduced sugar products when they are available. It’s quite easy to buy baked beans with reduced sugar for instance.
Make your own – I make a lot from scratch anyway and then use a few convenience products to make life a little easier. I probably need to make more from scratch as it doesn’t take that long I find. I’ve been making my own bread for a long time now in a breadmaker (I know there are only 4 ingredients in the bread I normally make and I don’t put sugar in). I’m going to stop buying pasta sauce because that is easy to make, but I’m not sure I can be bothered to make my own mayonnaise on a regular basis at least. Instead of buying ice lollies for this hot weather I made ice lollies with Pomegreat. They were very tasty and refreshing as well as being a winner on the sugar front. They took me about a minute to make for 6 as the freezer does all the work and they were well worth the small amount of effort.
Read the label – Check what is in the usual products that you buy and if you feel it’s got too much sugar, then see if the product next door has less sugar (if sugar is further down the list of ingredients that’s a good sign).
Plan your meals – I do this anyway as I find it less stressful as I always have what I need in to cook with and can make sure I mix things up over the week, so we have some variety. It’s even more important if you are trying to follow a particular diet or food focus. I find it saves money too as you don’t reach for a ready meal or ring for a takeaway.
So how do we feel after a week with less sugar? Generally I feel a bit better for it. I feel more in control about what I am eating because I am more aware of what is in my food. I’m not going to claim I’ve lost weight, as I haven’t, but I haven’t gained any either by eating fuller fat products on occasion. It’s been more difficult to control H’s sugar intake as he is at school all day and spends a time with his Dad too, but he has had a bit less sugar due to the different food choices I have made for the meals we share or that I provide. In the future, I’m going to be making a few different choices at the supermarket and I will cook a few more things from scratch. Making a few better choices at a time is more realistic I think that going cold turkey on sugar reduction and to be honest we are more likely to stick to it. To be honest I’d rather save my sugar intake for something that is worth it like a slice of homemade cake rather than finding it has been added to something savoury by a food manufacturer.
Disclosure: This post is in association with Pomegreat.