About 80% of our food and drink contains added sugars. Recent guidance, based on independent scientific research suggests that we should half the amount of sugar we are having.
The kind of sugar we eat too much of is known as "free sugars". Free sugars are any sugars added to food or drinks, or found naturally in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices. This does not include lactose which is a naturally occurring sugar found in dairy products.
The way to cut down our sugar intake is by eating less sugary food such as sweets, cakes and biscuits, and choosing plain water instead of other drinks.
Why cut down on sugars?
Food and drinks that have a lot of added sugars contain a lot of calories, but often few other nutrients that are useful to our bodies. For a healthy, balanced diet, we should eat these types of foods occasionally, and get most of our calories from other foods and drinks.
Having too much 'free sugar' often means you eat more calories than you need or burn off, which can cause weight gain and obesity. This in turn can lead to type 2 diabetes, cancers, heart disease, stroke and other conditions.
Sugary foods and drinks can also cause tooth decay and acid erosion of the tooth surface (enamel), especially if you eat them often and between meals.
The sugars found naturally in whole fruit are less likely to cause tooth decay because they are contained within the structure of the fruit. But when fruit is juiced or blended, the sugars are released. Once released, these sugars can damage teeth, especially if fruit juice is drunk frequently. It is best to drink fruit juice at mealtimes and if possible water it down, especially for young children, in order to minimise damage to your teeth.
How much is too much?
'Free' sugars should make up no more than 5% of the energy we get from our food and drink every day. In real terms this is:
• 19g or 5 sugar cubes for children aged 4 to 6,
• 24g or 6 sugar cubes for children aged 7 to 10,
• 30g or 7 sugar cubes for 11 years and over
If you would like further information, please consult the 'helpful links' section on this page.
Sugary foods and drinks can lead to tooth decay. Think how you can swap sugary items for healthier options.
Most adults and children eat more sugar than is recommended for a healthy diet.
Start by reducing the amount of sugar that you have in hot drinks or on cereal. Keep going until you no longer need to add it and you can cut it out altogether.
When checking for sugar levels in food, look at the ingredients list and watch out for words such as sucrose, glucose, fructose, maltose, hydrolysed starch and invert sugar, corn syrup and honey.
A healthier alternative to fizzy drinks is to dilute fruit juice with sparkling water.
For a healthier breakfast choice, choose wholegrain breakfast cereals instead of those that are coated with sugar or honey.
Tinned fruit can be a healthy snack, but choose varieties that are in fruit juice rather than syrup to reduce your sugar intake.
To reduce your sugar intake, swap cakes and biscuits for a currant bun or malt loaf with low-fat spread.
Sugary foods are often high in calories and so eating too many of them can lead towards weight gain.
Often, sugars are added to a wide range of foods such as sweets, biscuits, cakes, chocolate and juice.