20th September 2019
The hidden ways you could be eating fat and sugar without knowing
As anyone who has ever attempted to diet will know, leading a healthy lifestyle is easier said than done.
Ads for junk food are literally everywhere, but even seemingly healthy food can have hidden calorie bombs in them.
New research published today found the number of young people with diabetes has shot up by a third as a result of a growing obesity crisis.
Emma Elvin, a senior clinical advisor for Diabetes UK, said part of the problem was food labels misleading people into thinking what they are buying is healthy.
She offered us some advice on how to look out for hidden sugars and calories the next time you do a food shop.
Watch what you drink
People say ‘you are what you eat’ but drinks can be just as bad for you as junk food.
A 330ml bottle of coke contains around 35g of added sugar – more than the recommended amount you should be consuming a day.
Meanwhile a large latte from Starbucks has 21g of sugars (about five teaspoons) and 289 calories, even without a syrup.
Even ‘healthy’ drinks like smoothies should be enjoyed in moderation, as they contain what is known as ‘free’ (added) sugars.
Ms Elvin said: ‘Drinks are a minefield. Takeaway coffees can be a surprising source of sugar if they have syrups and flavouring.
‘People might think fruit juice and smoothies is a healthier choice, but because the fruit is blended or juiced the sugar in that drink becomes a free sugar. It is not as healthy as eating a whole fruit.’
Hidden calorie bombs in popular food choices Diabetes UK uses these examples to highlight how calories can quickly rack up:
Wagamama Katsu Curry – 1094 calories
Pizza Express Pollo Salad – 629 calories
KFC meal containing large popcorn chicken, regular fries, coleslaw and regular soft drink – 1260 calories
Zizzi Lasagne – 947 calories
Strawberry Yogurt containing low fat yogurt, granola and fruit compote from Coffee Republic – 411 calories
Get label savvy
A growing number of food manufacturers use traffic light colour coding, which tells you at glance if what you are eating has high, medium or low rates of things like salt, fat and sugar.
It is mandatory for manufactures to publish nutritional information, but it isn’t mandatory to colour code it on the front of the package – making it difficult to measure the quantity of ingredients against recommended daily guidelines.
Scientists recommend the maximum daily intake of added sugar for anyone over 11 should be no more than 30g (equal to about seven cubes).
But added sugar is in pretty much every cupboard staple, from obvious items ike cake and chocolate to cereal, breakfast bars pasta sauces, salad cream, tomato ketchup, yoghurt and jam.
Ms Elvin said: ‘The difficulty that people are facing is that food and drink aren’t always labelled correctly. What we are calling for is mandatory front of package labelling that’s colour coded.
‘Food that looks healthy on the outside isn’t always healthy on the inside.
‘Something could be labelled as reduced fat when actually they have got added sugar. The back of the label should tell you what it is per 100g. Check like for like products to compare the amount of sugar and go with the lowest one.‘
Food with 22.5g of total sugars or more per 100g is high, while 5g of total sugars or less per 100g is low.
Diabetes UK advise people to choose options with green and amber labels and only red as a treat.
Top sources of sugar in our diet
According to the NHS – these are the top sources of sugar in our diet:
Sugar, preserves and confectionery
Chocolate spread (57.1g of total sugar per 100g)
Plain chocolate (62.6g/100g)
Fruit pastilles (59.3g/100g)
Squash cordials (24.6g/100ml)
Sweetened fruit juice (9.8g/100ml)
Biscuits, buns and cakes
Iced cakes (54g/100g)
Chocolate-coated biscuits (45.8g/100g)
Frosted corn flakes (37g/100g)
Fruit yoghurt (16.6g/100g)
Fruit fromage frais (13.3g/100g)
Choc ice (20.5g/100g)
Tomato ketchup (27.5g/100g)
Stir-in sweet and sour sauce (20.2g/100g)
Salad cream (16.7g/100g)
Check the ingredients.
Not just the ones on the front of the tin – but the ones in small print on the back of the box too. Sugar comes in many guises on food labels, including corn sugar, fructose, glutcose, maltose, honey, dextrose and syrup.
Ms Elvin says the order in which they are listed is a good way to tell if something is high in sugar, as ingredients are listed in order of weight.
‘The best way to check (for hidden sugar) is to look at the ingredients list. If something like syrup or glucose is listed as one of the first few ingredients then you know there’s quite a high proportion of it in the product’ she said.
Reducing the risk factor of diabetes
Carbohydrates are not included in the ‘front of pack’ information, partly because there is no set criteria determining what is low, medium and high.
However, Ms Elvin suggested that anyone at risk of type two diabetes should generally try and cut back on refined carbs – such as chips, white bread and white pasta.
However it’s not all bad news – as there as no such thing as a ‘banned’ food when it comes to having a balanced diet.
She said: ‘We would never say there is food that someone should completely avoid. There is no food that is banned. It’s about making healthy choices more often. Things like not adding sugar to hot drinks, having water instead of a fizzy drink, having more whole grains, fruit and veg can reduce the risk of (type 2) diabetes.’
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