How to Limit Sugar Intake

  • Jan 27, 2023
  • Nutrition

Too much processed sugar

Consuming foods with high amounts of processed sugar can contribute to health issues such as obesity, heart disease, tooth decay and diabetes. To limit the risk of contracting these diseases, you should strive to make up your daily calorie intake from healthier options such as wholegrain foods and aim to include at least five portions of fresh fruits and vegetables in our diets every day.

1. Understand the difference between natural sugar and added sugar

Foods such as plain dairy products and fresh fruit and vegetables all have natural sugar that should not be a concern as long as you eat them as part of a balanced diet containing a combination of proteins, healthy fats, and carbohydrates. However, added sugar, which tends to be found in processed foods such as concentrated fruit juice, syrups and honey, are all products with high amounts of sugar that you should limit in your diet as they can cause health issues and tooth decay.

2. Learn how to read food labels

Sugar can be labelled on food products in various ways which can make people more susceptible to consuming large amounts of sugar unconsciously. Below are just some of the ways in which sugar can be listed on a food label:

  • Fructose
  • Glucose
  • Sucrose
  • Maltose
  • Fruit juice
  • Molasses
  • Honey
  • Corn syrup
  • Invert sugar
  • Hydrolysed starch
  • Cane sugar
  • Agave syrup
  • Brown sugar

Food products also have nutritional labels on the front of the packaging to encourage consumers to make healthier choices. The labels clarify how much fat, saturated fat, sugar and salt is in a product using a traffic light system that indicates whether you should consume the product or not when being mindful of your recommended daily food allowances.

3. Avoid adding sugar to your foods and drinks

Consuming foods with high amounts of processed sugar can cause a sudden spike in blood sugar which fuels your body with a burst of short-term energy but no nutritional benefits. However, your blood sugar can then rapidly decline which makes your energy levels crash and can make you feel hungrier quicker. By adding sugar to tea, coffee, and cereals you are promoting unsteady blood sugar levels which could be a reason for an unstable appetite throughout the day.

If you wanted to sweeten foods, such as your cereal, you could try adding fresh fruit and a source of protein like nuts or natural yoghurt. This can give you long-term slow-releasing energy that can make you feel fuller for longer and may prevent you from snacking more often.

4. Swap full-sugar drinks to diet

If you regularly drink fizzy drinks, you could try swapping the normal drink for the diet option. According to the British Hearth Foundation, by doing this simple switch, regular drinkers of fizzy drinks could cut their sugar intake drastically.

However, an even healthier option would be to swap fizzy, sugary drinks all together for water or fresh fruit juice (in small amounts).

5. Swap processed snacks and meals for healthier alternatives

Excessive amounts of sugar can be hidden in products that are branded by manufacturers as healthier options. Some products such as breakfast bars tend to be marketed as healthy, however when looking at the nutritional information, there tends to be a high amount of processed sugar and saturated fat which can make them the less healthy alternative for breakfast or a quick snack. This can be misleading to consumers as they believe they are consuming a healthier option when they are not.

Although products like cereal bars tend to be an easier option to ‘grab and go’, it is not always the best for your health, so try and make time in the mornings or the night before to prepare an easy but nutritional breakfast such as overnight oats or wholemeal toast which encourage slow-releasing energy.

6. Prep your meals in advance

Planning your meals and snacks in advance will limit the unhealthy and unconscious snacking we do when we are hungry. Bringing healthier snacks to work such as fresh fruit, or meal prepping large portions of healthy meals in batch so you can grab and go is a better option than eating out as you can control what is in the ingredients and practice portion control. 

7. Cut back on sugar when following a recipe

You can substitute and cut back on processed sugar in a recipe without compromising the final taste and finish of your product. You can try adding different ingredients such as ground almonds, grated vegetables or naturally derived sweet extracts such as stevia, rice malt syrup and agave nectar. These are all alternatives that tend to give off a sweeter flavour than ordinary table sugar so you can use much less to satisfy a recipe and your sweet cravings. You can also try experimenting with other extracts such as vanilla, almond, or orange to further boost the flavour and whilst reducing the sugar content. 

What happens when you cut back on sugar?

There are many health benefits to cutting back on sugar. These include:

  • Weight loss
  • Lower risk of diabetes
  • More energy
  • Lower risk of tooth decay
  • Improved appearance of skin
  • Healthier heart
  • Improved sleep

You will also notice that over time your sugar cravings will decrease and the need for that ‘sugar high’ will become less frequent and therefore making it easier for you to cut back on sugar.

Final thoughts on how to limit sugar intake

To conclude, consuming processed sugar in high amounts can contribute to serious health risks. To ensure you are consuming food groups in moderation, it is recommended by the NHS that you follow the Eat Well guidelines and nutritional labels on the packaging of food products.


Disclaimer: The content of this website is provided for informational purposes only and does not substitute the medical advice from a healthcare professional.