The sweet stuff

The sweet stuff

How easy is it to have a sugar-free diet? Naomi Reilly rises to the challenge, as she bans the item from her family home

 Sweet copy

Like it or lump it, most of us can’t get through the day without a sugar fix. But the white stuff has been getting a bad rap lately – and for good reason.

New research has shown sugar to be as addictive as nicotine and alcohol. And its ever-increasing list of associated risks goes way beyond just headaches and mood swings. Health experts say it can cause obesity which in turn can lead to cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

According to Public Health England’s evidence review, if the nation drops its sugar consumption to the recommended levels within the next ten years, more than 4,000 early deaths and more than 200,000 cases of tooth decay will be avoided. This will save the NHS around £480m every year.

Where my family is concerned, I’ve been keen to reduce our sugar intake for a while now. My husband Ben and I – along with our three children Iris, seven, Florence, five and Arthur, two – consume way more sugar than the recommended 19g for children aged four to six, 24g for children aged seven to ten, and 30g for anyone over 11.

Truth is, it’s hard to get away from the stuff. Our fruit yogurts can contain 16g of added sugar alone, while a glass of orange juice racks up a hefty 13g. 

With this in mind, we’ve vowed to trial a diet devoid of free sugars – in other words all sugar that has been added to foods by the manufacturer, plus those naturally present in honey, syrups and fruit juices. So it’s out with the sweetened drinks, sugar-laden cereal, fruit juice and chocolate treats, and in with altogether healthier alternatives.

Sugar cravings are said to be so strong that French scientists reported on animal trials in which rats chose sugar over cocaine – even when they were already addicted to cocaine. This does not bode well for a chocaholic like me. As for the kids – will two-year-old Arthur descend into an eternal meltdown when he realises that I’ve confiscated his morning Cheerios? I’m about to find out.

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