Sugar: We are all consuming too much

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These were the items I chose for the day - a pretty average/healthy set of foods I thought. Credit: ITV News

By Catherine Jones: ITV News Health Editor

I've managed to wean myself off sugary tea, and I do read labels and pick low-sugar options.

But I got a real shock when I finally added up all the sugar I eat in a day.

Cereal and juice at breakfast, a snack bar for elevenses, sandwiches, salad and a banana for lunch. A couple of biccies with my tea, a diet ready meal and some broccoli followed by a low-fat yogurt.

Here's the break down of the "free sugar" in that.

Free sugar doesn't include sugar bound up in whole fruit and veg, or in milk. So leaving those out of my calculations, here's how it adds up:

  • 55g of a bran-flakes plus raisins cereal (you know the one) - 13.75g
  • 250ml of fresh orange juice - 25g
  • Oaty chocolate bar - 13g
  • Pre-packed sandwiches - 11.6g
  • Salad dressing - 3g
  • Two oaty biscuits - 7.8g
  • Diet ready meal - 12.6g
  • Diet Yoghurt - 10.4g

A total of more than 97g of sugar, or 24 teaspoons of the stuff.

The diet ready meal contained 12.6g of sugar and in the diet yogurt was 10.4g of sugar. Credit: ITV News

And what's the new recommendation from the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition? No more than 25g of free sugars a day for a woman and 35g for a man.

They've concluded that only 5% of our food energy should come from free sugars, half the previous recommendation.

We are all consuming too much sugar. Credit: PA

But currently, and rather surprisingly, as a population we fail to reach the old target, never mind the new recommendation.

Over 65s get 11.5% of their energy from free sugar. Adults under 65 get 12.1%.

But the most worrying figures are for children and teenagers. Four to 10 year olds get 14.7% of their food energy from free sugar. And 11 to 18 year olds are well over the recommendation, at 15.6%,

(From the national diet and nutrition survey May 2014)

So what could I eat then, under the proposed guidelines?

Just the cereal, nothing else.

Or just the yoghurt and the snack bar.

Or just the juice, without anything else all day containing sugar.

Now I was expecting there to be a difference between recommendation and reality, but a diet that restricted is a big ask of anyone.

And without a step-change in everything from product formulations to public health messages, for many that's going to be an unbridgeable gap between what we do eat and what we should.