Candy Crush: How to kick your sugar habit

Upbeat nutritionist Sophie Enever outlines her three-pronged approach to reduce the amount of sugar in your diet


Cutting back on sugar is often the first step people make in their bid to live more healthily — followed closely by abstaining from alcohol, chocolate, nights out and, invariably, concluded by polishing off a whole tray of Krispy Kremes.

But it needn’t be like this. Nutritionist Sophie Enever explains how to cut back on sugar in your diet smartly and consistently without risking a doughnut-fuelled backlash.

Efforts to cut back on sugar invariably end in a Krispy Kreme-fuelled backlash — but it needn’t be like this. 

As a point of reference, there’s 35g of sugar in a can of Coca-Cola, equivalent to almost nine teaspoons of the white stuff. By comparison, there are 14g of sugar in a medium-sized banana, but the fruit also boasts potassium that benefits your heart and blood pressure, vitamin B6 that helps metabolise carbs for energy and 3g of fibre that helps reduce blood sugar spikes.

Now you know the quantities you’re playing with, here’s how to control the amount of sugar in your diet.


1 Always read the label

If you’re grabbing a drink or snack from the supermarket shelves, take a quick skim of the product’s label so you know what you’re getting into.

First, use the traffic light label that will give you an idea of how much sugar it contains. Green is good, red is bad. However, it’s not always that simple. This system doesn’t distinguish between naturally occurring sugars, like those in Upbeat, and added sugar that is just thrown in to alter the taste and sweetness. For this, your second move, look for claims of “no added sugar” or “only naturally occurring sugars” on the pack too.

Look for the traffic light label. Green is good, red is bad. 

2 Know your ingredients

Check the ingredients in a product for where any sugars come from. The nutrition table on products doesn’t differentiate between added and naturally occurring sugars like those found in milk, whey, fruit puree and other fruits. For example, in yogurts some or all of the sugar comes from the dairy, which is naturally occurring and a source of slow-release energy, providing you with a steady energy release in contrast to refined or added sugar.

Look out for ingredients that end in “ose” and steer clear of syrups. 

So which sugars should you try to dodge — or at least minimise in your diet? Look out for ingredients that end in “ose”, such as glucose, sucrose and dextrose, and try to steer clear of syrups, such as corn syrup, that get pumped into sugary drinks with nothing but empty calories.


3 Make smart swaps

Satisfy your sweet cravings with snacks that provide your sugar dose naturally. Swap biscuits with an apple smothered with peanut butter — of the “no added sugar” variety of course and sweeten your morning porridge by heating some frozen berries until they become a sweet compote to layer on top.

Satisfy your sweet cravings with snacks that provide your sugar dose naturally. 

4 Make your own sauces

Pre-packaged foods and sauces often contain mountains of hidden sugar. Avoid them by making your own from scratch. Chuck crushed cherry tomatoes in a saucepan and gently fry them with garlic, red onion, red chilli, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil and fresh oregano for a rich tomato sauce that’s perfect with any pasta dish.

Remove temptations by keeping your appetite in check with protein. 

5 Bump up your protein

Often hunger nudges you towards the sweet stuff but you can remove the temptation by keeping your appetite in check with protein. Research suggests consuming sufficient protein in the morning can help reduce unhealthy snacking later in the day. Experiment with protein-rich breakfasts, such as scrambled eggs on brown toast, a cheese and ham omelette or, if you’re stuck for time, grab an Upbeat for a tasty 20g protein hit on the go.