Adding sugar to our drinks and food may make it taste oh-so-nice, but unfortunately, we Malaysians tend to have a heavy hand when it comes to this sweet substance.
How many times have you asked your local mamak for teh tarik kurang manis, only to wonder after you sip your drink whether your server had actually heard the second part of the order (ie kurang manis)?
Too much sugar is definitely not good for either our waistlines or our overall health.
And it is not just the sugar that we consciously consume, for example, sweet snacks, chocolate, sugar in our drinks, but also "hidden" sugars in all sorts of food, like cake, fruit juice with added sugar, and sauces.
Here are some tips on how to cut down on our sugar intake:
Drink plain water instead of sweet drinks like carbonated drinks, syrups and cordials.
Plain water does not contain sugar like sweet drinks.
A can of carbonated drink usually contains seven teaspoons of sugar, while a glass of syrup or cordial contains about four teaspoons of sugar.
Limit to one teaspoon of sugar/sweetened creamer for every cup of drink.
One teaspoon of sugar contains about 20 kilocalories.
To burn 20 kilocalories, you would need to climb 14 floors of stairs.
Take only one teaspoon of sugar or sweetened creamer for every cup of drink.
Less is better.
Reduce added sugar in cooking.
Food cooked with less added sugar contains less calories and is healthier.
Avoid eating snacks and sweet food between main meals and before bedtime.
Snacks high in sugar lead to excessive intake of energy.
The energy, if it is not burnt by doing physical activity or exercise, will be turned into fat and contributes to obesity.
Choose fruits instead of sweet cakes.
Fruits, which are naturally high in fibre and vitamins, are a healthier choice than desserts like cakes and preserved food.
Since the fibre content in fruits will make your stomach feel fuller for a longer time as compared to eating sweet desserts, you are more likely to eat less.
Read the ingredients on the labels.
Avoid food and beverage products where sugar is listed first.
If sugar is listed first, this shows that sugar is the main component of the food item.
Ingredients in an ingredient list on packaging are arranged in descending order by weight, ie the ingredient that is listed first in the ingredient list is present in the highest amount in the food, followed by the second highest, third and so on.
The ingredient listed last in the ingredient list is present in the lowest amount in the food item.
It is important to know how much added sugars there are in the foods and drinks you consume.
Read the ingredient list and find their position in the list.
Added sugars can have many different names, such as corn syrup solids, sucrose and glucose syrup solids.
If an added sugar appears near the top of the ingredient list, or there are more than one added sugars present, then it is a strong indication that the food has high added sugars.
'Carbohydrate per serving' as declared in the nutrition information panel (NIP) of most foods provides a good way to estimate the level of added sugars.
If you know the 'natural carbohydrate' level of the typical food type, then anything above this level is an indication of added sugar ingredients.
Choose food and beverages labelled "less sugar" or "sugar free".
The food industry has taken the initiative to reduce sugar in food and beverage products.
Now, there are more products with less sugar in the market.
Everyone should be aware of their added sugar intake.
Remember, sugar can have many different names, such as corn syrup solids, sucrose and glucose syrup solids.
Be aware of the different added sugars names in the ingredient lists of the foods you purchase. Find their names and take note of their position in the list.
Be aware of claims about specific types of sugar as there could still be other types of added sugars in these products.
For example, a product claiming "no added sucrose" or "sucrose free" could still contain other types of added sugars, such as corn syrup solids or glucose syrup solids.