The type of sugars most adults and children in the UK eat too much of are “free sugars”.

These are:

  • Any sugars added to food or drinks.  (Hence water is best!)
  • Sugars in biscuits, chocolate, flavoured yoghurts, breakfast cereals and squash or fizzy drinks.
  • Sugars in honey, syrups (such as maple, agave and golden), nectars (such as blossom), and unsweetened fruit juices, vegetable juices, smoothies and squash. The sugars in these foods occur naturally but still count as free sugars.

Sugar found naturally in milk, fruit and vegetables does not count as free sugars.

We do not need to cut down on these sugars, but remember that they are included in the “total sugar” figure found on food labels.

The government recommends that free sugars – sugars added to food or drinks, and sugars found naturally in honey, syrups, and unsweetened fruit and vegetable juices, smoothies and purées – should not make up more than 5% of the energy (calories) you get from food and drink each day.

  • There’s no guideline limit for children under the age of 4, but it’s recommended they avoid sugar-sweetened drinks and food with sugar added to it.
  • Free sugars are found in foods such as sweets, cakes, biscuits, chocolate, and some fizzy drinks and juice drinks. These are the sugary foods we should cut down on.

For example, a can of cola can have as much as 9 cubes of sugar – more than the recommended daily limit for adults.

Reducing sugar in drinks

  • Water is always the best for hydration !
  • Instead of sugary fizzy drinks or squash, go for water, lower-fat milk, or sugar-free, diet or no-added-sugar drinks. While the amount of sugar in whole and lower-fat milk is the same, choosing lower-fat milk reduces your saturated fat intake.
  • Even unsweetened fruit juices and smoothies are sugary, so limit the amount you have to no more than 150ml a day.

Reducing sugar in food

  • Rather than spreading high-sugar jam, marmalade, syrup, chocolate spread or honey on your toast, try a lower-fat spread, reduced-sugar jam or fruit spread, sliced banana or lower-fat cream cheese instead.
  • Check nutrition labels to help you pick the foods with less added sugar, or go for the reduced- or lower-sugar version.
  • Try reducing the sugar you use in your recipes. It works for most things except jam, meringues and ice cream.
  • Choose tins of fruit in juice rather than syrup.
  • Choose unsweetened wholegrain breakfast cereals that aren’t frosted, or coated with chocolate or honey.
  • Choose unsweetened cereal and try adding some fruit for sweetness,which will contribute to your 5 A Day. Sliced bananas, dried fruit and berries are all good options.

The Be Food Smart app from Change4Life can help you check how much sugar you or your child is having.

Using your smartphone, the app can scan the barcode on food packets to find out exactly how much sugar is in it.