This story first appeared on news.com.au, published here with permission.
How much sugar did you consume yesterday?
If you’re like the average Aussie, the answer is probably: too much.
Many foods that are perceived as ‘healthy’ are in fact jam-packed with sugar — wrecking our teeth, piling on the weight and contributing to soaring levels of chronic disease such as type 2 diabetes.
Sadly, it’s our kids who are suffering most. One in five of them is now overweight or obese. Diseases like type 2 diabetes and hardening of the arteries, which used to be seen only in adults, are now being spotted in our teens and children with depressing frequency.
Children in Australia now get a third of their daily calories from junk food and sugary drinks — with some teenage boys consuming a staggering 40 teaspoons of sugar a day.
Shockingly, this generation of children might be the first to live shorter lives than their parents.
In ‘That Sugar Film‘, I experimented with sugar consumption. I ate the same amount of sugar as the average Australian, with a diet including apparently ‘healthy’ foods like muesli, fruit juice, and pre-prepared supermarket meals.
The film showed the catastrophic effects on a healthy body of consuming processed foods high in sugar. In 60 days, I gained 8kg, added 10cm to my waist and experienced mood swings. Worst of all, medical experts found that I had the early stages of non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Since I made the film, I’ve become a dad. My daughter Velvet is now nearly three years old. Setting her up for a shortened lifespan, plagued by chronic illness, is not an option. I’m now even more passionate about reducing sugar consumption in Australian kids.
The great news is that a change in diet can swiftly reverse the damage. That’s why I support SugarByHalf, which is launching today. If we can halve the amount of added sugar our kids eat, we can set them up for a healthy future.
Fortunately, it’s actually really easy to cut your sugar consumption in half.
Simple swaps can make a massive difference to your sugar intake:
* Swap soft drinks, juice or so called “sports drinks” for water. This will save you serious sugar. Some soft drinks contain up to 13 teaspoons a serve — more than twice the recommended daily amount in a single can.
* Switch flavoured yoghurts for the all-natural variety. Flavoured yoghurts often contain large amounts of added sugar. You can add flavour yourself with chopped fruit or berries. You’ll also be getting the benefits of the vitamins and minerals in fresh fruit.
* Eat real fruit instead of dried fruit. Drying takes away the water content that makes you feel full, so it’s easy to overeat dried fruit. Enjoy a crunchy apple instead.
* Shop the outside of the supermarket. The good stuff is around the edges, in the fruit and veg section, the meat area and the dairy aisle. Avoid the processed foods in the middle of the supermarket.
As a parent, I know that limiting your child’s sugar intake is not easy. Everywhere we go, sugar is on offer. It’s lining the supermarket aisles and bulging out of party bags. Constant ‘treats’ have become the norm.
But I also know that no parent wants their kid to suffer from chronic disease. To keep our kids healthy, we need to make they aren’t overdosing on sugar. Instead, we need to step up and feed them nutritious whole food.
We can fight Australia’s Sugardemic — but it’s going to take effort, education and a whole lot of commitment from parents.