Sugar cube on spoon

The Government recently announced that, from April 2018, sugary drinks will be taxed at the higher rates of 18p and 24p per litre. The hope is that the increased tax will have two effects: first, to encourage drinks manufacturers to reduce the amount of sugar in their products and, second, to reduce overall consumption of sugary drinks.

Here at The Dental Surgery, we’d like to encourage you not to wait until next year to start reducing your sugar intake. In fact, we’d like to help you be more aware of hidden sugars in your overall diet, not just drinks, and to find healthy alternatives.

You probably already know which foods and drinks are the worst offenders, but in case you’d like a reminder, here’s a list. The real problem is the sugar hiding in places you wouldn’t think to look for it. In fact, did you know the average brand of tomato sauce consists of roughly 25% sugar? Here are some other common culprits to look out for (along with healthier alternatives):

  • Fruit smoothies and juices – these really should be avoided, as it’s much healthier to eat whole fruit, and benefit from the fibre, than simply to drink its sugary juice. But if you do occasionally want fruit juice, make sure it’s 100% natural with nothing added.
  • Sauces and condiments – like tomato sauce, also beware of brown sauce, pickle, salad cream, salad dressings, mayonnaise and BBQ sauce. Many of these, such as mayonnaise or a classic vinaigrette, are simple to make yourself with no sugar at all.
  • Yogurts – some plain yogurts but especially flavoured and low-fat versions have sugar added for taste or as a preserver. Look for natural (plain) yogurt with no added sugar and mix in fruits yourself.
  • Processed/cured meats – ham especially, but also most other pre-packaged processed meats will have been cured with some version of sugar added for flavour and as a preserving agent. Instead roast a joint yourself and then slice it to use for sandwiches.
  • Bread – most pre-packaged breads have sugar added to extend their shelf life in shops. If possible, opt instead for freshly baked bread, buying only what you’ll need before it goes off.
  • Pasta and pizza sauce –you might not think of sugar when enjoying your spagbol, but making your own sauce is easy – simply cook down tomatoes, or use tinned, and add vegetable and spices to taste.

Remember, added sugar can always be found by reading ingredients lists and looking for certain telltale words. In addition to the obvious ‘syrups’, beware anything ending in –ose (such as dextrose, fructose, lactose and maltose) and also look especially carefully at any foods that claim to be low fat, as sugar is very often used to replace fat for flavour.

And don’t worry. No-one’s asking you to renounce your sweet tooth completely, but every little bit you cut out will have a beneficial effect on your overall health and especially on your teeth. In fact, there are even foods and drinks that are good for your teeth, such as:

  • Cheese – finishing off a meal with a bite or two of cheese will help neutralise the acids that can damage your tooth enamel.
  • Plain yogurt – as mentioned above, avoid any with added sugar, but plain yogurt is a great source of calcium, which helps strength teeth.
  • Milk – like yogurt, it’s high in calcium – just avoid it before bedtime as it does contain natural sugars (lactose).
  • Tea – did you know tea has fluoride, which helps strengthen tooth enamel? Have it with milk, just don’t add sugar!

Finally, if you’re packing lunches for little ones, you might be tempted to sneak in biscuits or sweets. Here are some better ideas:

  • Cheese cubes or small cheeses packaged for children, such as cheese strings or Babybels.
  • Raw carrot or celery sticks – on their own or with some hummus to dip them in.
  • Mini cucumbers – cute, fun and healthy!
  • Popcorn – just make sure it’s plain or flavoured only with spices such as oregano or cinnamon.
  • Fresh fruits – the usual apples and pears, but also grapes, melon cubes or pineapple.
  • Water – buy them a personalised water bottle to make it more fun.

Need more sugar advice? We’re always happy to help – remember to ask us when you’re in for your next appointment, or call us today on 020 3909 1690.