The sugar debate

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about sugar, with some individuals blaming this single nutrient for the obesity crisis and a whole manner of life-style related illness.

Naturally, many people are confused as to what to do. After all, we were always taught that an apple a day would keep the doctor away! Is that now wrong?

Thankfully we have many vocal Accredited Practising Dietitians in Australia, who are reinforcing the important “moderation is key” message. So let’s go over the key points to get you started on a healthy diet, and encourage you to look past this sensationalism. Sugar is not the cause of all our problems. Overweight and obesity are an increasing issue because people are eating TOO MUCH food in general (too many calories) and they’re moving TOO LITTLE (not enough exercise!).

For a healthy diet, here’s what you need to do:

Get back to basics and eat less pre-packed, overly refined and processed foods. This does involve eating less food with added sugar (i.e. soft drinks, sugary cereals and biscuits), but not avoiding sugar completely – remember, fruit and dairy are still nutritious foods. Go for plain fruit rather than juice or fruit flavoured snacks. And go for natural yoghurt rather than yoghurt with lots of added sugar.

Try to avoid products that have “sugar”, “fat” or “salt” as one of the first few ingredients.

Reach for food you recognise, such as fruit and vegetables, lean meat, chicken and fish, legumes, eggs and wholegrains, plus some dairy.

  • Eat more vegetables, especially non-starchy vegetables.
  • Eat more wholegrains.
  • Include legumes (kidney beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc) in your diet – they’re very nutritious.
  • Go for lean meat and chicken.
  • Eat more fish (especially oily fish!).
  • Also include dairy in your diet – yes dairy contains sugar (it contains lactose, the dairy sugar), but it is a very healthy food group, providing many important nutrients. Again, go for natural yoghurts and avoid products with sugar listed as one of the first few ingredients.

Exercise is key. We need to move more. Every day. Find an exercise you enjoy and make it part of your lifestyle.

So there you go, it comes down to a balanced diet. No cutting out whole food groups or single nutrients – balance is what you need. Also, pay attention to your portions – we tend to eat far too much in general.

And an apple a day is a-ok. It might just help to keep the doctor away.