Secret sugar

Americans consume on average 156 pounds of sugar a year. That is 3 pounds a week! 20 years ago it was half a pound a week. Where is it all coming from? Mostly this sugar comes from processed foods which have grown in use in the same 20 years or so. Sugar and syrup are hidden in a whole host of food - microwave meals, peanut butter, cornflakes. Even when you can't taste it. This is sugar that is added before you get to see it. We are just not aware of how much hidden sugar we are eating. If you enjoy ready meals and are trying to control your weight, then check the ingredients on the pack.

Scots are not far behind. Food Standards Agency Scotland did a survey of the NMES consumption (non-milk extrinsic sugars which is the technical term for sugars added to food and drink). The main sources of sugar in the diets of children living in Scotland are soft drinks, confectionery, biscuits and cakes and on average for Scottish children these foods constitute over 17% of their calorie intake and the trend is upwards. Older children take more of their calories in these foods. For 3 to 7 year olds it is 16% and 12 to 17 year olds it is 19%. It is likely that as adults we could eating nearly a fifth of our daily calories in sweet snacks. This report doesn't mention savoury snacks or alchoholic drinks (one glass of wine nearly 200 calories). Most of us eat this kind of food without serious thought. We might eat in front of the tv or at our desk or in the car, when we are concentrating on something else. So while we might take care with what we eat at our meals, we might be sabotaging ourselves when we snack.

This means that most of us are training our children from a very young age to want a lot of sugary foods so as they get older these preferences are well established. By the time they are in their early twenties we could expect them to be worrying about their weight.

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