The insiders guide to food labels

Imagine you’re in the supermarket, trying to make healthier choices, you pick up a jar of sauce and wait; when did you need a science degree to figure out if it is good for you or not! Fear not this cheats guide is here to help, promise you don’t need a degree of any kind!

First up always look at the per 100g information. Why? Every product will have a 100g/ml information this makes comparing products easier!

So the main thing we are concerned about is the sugar content. Now this is where it gets kind of tricky. There is no legislation in Ireland, yet, that specifies if the sugar content is added or natural. However there are some tricks to help you decide. You are aiming for less than 5g but its ok to choose products with between 5-15g of sugar! And if looking at dairy remember the first 5g of yogurt is lactose, a natural sugar. So your pot of Glenisk Greek style yogurt has just 5g of lactose but Glenisk low fat vanilla actually has 6g of added sugar.

Sugar content

For drinks you should be aiming for under half of this, or 7.5g as a max! So step away from the coke!

Next up look at the ingredients these are always listed in the descending order of weight. So if sugar is listed in the top five ingredients it’s probably added/refined sugar. Be careful, remember sugar has 50+ names.

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corrected food label

The simple rules I follow:

  1. Avoid processed foods
  2. Avoid if it has more than seven ingredients
  3. Avoid if it has over 10g of sugar
  4. Avoid if it has ingredients that you can’t pronounce
  5. Avoid artificial sweeteners

Note that I have said avoid here, I’m not perfect. We are all human and occasionally we will eat food stuff that is not ideal or has a little too much sugar. But occasionally is okay, it’s when your habit becomes daily or more than once a day it’s harmful.

Remember aim for progress not perfection!

Stay healthy X

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Confessions of a Sugar Addict

I thought I would write a personal post for everyone this week. I have a confession to make. It goes way back to Lent 2011. I was living in Ennniskillen with my best friend and we were both in college. So for lent we decided to give up jellies (me) and coke (him), he had a serious addiction, I was in denial. So we started on Ash Wednesday and honestly for about a week I was fine.
But then I had this huge craving for sugar, I drove to the shop and bought a huge packet of jellies. I ate them all, in the car, in the carpark. Then I drove home and said nothing! Lied to my best friend, the shame and guilt. And this was just the start of a secret eating habit that I had up until very recently.
I had stashes of jellies around the house, if he ever went home I’d buy huge quantities and have them for breakfast, lunch and dinner!  I would literally eat jellies till I felt sick. I avoided Haribo because the glazing agent didn’t agree with me in huge quantities. I loved Natural Confectionery Company jellies, they’re healthy right? Everybody got chocolate eggs at Easter but I got packets of jellytots or my favourite jelly at the time.  I can admit it I had a serious addiction to sugar and I was suffering for it. My skin was terrible, I had no energy, I needed daily naps, caffeine and sugar hits just to get through the day.
So that was me at my worst. When did it change? There was no moment of enlightenment, there was just a gradual realisation that my sugar habit wasn’t healthy. But I have to say the final moment came just before I went to New Zealand, James had bought me tickets to my favourite band. We were staying in a hotel and getting ready for the gig. We took a few photos, as you do! And even with makeup on my skin was terrible and I looked haggard. I thought if this is what my outside looks like what does the inside look like?!
It was in New Zealand, buying and cooking my own food that I really became passionate about giving up sugar. I watched Robert Lustig’s talk, Sugar: The Bitter Truth and That Sugar Film to motivate myself. And one day just quit. So that started my sugar journey, it hasn’t been easy and yes sometimes I slip up but I’m working on being better not perfect. For me this is a lifestyle not a diet.
So the two things I want you to take from this blog post are:
It is never too late to start. If you start today, tomorrow you will be one step closer to your goal than you are today! Maybe it’s cutting out sugar in your tea or quitting soft drinks. But whatever it is you will be glad you stopped today! Remember even small changes count and it is these small changes that add up into big change.
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And if one day you eat a snickers or a packet of biscuits, don’t worry. Start over. Strive for progress not perfection. We are all human and we all make mistakes, make tomorrow a better day!
I would love to hear your confessions or what has motivated you to quit sugar or eat more real foods!
Stay healthy X

Why I Quit Sugar

Hi everybody,

How is the post Christmas detox going? I realise that many of you have started reading the blog and some may know me but some may not. So this is a more personal look at why I gave up sugar. I’ve started with my own reasons and then I’ve tried to look at the science in a none laboratory genius, kind of way!

So for my personal reasons and I think most girls can relate to this one. Despite being generally fit, running and playing rugby I always had a pouchy belly! Despite eating healthy but bingeing on chocolates, jellies and pastries I couldn’t shift it. A couple of summers ago I cut out carbs, and upped my cardio and I never lost a kilo! I just became more tired, grouchy because I was hungry all the time. So in New Zealand I was reading a lot about how sugar just contributes to belly fat and thought sure I’ll just cut down on the biscuits and see how it goes. From here I did research and read all the food labels of food I was buying and slowly realised sugar is added to almost all processed foods. This spurred me on to cut out processed foods too. If it had more than five ingredients, you can’t pronounce it or you can’t give a decent attempt to make it; simply don’t eat it. Now I’m not saying I have a six pack but I’ve definitely noticed a difference in my body shape since ditching the sugar.

Reason number two is my skin. I have always had acne problems with my skin and no matter what I tried from expensive creams to crazy home remedies (sudocream and toothpaste come to mind!) it just never cleared. I was at breaking point. Who wants to be a 27 year old with acne? So after quitting sugar my skin got slowly better, my blemishes healed and new spots stopped appearing. Now I still get the odd spot but it’s usually after a sugar treat. And this just reminds me to cut out the sugar again.

So there is some of my personal reason for quitting sugar now for a bit of science. I’ll try to explain why sugar is bad for you and hopefully this will help you to kick the habit. So maybe you know glucose is the fuel of every cell in the body? Maybe you don’t but that’s ok. Glucose feeds every cell in the body so obviously you need some sources of this in your diet. Now how do you get glucose? It’s a sugar that gets broken down in the digestive tract and then gets sent to the cells, it is found in almost all foods. Natural sources are fruit and vegetables but there are many others.

An easy example of a sugar is table sugar. Now 50% of table sugar is glucose and 50% is fructose. Similarly some of the healthy alternatives like cane sugar have the same composition as refined sugar. So if 50% of the sugar is broken down to glucose, what does fructose do? Studies show that fructose is fundamentally different to glucose. Fructose is metabolised in the liver. Most people can digest the natural fructose, like those found in fruit just fine. Fibre actually slows down the absorption of fructose and so small amounts reach the liver and are processed. However it is when fructose is processed, the fibre and nutrients removed that create problems. But large amounts like those found in high fructose corn syrup, refined sugars and sweetened drinks overwhelm the liver. Once broken down fructose is deposited as fat around your belly, the more fructose the more fat deposits. This fat also disturbs the hormones for regulating hunger. So you end up fatter and hungrier.

This is just the beginning of the research on sugar and it effects in the body. It has been linked to type 2 diabetes, cardio vascular disease and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. As more research comes out the link between this sugar and ill-health will become clearer but for now maybe think of trying to reduce the sugar in your tea or leaving that muffin to a Friday treat instead?

Stay healthy X