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How Easy is it to Achieve the New Sugar Recommendations?

Posted on: 19th February 2016

Posted in: Children's Nutrition, Topical Nutrition Issues

In July 2015, a report (by ‘SACN’) was released, giving new recommendations about the maximum amount of sugar we should eat, and also increasing the amount of fibre we eat. It re-classified the sugar we want to avoid as ‘free sugars’. Free sugars include all sugars added to products by the manufacturer (e.g. shop bought biscuits), cook (e.g. home baking) or consumer (e.g. table sugar sprinkled on cereal), plus all sugars naturally present in syrups, honey and unsweetened fruit juice. It does not include sugars naturally present in fruit (dried, fresh), vegetables, cereals, grains and the lactose in dairy products.

So what does the SACN report actually recommend?

  • A reduction in sugar intake from previous recommendations. Free sugars should account for no more than 5% of total energy (calorie) intake. That’s about 30g (or about 7 teaspoons) based on the average calorie intake.
  • An increase in fibre intake – that’s the bit that’s left and not absorbed after digestion, helping us stay regular. Fibre also has a major role in cancer and heart disease prevention. Fibre intake should be increased to 30g a day.

So, I thought I’d do a little test, and see how easy if was to achieve these recommendations! I asked for a volunteer using my Facebook page, and I have included her intake, along with her free sugar and fibre intake for each meal and snack below. Based on her day’s calorie intake (2200 kcal), I calculated that her free sugar intake should not exceed 27.5g. Fibre intake should be 30g a day, as per adult recommendations – fibre intake is not expressed as a percentage of energy intake like free sugars are.

Meal / snack Foods & drinks Free sugars (g) Fibre (g)
Breakfast 60g Tesco fruit & fibre with milk

100ml pure orange juice

19 4.6
Morning snack Cadbury Brunch Bar with cup of tea (milk, no sugar) 12 0.7
Lunch Sausage, spinach and pickle sandwich on 2 slices of wholemeal bread

½ packet of plain crisps


Water to drink

4 8.7
Afternoon snack Banana


Cup of tea (milk, no sugar)

0 2.4
Dinner 2 grilled chicken thighs

5 small roast potatoes

40g broccoli, 60g green beans. 80g carrots

Low salt gravy

No-added-sugar squash

0 9.6
Evening Medium glass red wine

2 digestive biscuits

5 1


So you can see from this intake, that the majority of the free sugar came from breakfast (a combination of 9g from the fruit & fibre which contains added sugar (the sugar from the dried fruit is not counted), and 10g from the orange juice)), and the Brunch Bar. Swapping to porridge sweetened with fresh fruit, and a mid-morning snack of a handful of unsalted nuts would dramatically bring the free sugar intake down.

More information on the sugar content of fruit juices and smoothies can be found here.

Fibre recommendations were almost met. Again a simple swap to 40g of porridge oats (with milk added), and a handful each of blueberries and strawberries would provide 7.2g of fibre instead of the 4.6g from the fruit and fibre. Alternatively, fibre intake could be increased by swapping the two digestive biscuits for an oat cake, ½ pepper and 1 tablespoon hummus for dipping (an increase from 1g to 3.6g fibre).

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