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Reducing sugar within families

On average, people consume too much free sugars, so increasing their risk of developing tooth decay, obesity and Type II diabetes.

How much sugar should we be eating?

Free sugars

Free sugars refers to those sugars added to food and drink during manufacture, cooking or by yourself. They include white or brown sugar (sucrose), glucose, honey, syrups and fruit juices/purees added to foods and drinks.

Free sugars are found in both sweet and savoury foods, including flavoured milk and yoghurts, breakfast cereals, pasta sauces, table sauces, pizzas and ready meals.

Natural sugars

Natural sugars are those found in healthy foods we should be eating more of, such as fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts and milk.

When fruits and vegetables are juiced or pureed, the natural sugars are converted to free sugars. Fruit juices are still a good healthy choice, with one 150ml serving counting towards your 5 a day, but it’s best to only drink one portion a day and with a meal.

The maximum daily intake of free sugars

  • 2 years old – 3 teaspoons/cubes (13 grams)
  • 3 years old – 4 teaspoons/cubes (15 grams)
  • 4 – 6 years old – 5 teaspoons/cubes (19 grams)
  • 7 – 10 years old – 6 teaspoons/cubes (24 grams)
  • 11 years old and above – 7 teaspoons/cubes (30 grams)

Main source of free sugars

The main source of free sugars for children and many adults is sugary drinks, with a 500ml bottle of Coca Cola containing 13 teaspoons of sugar (52g), almost double the maximum daily amount for adults and teenagers.

How to cut back sugar

  • gradually reduce free sugar added to drinks and foods at the table and during cooking over time
  • swap free sugars for natural sugars, eg add chopped fruit like bananas to plain breakfast cereals and porridge to provide sweetness instead of sugar or honey
  • consume water (or milk for children) instead of sugary drinks, or if a sweeter beverage must be consumed, go for sugar free low calorie options
    • tip: add slices of lemon, orange, cucumber, herbs to still or sparkling water to give it taste
  • swap to lower sugar options of sweet and savoury products:
    • read the list of ingredients and nutrition information on the label on the back of packaged food and drink
    • use the Change4Life Sugar Smart app to check for number of teaspoons / sugar cubes
    • tip: the nutrition and health claims on the front are often misleading
    • tip: note that different brands of the same food and drink can contain different amounts of sugar
  • avoid sugary snacks between meals and limit sugary foods and drinks at meal times – in addition to reducing calories, this will protect your teeth

Make a Sugar Smart pledge

To help us achieve our aim of reducing excessive sugar consumption in Hackney, why not make some pledges to reduce your sugar consumption.

Example pledges could include:

  • give up sugary drinks for 2 weeks, or longer and drink water instead
  • swap your usual sugary drink / food to lower or no sugar versions
  • gradually reduce the number of teaspoons of sugar in your tea and coffee over time
  • swap a sauce or ready-made meal for one that it is homemade
  • add chopped pieces of fruit to cereal or porridge as an alternative to adding sugar
  • give up sweets, biscuits, cakes and / or sugary puddings for 2 weeks, or longer

To help you do this, think about keeping a diary of all the sugary drinks, snacks and puddings you have eaten for a week so you can work out what to give up, cut back or swap.

Share what you are doing by tweeting your pledges to #SugarSmartHackney and @HackneyFood.

Resources to help you

For more information on Sugar Smart Hackney, contact

Follow us on Twitter: #SugarSmartHackney and @HackneyFood.

Page updated on: 17 July 2019