Opinion

Dear food companies, why not just give out free cigarettes?

This stuff might look innocent enough, but it's not our friend - far from it.
This stuff might look innocent enough, but it's not our friend - far from it. Zsolt Biczv

I'VE never been one for diet fads. 

I roll my eyes at paleo, shake my head at overpriced supplements and wonder who on earth ever thought the diet shake was a good, healthy or long-term idea. 

But wanting to start losing weight, I was confused by all the hype and wanted to do some of my own research. 

A while ago I joined a gym. A trainer there told me to eat a lot of baked bean breakfasts for protein, among other things. 

>> OPINION: Be a sweetie, drop the sugar

I was working out, eating what I was told to eat and the scales never moved. Not once. 

I'd never really been one to eat massive meals or to chomp down on excessive amounts of lollies and I've never liked soft drinks. 

What I had to do was question what was in the "healthy" or basic foods that I was eating. 

And I know it may just sound like I'm getting on the sugar free bandwagon, I spent a good amount of time just reading up on everything I could to do with diet and health and I came to a startling realisation that sugar was to blame for, well, almost everything. 

Then it dawned on me... all you have to do is read a few labels and it's crystal clear - food manufacturers may as well be giving out free cigarettes with every purchase.

What was in the baked beans I was having for breakfast? Sugar. 

I can't drink cow's milk, so what's in many milk replacements? Sugar. 

How about a bowl of cereal? Sugar. What about cereal in a brown box that looks all natural? Nope, it has sugar too.

Nacho sauce? Sugar. 

Might have some crackers... oh wait, sugar again. 

I love tinned beetroot... sugar, in every last brand I've found. 

Vegetable stock? So far all but one brand that I have found contains sugar. Some of the "trendy" brands advertise raw or organic sugar... like that's any better. 

What about every leading brand of pasta sauce? Sugar. 

Even my favourite brand of Greek yoghurt, which was previously sugar free, is now listed as "sweet and creamy" and contains sugar. 

We're sucking on a constant supply of the stuff. 

Recently myself and a colleague were talking about how strange it is that our parents' and grandparents' generations could eat a sweet after dinner or have a cup of sweet tea without having the health problems we do. 

Then it dawned on me... all you have to do is read a few labels and it's crystal clear - food manufacturers may as well be giving out free cigarettes with every purchase.

>> Hidden sugars pose a danger to health 

I'm by no means an enemy of fun, sweet, foods. 

But hidden sugars are a dirty deception and have led me to thinking sweet foods like cakes and biscuits are, at least, honest culprits. 

You can control how many cakes or bikkies you have without having to read a label because sweet foods are, well, sweet, and you can expect that many of them contain sugar. 

But how many of us need sugar in vegetable stock or pasta sauce?

It turns out I'm slowly but surely dropping the kilos by doing nothing more than cutting out products that contain sugar - and trying to be a little more active when I can. 

I've found that I've had to take to making a lot more of my own foods, but I don't really mind. 

Instead of buying a takeaway cake, try this - follow any basic cake recipe but instead of sugar add some dried currants or sultanas and swap plain flour for wholemeal. 

Have I had the odd piece of sugary cake here and there? Yep! But that's where sugar belongs, in sweet foods, not in nearly every packaged food sold in supermarkets. 

We consumers need to act.

We can't just sit back and wait for change without doing something about it. 

Only by shunning unhealthy products and either buying better alternatives or making our own can we send a strong message that we're tired of putting "dirty fuel" in our bodies and being deceived in the process. 

Topics:  diet editors picks food obesity sugar



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