Here’s the not-so-sweet truth: We are killing ourselves by consuming truckloads of hidden sugar. The facts are in, the science is beyond question.

According to the International Diabetes Federation, Singapore has the second-highest proportion of diabetics among developed nations and it’s caused by our sugar-laden diets.

Sugar is also the root cause of many other illnesses. You name it, it’s caused by sugar: heart disease, cancer, dementia, type 2 diabetes, depression and even acne, infertility and impotence.

One way to avoid developing these diseases in the future is to watch what we eat and monitor our sugar intake. While sugar consumption is one of the toughest food habits to break, reducing our sugar intake is one of the best changes we can make to impact our overall health.

How To Break Your Sugar Addiction_sugar

Fiona Chia, a recognised Nutritionist at the Thomson Lifestyle Centre says “desserts and sweetened drinks are a top sugar contributor in Singaporean’s diets. Many local drinks use condensed milk and sugar syrup that are high in sugar content.”

To put things into perspective, she notes that a kopi (coffee with condensed milk) from the coffee shop contains 15 grams of sugar, which amount to three teaspoons.

She says for a healthier choice, consumers can choose alternatives with less sugar such as kopi-o (black coffee) or kopi-o kosong (black coffee without sugar).

How To Break Your Sugar Addiction_pastries

According to the Health Promotion Board, meanwhile, added sugar intake should not exceed 10 percent of our total calorie intake. This translates to about 40-55 grams (8-11 teaspoons) daily.

Added sugar refers to sugar that is added to food or drinks during the manufacturing, cooking, or serving process.

Apart from sweetened beverages, consumers should also reduce the intake of sugar-laden foods such as pancakes, cereals and chocolates.

How To Break Your Sugar Addiction_Donut

Fiona advises those that are looking to break their sugar addiction to “try keeping sugary snacks and drinks our of the house and office too – you can’t snack on things that aren’t there.”

Read on to find out more of her simple tips and tricks to cutting sugar out of your life:

How To Break Your Sugar Addiction_fruit-jelly

How To Shop For Healthy Foods

  • Check the ingredients list for anything ending with “ose” (for example, sucrose, glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose.) These include different forms of sugar such as honey, agave, molasses and syrups like corn and rice syrups.
  • Avoid products that have a lot of added sugar. You should also skip foods that list “sugar” as the first or second ingredient.
  • Learn what common terms used in relation to sugar mean:

a) Sugar-free: Less than 0.5 grams per serving

b) Reduced sugar or less sugar: At least 25 percent less sugar per serving compared to a standard serving size of a similar product

c) No added sugars: No sugar or sugar-containing ingredient is added during processing

  • A good rule of thumb is not to buy products whose sugar serving size is greater than 9 grams. You’ll be surprised to see how many products this cuts out immediately
  • Don’t let pretty packaging and phrases like “natural” or even “organic” fool you. Be sure to flip over the package and read the ingredient list word-for-word

(Related: 10 Easy Ways To Cut Sugar From Your Diet)

Replace Sugar With Healthy Alternatives

How To Break Your Sugar Addiction_sweets

  • Instead of adding sugar at the table, use spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg. These will sweeten and enhance the flavour of food, hence reducing sugar cravings.
  • Instead of a fruit yoghurt, which may be laden in fruit concentrate that is high is sugar, mash in your own fruits to sweeten and flavour a plain yoghurt.
  • If you want to significantly cut back on your sugar intake, beverages are one of the most obvious sources. From processed fruit juices, sports drinks, sodas, coffee drinks and even alcoholic beverages – these sources provide little to no nutritional value.
  • Loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and fibre, fresh fruits and even sweeter vegetables like carrots, beets and winter squash make the perfect naturally sweet substitute.
  • Do not substitute artificial sweetener for sugar. This will do little to alter your desire for sweets.
  • If you aren’t willing to ditch sugar entirely but still want to make a change, make a swap for the more natural and pure sources of sugar such as dates or gula melaka (coconut sugar).
  • Sugar is incredibly addictive so expect to have withdrawal symptoms. Be patient with yourself and keep in mind that it takes an average of 14 days to create a new habit, so push through and stick with it if going completely sugar-free is your end goal.

(Related: 9 Harmful Effects Of Sugar That You Didn’t Know About)