Ms Vaneisa Baksh

At Massy Stores a few days ago, I spent some time making lists of the sugar content and calories in the fruit juices on sale. I focused on the Nestle, Fruta and Pine Hill brands. Nestle has been promoting a new fruit and veggie medley as a healthy drink. I looked at the one-litre boxes, which give the nutrition information for 250ml servings. For easy comparisons, all the quantities I am going to cite here are for the same proportions. I am only recording the calories and sugar content per 250ml serving, which is the quantity in the small sizes.

All the Nestle drinks here state that no sugar is added.

Fruit and Veggie medley—Yellow: 140cal, 28.2g sugar. Green: 137cal, 27.1g sugar.

Pineapple: 140cal, 29g sugar. Grape blend: 150cal, 32.1g sugar. Apple: 140cal, 29.1g sugar. Orange: 107cal, 21.8g sugar.

The Pine Hill brand was highest in sugar content, though they say there are no added sugars. Passion Fruit: 130cal, 32g sugar. Orange: 130cal, 32g sugar. Apple: 120cal, 30g sugar. Pineapple: 140cal, 25g sugar.

Fruta had a light brand, with all the flavours ranging between 10-12g sugar and around 50 calories. They contain sucralose, an artificial sweetener.

I didn’t look at the labels for the carbonated soft drinks. I know they are probably higher in content and lower in cost, and they don’t purport to be healthy drinks.

However, I went to the SM Jaleel website to see if I could find the sugar content for the very popular Chubby soft drink. Under their FAQs, there was this answer: “On average a serving of Chubby contains approximately 32 grammes of sugar which is the equivalent of 130 calories.”

In another space, marketing the drink itself, it said: “Chubby is a 250ml carbonated beverage targeted to children four to nine years of age, across all socio-economic groups. Created over 19 years ago, Chubby has a number of colourful, bubbly flavours, formulated especially for kids.”

The page may not have been updated for some time, because the brand was launched in 1993, 26 years ago. Wishing to see what applies today, I went over to a nearby supermarket. I looked at two flavours; the Orange Tango had 24g and the Reggae Red had 26g of sugar.

I also looked at a 20oz bottle of Coca Cola. There were 250 calories and 63g of sugar in there.

Checking around to try to get a sense of how much sugar is a healthy daily intake, I came across figures that said 37.5g for men, and 25 for women—that is, added sugars. The World Health Organisation (WHO) put out a “Guideline: Sugars Intake for Adults and Children” in 2015, which said that when they referred to sugars, they included all forms added to food like dextrose, glucose, fructose and sucrose, and the sugar naturally present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates (the no-sugar-added group).

It seems the naturally occurring sugars are not really bad for your health; but on the whole, the high consumption of sugars has been linked to the range of non-communicable diseases—the lifestyle ailments—that haunt so many of our families. Think diabetes, obesity, and heart attacks; think about dental problems.

I have only looked at a couple of types of drinks here. You know that sugar is everywhere. In those irresistible pastries and cakes; candies and chocolates; in the ice creams; in the ketchup—they are hidden inside nearly everything. Especially in those yogurts that are all the rage for their health benefits.

The world has become hopelessly addicted to sugar. I understand that.

I just want us to think about ways we can reduce our intake. I saw a little girl the other day; she couldn’t have been more than four. She was drinking out of a 20oz Coca Cola bottle; not like she was taking a sip from someone else’s. It was hers, and as she waddled around the mall, she kept guzzling. It upset me.

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SM Jaleel proudly declared that it had targeted the revolutionary sized Chubby bottles for children from four years old. I would not have thought anyone would have thought it appropriate to give this stuff to children. Apparently people do.

We live on an island full of fruit and we drink artificial flavours.

But you know, it isn’t as hard as you think to wean yourself off the taste for sugar.

You can start by diluting the drinks. Years ago, I realised that you can have a great refreshing drink by just adding a twist of lime into either water or a club soda. You can add a splash of any juice to some water and in no time, you get used to the reduction of sugar.

I used to drink my coffee with lots of sugar until I learned how bad that was. I stopped and now I think sugar would detract from the taste I have come to love. It takes time, but then it comes naturally.

I’m just saying that we all know how unhealthy sugar is for us. We often don’t realise how much of it is hidden inside the things we consume.

We can be more conscious by looking at labels, and cutting back, even if it is one teaspoon at a time.

Email: vaneisabaksh@gmail.com

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