The year-end festive season is probably not the best time to kick off a diet.
Surrounded by seasonal goodies and indulgent get-togethers, the temptation to indulge in eating and drinking is at an all-time high.
This time of year is also when we tend to consume excess sugar, especially in the form of sweetened beverages that typically accompany the holiday feasting.
However, here’s a fact that might dampen the holiday mood: Excess sugar consumption is known to contribute to weight gain and obesity, a key risk factor of Type 2 diabetes.
Instead of curbing the festivities by attempting to avoid sugar, an alternative (and less limiting) approach would be to turn to healthier, low-sugar alternatives.
This holiday season, discover how healthier options can deliver the sweet, indulgent taste one typically craves during the holidays – without the accompanying health risks of sugar.
Do you have a story to share? Think you might have a better way to curb Singapore’s sugar consumption? Tell us at www.reach.gov.sg/sugarydrinks
Treats for the holiday season
Instead of loading up on sugary drinks this festive season, treat your guests to healthier mocktails to keep their spirits high and sugar intake low.
Berry Cola Crush
200ml Healthier Choice Symbol-certified Pepsi
1 tbsp freshly pureed berries (e.g. blackberries or raspberries)
1 or 2 sprigs of mint leaves
Crushed ice cubes
1. Place the mint leaves in a glass and lightly crush them with a wooden spoon to release their aroma.
2. Add crushed ice and Pepsi.
3. Add the pureed berries and mix well.
Fruity Cola Punch
170ml Coca-Cola Zero Sugar
50ml Healthier Choice Symbol-certified pineapple juice
50ml Healthier Choice Symbol-certified orange juice
1 pineapple wedge to garnish
1. Freeze the juices separately into balls.
2. Place the frozen juice balls in a glass and pour in the Coca-Cola Zero Sugar.
3. Garnish with a pineapple wedge.
When you purchase lower-sugar options at participating outlets, you stand to earn sure-win rewards such as F&B and shopping vouchers in the Eat, Drink, Shop Healthy Challenge. Find out more at gethealthy.sg/eatdrinkshop.
The sweet taste of “less sugar”
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nutritionally, we do not need any sugar in our diet. While a serving of sugar provides a quick energy boost, it is also a key source of empty calories that do not contain vitamins or minerals.
Sugar is also calorie-dense and is easy to over-consume, especially when we drink it, instead of eating it. In fact, Singaporeans are consuming about 6.5 teaspoons of sugar from sugar sweetened drinks as compared to 5.5 teaspoons of sugar from food.
To manage your sugar intake, simply replace a sugary beverage with a lower-sugar or even a no-sugar option that tastes just as great.
Take, for example, the typical 250ml packet drinks that you might reach for at a holiday party. One single packet contains an average of 5.5 teaspoons of sugar.
In contrast, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends just 10 teaspoons of sugar a day for adults.
According to statistics, Singaporeans are already exceeding this amount, consuming about 12 teaspoons of sugar daily.
Instead of turning away the drink entirely, you can opt for drinks labelled with the Healthier Choice Symbol.
A Healthier Choice certified lower-sugar beverage in the same 250ml packet would typically contain at least 25 per cent less sugar compared to the regular sweetened version, which automatically reduces your sugar intake by over a teaspoonful.
Lower-sugar beverages retain their sweet taste with the use of alternative sweeteners such as allulose, isomaltulose, stevia, and sucralose. It is a common misconception that sweeteners are bad for your health. Compared to regular sugar, sweeteners contain less or zero calories and don’t affect blood sugar levels, making them helpful for weight management and suitable for diabetics.
They also meet strict standards set by Singapore’s Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority, and are safe for consumption, providing a dose of sweetness without the excess calories or blood sugar spike. A healthier way to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Indulge in natural flavours
The more one indulges in sweet food and drinks, the more one’s palate tends to become accustomed to sweetness.
The festive season is when we indulge in exciting seasonal tastes, so why not take the opportunity to treat your palate to the natural flavours in your drinks as well?
The next time you’re ordering freshly-made drinks, ask for less sugar – such as by indicating a lower sugar level for your bubble tea or asking for less sugar (Siu Dai) or no sugar (Ko-song) at local freshly brewed drinks stalls. The natural flavours of your beverage will be more pronounced as a result.
Undergraduate Dion Chan, 22, says: “I love the taste of iced tea, but I know the sugar adds up – so it’s great that I can pick my sweetness level when ordering drinks.”
“I also make it a point to bring water when I’m going to be out for the day,” he adds. “That way, I won’t be tempted to buy sugary drinks when I’m feeling thirsty.”
You can even jazz up plain drinking water by infusing it with the natural sweetness of fruits and flavourful herbs.
Ms Cheryl Choo, 30, a finance professional, started by adding fresh cut fruits to her water at home. Her family now experiments with different combinations of fruits and vegetables to add a subtle flavour.
She says: “Apples, lemons and strawberries are some of our favourites – cucumbers and mint leaves also add a refreshing taste that makes us want to drink more.”
“It’s a great way of making sure we stay hydrated all day,” she adds.