Once upon a time, children discovered a mandarin at the bottom of their stockings that delighted them (cue heartfelt sigh!). Today, they’re more likely to find their entire stocking stuffed full with sweet, sugary lollies, candy canes, chips and chocolate bars.
Oh my, how times have changed! And sadly, so have our bodies.
Overweight and obesity rates in Australia are some of the highest in the world. In 2014–15, a whopping 11.2 million Australian adults were overweight or obese, according to the latest report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
And our kids are on track to live shorter lives than us. Tooth decay is five times more prevalent than asthma. And one person is diagnosed with diabetes every five minutes.
If we don’t get our sugar consumption under control we’re heading for the world’s greatest health disaster of all time – the Sugardemic, warns Dr Peter Brukner, Australian Cricket Team doctor and founder of SugarByHalf, a not-for-profit collaboration of experts with a goal to reduce Australians’ intake of sugar by half, in accordance with the World Health Organisation standards.
Dr Peter Brukner says sugar is one of the key culprits behind obesity and poor health in Australia.
“We all need to reduce sugar to address the epidemic rates of ill health we’re experiencing in Australia,” he advises.
The alarming fact is sugar is everywhere and impossible to avoid. Foods packed with sugar are the fastest, cheapest and the most convenient options for many Australian families.
We currently eat and drink 16 teaspoons of added sugar daily (this rises to 22 teaspoons for kids and teens), far exceeding the World Health Organization recommendation of six teaspoons a day for optimal health.
And Christmas sugar consumption will only escalate the problem.
Here, the SugarByHalf team their advice to curb the Christmas Sugardemic. Who knows, you may even drop a few kilos this festive season. Sweet as!
Move over sweetie, it’s time to give your savoury sister a go in the spotlight. Ditch the rum balls for a delicious savoury plate at your office get together – something high in protein and fresh vegetables. Think sashimi, asparagus or cherry tomatoes with bocconcini.”
Watch the sauce
No, we’re not talking about the crushed grape variety… From cranberry sauce to brandy butter, many traditional Christmas condiments have morphed into processed health hazards, laden with added sugar and a host of other nasties. Try less sugary homemade alternatives, suggest SugarByHalf.
Drink in moderation
Yep, this one is referring to the crushed grape variety. Many alcoholic drinks metabolise into sugars. Most often, 1-2 drinks will get you into the festive spirit swing while avoiding possible embarrassment and a sore head the following day. Offset with plenty of water to reduce dehydration. Get merry. Not lairy.
Refuel the kids with fun drink alternatives
Avoid the obvious sugary soft drinks and cordials laden with artificial additives. Instead, swap them for homemade lemonade or some soda with a squeeze of peach or lime. Turn it into a cocktail by embellishing the glass with a piece of fruit or some ice cubes in fun shapes, or serve from cool vintage-style drink dispensers. Just watch how special the kids will feel.
Go tutti fruity with your desserts
Christmas heralds a luscious variety of nature’s desserts. Grab a mango, a lychee or a handful of cherries to get a healthy natural sugar fix that comes with added fibre, vitamins and minerals. Use a star shaped cookie cutter to cut melons into fun shapes for kids.
Give the gift of health
It can be tempting to grab a box of choccies as a last minute gift for Auntie Ethel, or a giant stocking stuffed with candy canes and lollies for your sister’s kids, but think about the effects and message you are giving.
Try to give more responsibly with an alternative such as a massage voucher, a donation to a charity, a box of freshly picked berries, a trip to the movies or a show.
For more health advice and sugar swap ideas visit www.sugarbyhalf.com
Photography by Darren Coleshill