How much sugar can I actually have a day?

By Camilla Wagstaff |

Keys2words - Simple Pumpkin Winter Salad

So you’ve decided you want to quit sugar. But can you have ANY sugar? 

The World Health Organisation suggests keeping daily “free sugars” to about 5 per cent of your daily energy intake (that’s about 6–9 teaspoons) for optimum health. The very same amount we’ve been saying for years!

But more than 12 months on, do you really know what these guidelines mean? And how they apply to the real world? What does 6–9 teaspoons really look like? Let’s break it down.

First up, how much sugar can I eat per day?

  • 5 per cent of daily energy intake averages out to about 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men.
  • A teaspoon works out at 4.2 grams of sugar.
  • Free sugars include refined sugars added to processed foods AND the natural sugars found in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates. It doesn’t include the sugars found in milk (lactose) or fresh fruit and veg.
  • Although we often refer to 3 teaspoons of free sugars per day for children, their energy requirements change as they grow. Check out our breakdown of how much sugar kids should eat per day.

So what does this look like over the course of a day?

1) Breakfast: get off to a sugar-free start.

Low-fat yoghurts, store-bought baked goods and packaged cereals can be notoriously high in sugar. If you don’t want to exceed your quota before 11am, we recommend making your own brekkie at home and sticking to more savoury options.

2) Looking for low-sugar lunch?

We would always recommend a home-cooked lunch (oh, the joy of leftovers!). But if that’s not an option, low-sugar takeaway lunch IS possible if you know where to look.

  • Large premade Sumo salad with dressing: up to 5 teaspoons.
  • Two sushi rolls: up to 4 teaspoons.
  • Simple Pumpkin Salad: less than half a teaspoon per serve.

3) Dinner: a time to JERF!

We recommend cooking your own dinner from scratch wherever possible. That way, you know EXACTLY what’s in it. But if you just need a takeaway night, make sure you’re smart about your choices (and maybe give certain dishes or cuisines a miss).

4) Time for a treat? Desserts and snacks.

Desserts and snacks often pack a sugary punch relative to their size. If a snack attack strikes, stick to options like nuts, fresh fruit or 85 per cent or more dark choc. And if you’re craving a little something after dinner, try one of our many delicious sugar-free* desserts!

  • Slice of café banana bread: up to 11 teaspoons.
  • Magnum Classic ice cream: 5.5 teaspoons.
  • 2 blocks of 85 per cent dark chocolate (30g): about 1.5–2 teaspoons.

*These recipes may contain a small amount of rice malt syrup (a blend of glucose and maltose). We recommend enjoying on special occasions and sticking to a small portion size, or cutting down on the sweetener even further.

We originally published this post in August 2016. We updated it in May 2017.

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