Action on Sugar - modelled on the successful Consensus Action on Salt and Health (Cash) - aims to help the public avoid products "full of hidden sugars" and encourage manufacturers to reduce the ingredient over time.
It says children are a particularly vulnerable group who are targeted by marketers of calorie-dense snacks and sugar-sweetened soft drinks.
Story continues below the slideshow:
One option, and perhaps the most popular, is to eat or drink the sugar-free versions of your favourite sugary foods and beverages, like soda. When it comes to dessert or a snack, sugar-free Jell-O is a “free” food in a type 2 diabetes diet that can give you a little sweetness. However, warns Dr. Hannon, some sugar substitutes might interfere with your ability to control blood sugars, so go easy on these products.
Canned or bottled tomato sauce is a key ingredient in many meals, from pizza to spaghetti, but using store-bought sauce in your dish may add a surprising amount of sugar. The answer is to make your own simple sauce. “Simmer canned, chopped tomatoes on the stove with herbs you like,” says Hannon. “Even if you add a teaspoon or two of sugar, it would still be less than in the bottle.” Another option is to simply blend store-bought sauce with canned tomatoes to reduce the amount of sugar in each portion.
Is a candy jar part of your desk’s decor? What might be a welcoming treat for visitors can become a trap for you and your sugar habit. “If you take one piece in the morning, one later on, and so on, by the end of the day you may have eaten 10 pieces,” Hannon says. Moving the jar or getting rid of it entirely will help you limit your sugar intake and stick to your type 2 diabetes diet.
Sugar-sweetened fruit products like fruit roll-ups, fruit leather, and juice drinks give the illusion of being healthy options for a diabetes diet, but they really aren’t, says Hannon. Replace these choices with one serving of whole fruit to satisfy your sugar cravings with a nutritious, reduced-sugar option. The great thing about fruit is that you can easily eyeball a serving — it’s about the size of a baseball.
Bottled salad dressings are surprisingly high in sugar or high-fructose corn syrup, says Hannon. But for many people, a tasty dressing enhances the pleasure of eating salad. Experiment with making your own dressings to limit the amount of sugar in your salad. By using a homemade dressing, you’ll also be able to control other ingredients that affect your overall health as well as your diabetes, such as the type of oil you use or the amount of salt you add.
Low-fat dairy products are good for people with type 2 diabetes, but skip those strawberry, chocolate, or vanilla varieties. Flavoured milk contains a lot of added sugar, Hannon notes. If you really want milk with a little added sweetness, experiment with mixing in sugar-free syrups or just use the smallest amount of a sugar-based one to get a little added flavor. Likewise, opt for plain yogurt and add your own chopped fresh fruit for a sweet taste.
Granola, a main staple in many trail mixes, could quickly top out your sugar quota for the day, especially if the mix also includes a touch of chocolate or sugary nuts. You can improve your diabetes numbers by making your own trail mix with plain nuts, oats, and some dried fruit — and by sticking to a reasonable serving of your treat.
Even seemingly healthy boxed breakfast cereals may contain sugar that you don’t really need or want in your daily diabetes meal plan. Look for breakfast choices that do not contain refined flours or added sugar. For example, a slice of whole-grain toast with natural peanut butter and some fruit could be a good alternative. Beware of hidden sugar when eating out for breakfast. “Oatmeal at fast-food restaurants can be high in sugar,” warns Hannon.
A simple switch that can improve your diet is choosing whole-grain foods over refined flour ones, such as whole-grain pasta instead of white pasta and whole-grain bread instead of white. Unfortunately, whole-grain alternatives are often costlier. In tight economies, it’s essential to look for supermarket sales that help you maximize food dollars, allowing you to continue to buy the building blocks of your healthy, low-sugar diabetes diet.
Remember that eating one small cookie won't hurt your diabetes diet. The key is to keep the portion small and consider other options available to you, such as fresh fruit or a handful of nuts, before you reach for the cookie. But if you do choose the sugarier treat, just keep the portion reasonable, really savor it, and adjust your diet plan for the day accordingly.
Like Cash, Action on Sugar will set targets for the food industry to add less sugar to products over time so that consumers do not notice the difference in taste.
It claims that the food industry would easily achieve a 20% to 30% reduction in the amount of sugar added to products, which it says would result in a reduction of approximately 100kcal per day or more in those who are particularly prone to obesity.
It says the reduction could reverse or halt the obesity epidemic and would also have a significant impact in reducing chronic disease and claims the programme "is practical, will work and will cost very little".
The group listed flavoured water, sports drinks, yoghurts, ketchup, ready meals and even bread as just a few everyday foods that contain large amounts of sugar.
SEE ALSO: Why Are We So Addicted To Sugar?
The chairman of Action on Sugar, Graham MacGregor, who is professor of cardiovascular medicine at the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine and set up Cash in 1996, said: "We must now tackle the obesity epidemic both in the UK and worldwide.
"The present Government and Department of Health Responsibility Deal has been shown to have had no effect on calorie intake and we must start a coherent and structured plan to slowly reduce the amount of calories people consume by slowly taking out added sugar from foods and soft drinks.
"This is a simple plan which gives a level playing field to the food industry, and must be adopted by the Department of Health to reduce the completely unnecessary and very large amounts of sugar the food and soft drink industry is currently adding to our foods."
Dr Aseem Malhotra, cardiologist and science director of Action on Sugar, said: "Added sugar has no nutritional value whatsoever and causes no feeling of satiety. Aside from being a major cause of obesity, there is increasing evidence that added sugar increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome and fatty liver.
"We must particularly protect children from this public health hazard and the food industry needs to immediately reduce the amount of sugar that they are adding, particularly to children's foods, and stop targeting children with massive advertising for high-calorie snacks and soft drinks."
Advisers to the group include Professor Robert Lustig of the paediatric endocrinology department at the University Of California, Assistant Professor Yoni Freedhoff from the University of Ottawa and professor of clinical epidemiology Simon Capewell from Liverpool University.
Royal College of Physicians registrar Dr Andrew Goddard said: "We welcome this concerted and collaborative action to tackle the damage to health caused by consuming too much sugar. It is widely acknowledged that sugar is a major factor in both obesity and diabetes, and with many foods, everyday foods such as bread and breakfast cereals, containing high levels of added sugar, it can be difficult for consumers to make healthier choices.
"We strongly support Action on Sugar's campaign for clearer nutritional labelling of food and drink, and welcome their call for evidence-based government action to improve the public's health by reducing the amount of sugar added to food and drink by manufacturers."
Diabetes UK chief executive Barbara Young said: "We fully support any efforts to raise awareness that many foods contain more sugar than people might realise and to call on the food industry to reduce added sugar in our food and drink. This could make a real difference in helping tackle the obesity epidemic that is fuelling rates of type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions.
"But it is important to be clear that we want to reduce sugar consumption because having too much can easily lead to weight gain, as is true with foods high in fat. So reducing the amount of sugar in our diets is not all that we need to do to reduce our risk of type 2 diabetes. The evidence that sugar has a specific further role in causing type 2 diabetes, other than by increasing our weight, is not clear. We look forward to the conclusions of the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition, which is due to report this year."
A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "Helping people eat fewer calories, including sugar, is a key part of the Responsibility Deal and our efforts to reduce obesity. There are 38 businesses signed up to reduce calories, but we want to go further still, and are discussing this with the food industry."As part of the Responsibility Deal calorie reduction pledge, Coca Cola has reduced calories in some of its soft drinks brands by at least 30%, Mars has reduced its single chocolate portions to no more than 250 calories and Tesco has reduced the number of calories sold in its own brand soft drinks by over one billion."