Baby and You

Ayela Spiro, Nutrition Science Manager at the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), has some top advice to help you achieve the recommended daily intake of sugar and fibre

In 2015, the Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition’s (SACN) Carbohydrates and Health report recommended that average intake of free sugars in the UK should not exceed 5 per cent of dietary energy – that’s around 30 grams a day. Only around 1 in 8 adults achieve this so most of us should reduce our intake. Unfortunately, this specific focus on sugar takes the spotlight away from many other qualities of a healthy diet including fibre intake. Fibre intake should be 30 grams a day, but adults in the UK are only getting about 18 grams a day.

To help understand one way of how to do this, the British Nutrition Foundation (BNF) developed a weekly menu plan for adults. This uses foods commonly eaten in the UK ( in a simple and practical way and shows how you can achieve the sugars and fibre recommendations. It’s also well balanced and provides enough of the other nutrients such as the vitamins and minerals we need for good health.

“Fibre intake should be 30 grams a day, but adults in the UK are only getting about 18 grams a day„

What does the menu plan say?

  • Base meals and snacks around wholegrain and high fibre starchy foods.
  • Eat plenty of vegetables.
  • Add pulses to meals, salads, sauces, stews and curries.
  • Choose fibre-rich snacks such as fresh and dried fruit and those containing nuts and seeds.
  • Limit foods high in saturated fat such as fatty red meat, butter, cheese and full fat dairy.
  • Restrict the amount of sugar containing foods you eat such as confectionery, biscuits, cakes, puddings and sugar sweetened beverages.
  • Use unsaturated oils such as rapeseed, olive or sunflower oil for cooking and dressings and choose spreads made from them.
  • Include lower fat dairy (or calcium fortified dairy alternative) products such as lower-fat milks (semi-skimmed, skimmed or 1% fat) and reduced or lower fat cheeses (cottage cheese or quark) and lower fat, lower sugar.

Looking at labels can help you make better choices. It’s important to remember that the ‘total sugars’ value listed includes all sugars so includes both those naturally present and those added to foods or drinks. Ingredients are listed in order of weight so if sugars appear near the beginning of the list, the product is likely to contain more free sugars than one in which sugars are listed at the end.

All too often, the media focuses their attention on one nutrient such as sugar, but remember this – we don’t eat single nutrients or single foods, we eat a range of different foods in our daily diet. What really matters for good health is the balance and variety of foods we eat overall throughout days and weeks. Typically, a well-balanced diet includes plenty of vegetables, fruit, whole grains, low-fat dairy foods, seafood, peas, beans, lentils and nuts. Good health is more common in adults who also drink little or no alcohol, eat less processed and fatty meat and a diet lower in refined grains and consume few sugar-sweetened foods and drinks. This eating pattern is in line with the current UK and worldwide dietary guidelines.

Ayela Spiro is Nutrition Science Manager at the British Nutrition Foundation. At the heart of her role is providing expert advice and communicating evidence-based nutrition science and its association with public health concerns to key audiences including consumers, health professionals, charities, the media and the food industry.

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