Do you need to quit sugar?

There's no doubt that giving sugars the flick will help you lose weight especially if you consume sugars often or have a lot of them.

You probably know that processed sugary foods and drinks in kids’ lunchboxes is a bad idea for children’s teeth, but did you know that processed savoury starchy foods such as packets of crisps, cereal bars and popcorn are also bad for kids' teeth?

When people take the plunge to 'quit sugar' for weight loss, they quit sugars added at the table (to cereal, drinks and desserts) and sugars added by manufactures to spreads (jams, chocolate-nut spreads), drinks (soft drinks, cordials) lollies, chocolates, desserts (jellies, meringues) sweet bakery items (cakes, biscuits, pies), freezer foods (ice cream, cheesecakes) .... the list goes on.

But you'll notice that sugar does not sit alone in many of these items. Sugar is the bait. Sugars are often delivered to your mouth with fats (butter, margarine, cocoa fat, oil), other carbohydrates (flour, starches, grains, cereal puffs) and protein (milk, cheese, seeds, nuts, egg). The exceptions being soft drinks, honey, jams and cordials that source most if not all of their kilojoules from sugars.

When you give sugars the flick, you not only avoid the kilojoules from sugars but you also flick the extra kilojoules from fats, protein and other carbohydrates. Brilliant!

Excess kilojoules, in total, from all food and drink causes weight gain. The reverse holds true. Cut the kilojoules from the total of all food and drink to lose weight. 

Cutting kilojoules is what makes weight loss happen.

Cutting kilojoules from foods and drinks that deliver little or no nutritional benefits makes good sense because your body doesn't really need them.

But you don't have to be paranoid about sugars or put sugars and sugary foods into a forbidden category.

Banning ingredients in food or specific foods and drinks in their entirety to lose weight doesn't last in the long term. What's going to happen over Easter, for example?

Total bans may set up thoughts and patterns of guilty eating that easily blow out to a binge-diet cycle ('I blew out badly on forbidden food so I better cut back more tomorrow'), trigger secret eating ('I will have a chocolate on the way home and throw the wrapper away so no one sees me eat it') or apologetic eating ("I know I shouldn't but I'm going to, just this once').

Celebration cakes, Easter chocolate and candy eggs, even the hot cross bun would fall into forbidden territory with the 'no sugar' thinking. This need not be the case.

Flexibility in thinking and choice delivers better longer-term weight loss and results.

It is far better to appreciate the flavours of all foods, understand where they fit in your life for fitness and health, accept that some foods and drinks will help you maintain a healthier body better than others, become confident in your choices, and give yourself permission to enjoy what you choose without any sense of guilt or remorse.

My book 'this=that: a life-size photo guide to food serves' shows how foods and drinks fit into your life and deflates guilty thinking. You can make confident choices without totally banning any particular food, drink or element in food. More than 450 foods and drinks are featured as life-size, that's actual real life size, photos. It's really eyeopening to see how different foods compare.

Pleasure is high on the list of reasons why humans eat and drink what they do. No matter how nourishing a food is, you probably won't keep eating it if it brings zero pleasure.

But a nutritious, boring food gains pleasure points with a little added sauce, seasoning, spice, sweetness or a different cooking method.

Discovering the foods that package pleasure with nutrition will help you be well.

And whatever you have, eat or drink it slowly and enjoy what you've got rather than demolish it in a hurry and without appreciation.