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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

How to cut down on sugar

Me pēhea e whakawhāiti i te kai huka

This page has links to information in te reo Māori.


cut down on sugarA little sugar is okay but many of us are having way more than we need.

On average, Kiwi adults have 10½ to 14 teaspoons of sugar a day – double the recommended amount.

Most of this sugar comes from packaged everyday foods and drinks.

There are two types of sugar in food – intrinsic sugars and free sugars.

Intrinsic sugars are found naturally in whole fruit, vegetables and milk.

Free sugars are:

Sugar and health

Eating or drinking too many free sugars can lead to health problems such as:

Foods high in free sugars provide lots of calories (energy) but little nutritional value.

Some foods high in free sugars such as biscuits, cakes and ice cream can also contain unhealthy fats such as butter, cream, coconut and palm oil. Sugar in a liquid form is not as filling as sugar in food – which means if you drink a sugary drink, you do not compensate by eating less food.

You do not need to cut down on sugar found in whole fruit, vegetables and milk. These foods contain lots of nutrients such as vitamins and minerals that are good for you.

How much sugar to have

Experts recommend you limit free sugars to:

This applies to sugars you add, those added in packaged foods and sugar present in honey, syrups, fruit juices and fruit concentrates.

It doesn't apply to intrinsic sugars found naturally in whole fruit, vegetables and milk.

Foods and drinks that are high in sugar


Many drinks are high in sugar. The following can contain 5 to 7 teaspoons of sugar in a 250 ml glass:

  • soft drinks
  • fruit juice
  • cordials
  • flavoured milks
  • sports drinks
  • energy drinks.

For more information, see the Health Promotion Agency's posters.


High sugar foods include many:

  • biscuits
  • cakes
  • muesli bars
  • puddings
  • ice cream
  • yoghurt
  • sweets
  • chocolate
  • breakfast cereals.

Some savoury foods such as sauces, dressings, chutneys and takeaway foods can also contain a lot of sugar.

Checking if a packaged food or drink is high in sugar

To check if a packaged food or drink is high in sugar, look at the nutrition information panel.

Ways to cut back on sugar

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed March 2022.


See also:

Meal planning & recipes

Page reference: 263939

Review key: HIHEI-34305