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HealthInfo Canterbury

How to cut down on sugar

This page has links to information in 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 don't compensate by eating less food.

You don't 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 can I have?

Experts recommend you limit free sugars to:

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

It does not apply to intrinsic sugars found naturally in whole fruit, vegetables, and milk.

What foods and drinks 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.

How can I tell if a packaged food or drink is high in sugar?

Check the nutrition information panel:

Ways to cut back on sugar

  HealthInfo recommends the following pages

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Endorsed by Healthy Eating Healthy Ageing Project dietitian, Canterbury DHB. Last reviewed October 2018.


See also:

Meal planning and healthy recipes

Page reference: 263939

Review key: HIHEI-34305