There is no bad time to give up the white stuff but the day the Irish sugar tax is being implemented has to be a particularly good day to start.

We are one of the highest consumers of sugar in the world. Almost 100 Irish children are in hospital for treatment each week due to tooth decay and other dental issues, often caused by consumption of sugary foods and drink.

By 2030, Ireland is expected to be the fattest nation in Europe unless we do something about it. Dr Eva Orsmond revealed in her excellent documentary, Sugar Crash, that children are getting the same diseases that alcohol causes through sugary drinks. That doc is amazing viewing and is still available to watch here on the RTÉ Player.

There are on average ten spoons of sugar in a can of carbonated soft drinks.

There are over two and a half spoons of sugar in many of those live yogurt drinks that many of us are buying for children's lunchboxes each week. 

What is the Sugar Tax?
The sugar tax refers to new taxes which are being added to some soft drinks from today, Tuesday May 1, 2018. A tax of 20 cent per litre will be added to the cost of drinks with between five and eight grams of sugar per 100ml. Drinks with more than eight grams will have a levy of 30 cent a litre applied. 

7 Steps to a Sugar-Free Life
Nutritionist Mags Carey has this advice on staying off the hard stuff to save our bodies (and souls) the sugar crash that Dr Eva Orsmond spoke about.

1. Water

Instead of drinking sugar-loaded drinks or concentrated fruit juices, you’re 100% better off going for water – most of us don’t drink enough of it anyway. If you’re not a fan, then add a little fresh lemon or orange juice or add mint/cucumber. I always think that those are things I’ll never get the time to do but like everything, you just get organised and fill up a jug the night before in the fridge which you can keep adding to throughout the week. Soon the whole house starts to drink it and join in with the prep.

2. Avoid Sugar High

The first thing that Mags recommends is avoiding sugar highs and lows by balancing your blood sugars. The way to do this is to take five minutes the night before and plan your eating for the next day – when and what you are going to have for your meals? Will you have a small snack in between and if so, what? Hunger leads to bad, sugary choices, leading to 11am and 3pm slumps. Refined sugars (the cheap white stuff) is simple carbohydrate which spikes your blood sugar, giving you a quick boost of energy which is burnt off quickly leaving you tired and in need of the next fix. Much better to have slow release carbohydrates in your system which are released slowler, letting you get on with life at your own speed. 

3. No Added Sugar

For years I think I drank coffee simply so I could have an excuse to add sugar to something that was acceptable to drink. In recent years, I’m convinced that the coffee from a certain shop is my favourite because they give us a delicious ‘free’ sweet! Cutting out sugar from your choice of cuppa is an immediate step in the right direction. If you don’t like the drink without the sugar – then you don’t like the drink so find something else!

Scary stuff

4. Swap it Out

If you have to have sugar in your drink, food, baking etc then swap out the bad one (refined) for the more natural options (such as fruit, good quality honey, dates, molasses, desiccated coconut etc). Also beware - there are over 50 names to describe (refined) sugar (for example, dextrose, maltodextrin, glucose, sucrose, maltose, agave, sucanat, panela and, and, and...) so you need to read the labels closely. Other things to swap out with mega gains and not much pain are white pasta and rice for whole grain. Why? The starch in the white rice/pasta converts to sugars when cooked and ingested, leading to spikes in your blood sugar.

5. Get Fresh, Not Dried Fruit

Many of us think that dried fruit is the healthy option but during the drying process, the sugar content of the fruit increases (simplifying/butchering the science here but you get it). Calorie wise that isn’t ideal plus it’s a killer for the teeth so go for fresh fruit instead and keep an eye on how much fruit you have a day – try to balance the amount with your vegetable intake to make sure you and yours are getting your 7-a-day.

6. Go Veggie, Not Fruity – Juice Wise

Juicers have taken centre stage over the past year and they are readily available to buy at prices to suit most budgets but the key is to go veggie rather than fruity to reduce your sugar intake and to keep your blood sugars balanced.

Yee-um. Swap the sugar for water with a little fresh fruit, cucumber or mint

       7. Go Nuts

One tip that I love, not least of all because it’s so simple, effective and involves nuts, is the tip to eat protein with your fructose. Together they slow down the release of the sugar and balance blood sugar levels, which as we’re all learning is key.

Remember it can take up to 21 days to adopt a new habit and to end our toxic relationship with sugar and in the first week, Mags advises us to prepare to feel a bit off-form as the sugar leaves your system.

I believe in the gently, gently approach to these things and will begin by doing one of the steps per week for seven weeks, rather than trying to do it all at once and failing.

To make sure that I do it though and I'm not too easy on myself – I'm getting out my phone/diary, today, marking in each of the seven steps into my diary over the next seven weeks. Just think of the energy levels, the pounds lost, bod on the beach, your summer wardrobe…now, step away from the sugary drinks and reach for the water bottle.

We can do it. We have to.