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A can of cola contains 16 teaspoons of sugar.
A can of cola contains 16 teaspoons of sugar.

How to survive the Christmas sugar frenzy

DON'T worry about the sugarplums this Christmas - it's the sugary drinks that are going to knock you about.

Shocking new figures put Australia in the top 10 countries in the world for sucking back sweet drinks, and it's having dramatic effects on our health.

Christmas - a thirsty and indulgent season for most Australians - is a danger time for overconsumption of sugar and alcohol.

But even outside the silly season, Queenslanders are over-achieving in the consumption of "discretionary beverages" (including booze).

According to a report from the state's Chief Health Officer released last week, our worst offenders are 19 to 30-year-old men, who are sinking the equivalent of about five cans a day, and 31 to 50-year-old women with about three cans a day.

When you consider that a 600ml bottle of regular soft drink contains about 16 teaspoons of sugar, that's a worry.

And that's where the ugly term "obesogenic environments" comes in, i.e. environments that encourage people to eat unhealthily and not do enough exercise. 

One of the simplest and best things to keep in mind is to enjoy yourself, but do so in moderation.
One of the simplest and best things to keep in mind is to enjoy yourself, but do so in moderation.

The report said sedentary people or those short for their age or sex - or those trying to lose weight - should not eat *any* "discretionary foods".  If you're taller, more active or a healthy weight, two to three serves a day of extras would be okay.

The festive season is a difficult time of the year to stay focussed when it comes to eating well and exercising.  Temptation is everywhere and food and drink make up a large part of most festive events. 

But, when you consider the festivities can kick off in November and roll through until January, it's a substantial period of time to be overindulging. 

One of the simplest and best things to keep in mind is to enjoy yourself, but do so in moderation. 

Remember it's okay to say "no thanks" if you're full.

No one will be offended if you have a drink of water rather than a soft drink or a beer or wine, or if you remove yourself from temptation by standing by the dance floor rather than the food table.

It's also a good idea to have a healthy snack before you head to a function. This way, you won't arrive hungry and reach for the unhealthy foods. 

And to put that advice into perspective, here's some facts:

  • Aussies are buying 1.28 billion litres of sugary drinks each year. Cola is the most popular at 447 million litres.
  • There are 7 teaspoons of sugar in a little 250ml energy drink.
  • If you drink a can of soft drink a day you could spend more than $1000 a year (depending on the price you pay)
  • If you drink a 600ml bottle of orange fruit drink every day for a year, you have consumed 23kg of sugar.
  • Half of Australia's children are having sugary drinks (including energy drinks) every day.

So a good Christmas present for yourself might be reaching for a glass of water instead of a "discretionary beverage". You can still have fun, but you won't be setting yourself up for an unhappy new year.



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