The low down on sugars


Enter a caption

Here at Just Food we think it’s time to add some clarity to all of the discussion about sugars in foods. We know that we consume too much free sugar as a nation, and we need to change this. The sugar that the WHO is focussing attention on is what is termed “free sugar”. Unfortunately, a lot of well publicised programmes in Ireland have confused “free sugars” with other naturally occurring sugars in foods (which the WHO explicitly excludes from its guidelines, as this these not an issue), and lumped them together: not altogether helpful.

We have come up with some Q & As below, which we think will be helpful for those trying to get a better understanding of the different sugars in foods, and thus of what is best to eat for optimum health for yourselves and your families.


  1. What is the guideline on “Free Sugar”?

The WHO guideline states that we should consume no more than six teaspoons of “Free sugar” (or 25g) per day, for optimum health (so we should not consume these sugars freely, despite their name).

  1. What are “Free sugars”?

Free sugars’ comprise all monosaccharides (glucose & fructose) and disaccharides (sucrose) added to foods by the manufacturer, cook or consumer, plus sugars naturally present in honey, syrups and unsweetened fruit juices.

  1. What about the other sugars, that are not “Free sugars”?

While we need to limit our “Free sugars” in the guideline, the WHO have said that  “lactose (the sugar in milk), when naturally present in milk and milk products, and the sugars naturally contained within the cellular structure of foods (particularly fruits and vegetables) are excluded”. These sugars are deemed to contribute positively to our health, and can form a significant part of our diets. (For example, one whole ripe tomato contains approx 3 g of sugars, none of which are free sugars). So, sugars that are naturally occurring in many foods to a greater or lesser extent (more natural sugar in tomatoes than in lentils for example) are excluded. Therefore, not all sugars are equal, in terms of impact on our health. So it is very important to be aware of the type of sugars in foods that you and your family are consuming.

  1. Is “Free sugar” the same as “Added sugar”?

While free sugar and added sugar are often used interchangeably, they are actually different. Added sugar refers to any sugar such as cane sugar, glucose etc added in the processing/cooking process to a recipe. Therefore, while a product may have no added sugar, it may still contain free sugar (as in the case of fruit juice smoothies for example). So, while added sugar is always free sugar, free sugar may not necessarily be added sugar.

  1. Why is the fruit in a “100% fruit, no added sugar, fruit juice” all counted as “free sugar?

As the fruit (for example apple) in the fruit juice is put through a juicer, most of the fibre is removed, so the apple juice is no longer contained within the cellular structure of the apple. With a significant part of the apple removed (and related micronutrients), the juice remaining will be processed through your system much more quickly, and will deliver less benefits than eating the whole fruit.

  1. Can I easily see how much “free sugar” is in a product from the nutritional label?

In short, no. And this is where a lot of confusion is coming from. Under EU law, total sugars (both free and all other) are included and declared as carbohydrates on product packaging, as follows (per 100g):

Carbohydrates   say for eg 9g

Of which sugars say for eg 3g

So, all sugars are reported as one number. This number could then be made up of a variety of different sugars, depending on the food product (e.g. a fruit yogurt may contain lactose which is not free sugar, and whole fruit sugar which is not free sugar, and added sugar which is free sugar).

Therefore, to be clear, current food labels in Ireland & EU show Total Sugars in grams, and there is no requirement to show Free sugars in grams. So simply looking at the Sugars in grams on a product will not tell you how much (if any) of these sugars are free sugars. To assume Total sugars are equivalent to Free sugars is inaccurate.

  1. How do I know if there is free sugar in a product?

If the list of ingredients doesn’t contain added sugar in any guise (there are about fifty names for different sugar varieties, such as dextrose, rice syrup, corn syrup, jaggery etc. : it pays to have some familiarity with these names), or doesn’t contain any added fruit juices, then the product will contain no free sugar. You can then assume that all of the sugars declared on the label are derived from sugars from milk and/or from vegetables and fruit in their cellular form, and from other foods which naturally contain sugar but in smaller amounts (eg. in beans, pulses).

  1. If there is free sugar in a product, how can I calculate how much of the Sugars total is made up of Free sugar?

Assuming you have established that there is free sugar in the product (see above), there are a number of clues on the label that can help you to estimate how much free sugar is in the product. Looking at the ingredient list, the higher up on the list that an ingredient is listed, the more there is of that ingredient, so if for example sucrose is listed after flour and before eggs, it means that the product contains more sucrose than eggs (and more flour than sucrose). There may be more than one type of free sugar in a product (so you will need to take this into account). If the ingredient list contains lots of vegetables, fruits etc, (not fruits juices) which are high up on the list, and any free sugars are very low down on ingredients list (near spices, seasoning etc), this would indicate that a lot of the sugars (which are declared on the packaging) are derived from these ingredients, so most of the sugars can be deduced to be other sugars, as opposed to free sugars. You can compare the sugar content of similar products with sugar and without sugar, eg fruit yogurt, vs plain yogurt (no added sugar), to establish roughly how much sugar is attributable to the added sugar. (See examples in no. 9 below)


  1. Can I have some examples of “free sugar” contents of common foods?

100 grams of whole apple = 10 g total sugar (= 2.5 tsp) none of which is free sugar

100 grams of apple juice = 10 g total sugar, all of which is free sugar

1 medium banana = 14 g sugar, none of which is free sugar

100 ml of whole milk = 4.7 g sugar, all lactose, so none of which is free sugar

100 grams of celery = 1.7 g sugar, none of which is free sugar

I medium tomato = 3.25 g sugar, none of which is free sugar

100 g of cooked lentils = 2 g sugar, none of which is free sugar


  1. Can I download an app that will tell me the amount of free sugar in the prepared products that I buy in the supermarket?

While there are apps available (such as the Sugar Smart app from the App store), all of these apps will only tell you the no of grams of total sugar in a product, and not the Free sugar, hence they can be misleading as they  can  imply that all sugars are subject to the six teaspoon daily limit. This total sugar information can easily be found at the back of the packaging already.

  1. Do all prepared foods I buy in the supermarket contain free sugars?

While it may appear that all prepared foods bought in the supermarket contain free sugars, this is not in fact the case. Close inspection of the labels (as described in no.7,8 above) will yield estimated results and point you in a healthier direction (while this is time consuming initially, it is a one off task per product).

Here is a summary of the free sugar content of our Just Food soups :

Moroccan chickpea soup   : Zero free sugars (our label declares sugars of 2g per 100g, or 8g per 400 g pot, all derived from veggies & beans)

Winter Minestrone soup   : Zero free sugars

Tomato & Roasted vegetable soup   : Zero free sugars

Carrot & Coriander soup   : Zero free sugars

Super Greens soup   : Zero free sugars

Spicy Lentil soup   : 1 gram per 400g pot (so, less than ¼ of a teaspoon!)

Cuban Black Bean soup   : 1/3 of 1 gram per 400g pot (so, 1/10 of a teaspoon!)

Thai spiced vegetable : Zero free sugars

Bean & Quinoa : Less than ½ of 1 gram per 400g pot (so, less than 1/10 teaspoon!)

So, all (or vast majority) of the sugars in our soups are natural sugars, not free sugars.

So, it is possible to have very tasty foods, with zero or negligible free sugars!



  1. Given that the Free sugar data is not declared on current labelling, how can I find out precisely how much “free sugar” is in the prepared foods that I buy?

You can ask the producer directly, how much free sugar is in the product – all producers have this information (from the recipe).

As consumers, we can all seek to have Free sugar data added as a labelling requirement to our foods, through legislation changes (All Just Food packaging will have this info very soon)

I hope this post helps you and your family to make more informed choices, let me know if you have any queries, Deirdre x.


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Our trip to Germany

Well we are just about recovered from Biofach 2014 in Nuremberg and what a week we had! First of all we had to travel through the snow to get to Dublin airport and then the planes were almost grounded when we arrived! Image

After a slight delay, our flight took off and we headed for Deutschland. After a short flight and couple of hours on the train we arrived in Nuremberg. Such a pretty town! We were loving the view from our apartment.There is a Christmas market held in this square every year which is supposed to be magnificent so definitely want to come back for that.  Image

Following a few hours sleep we headed off to the first day of Biofach 2014. The tradeshow is an international event for organic food and it is just massive. It was actually quite overwhelming when we first arrived! There were stands there from every country you could think of and one would never think that there could be so many organic producers on the planet. After setting up our stand we were busy chatting to people from lots of different countries who were interested in our soups.

There was one guy interested in sending them as far as Australia! Image

I guess all the Irish over there would be only delighted to see them! We also had a visit from Mr Tom Hayes who is the minister of state for food, horticulture and food safety. Minister Hayes was visiting all the Irish stands at the show and it was great to see the strength of Irish Exports abroad and what great resources we have in Ireland which we can bring to the global marketplace. The food industry in particular is growing from strength to strength and we felt honoured to be part of it at the show along with the other Bord Bia exhibitors. Each day we wandered around in awe at all the sights and sounds of the event.


There was cookery demos and samples of any type of organic food you could imagine! Our old friend Quinoa made more than one appearance and there


were even some non food products there such as these really cool home/office accessories which made by a German company.


It would really make you realise how amazing the world is with so many different and varied cultures and so many ideas. The event lasted for 4 days and we enjoyed every minute of it! We’re already planning next year’s trip. Roll on Biofach 2015!

Posted in Food, Organic | Tagged , | Leave a comment

HiLo is low in Weight Watchers ProPoints!

Happy New Year to all you Just Foodies! Hope you had a wonderful Christmas and that you are feeling refreshed and ready for the year ahead! I know many people find it hard at this time of year to get back into the swing of things in terms of health and fitness. We’d all like to lose those extra pounds brought on by too many Roses and pudding while making the couch our new best friend. So with this in mind and especially after tuning into last night’s operation transformation, I was having a look at the Weightwatchers website and I came across the Propoints system. On entering the details of our new HiLo soups range, I found that they are actually very low in Propoints! The Thai Spiced Vegetable is only 3 Propoints; SuperGreens is also 3 Propoints and the Bean and Quinoa is 6 Propoints! I knew the soups were high protein, low fat but didn’t realise that they worked so well for the people on the WW programme! So let us know if you have any queries about how the new soups can help you realise your new years goals 🙂 HiLo is now available in selected Tescos and SuperValus as well as Dunnes nationwide.


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The New Just Food HiLo Soup range

photo 3 tiers HiLo

We have some very exciting news here at Just Food! We are launching our brand new range of HiLo soups this week in Dunnes Stores! These delicious soups are high in protein and low in fat but like all our products are made from completely natural organic ingredients. This is a brand new revolutionary product which we are leading the way in. It’s actually the first of its kind to be marketed in Europe! We have spent over a year developing these products and we are thrilled with the result; a range of 3 tasty soups which deliver high protein content whilst keeping the fat and calorie count low. The range is enriched with protein rich chicken stock and packed with healthy veggies. They are perfect for anyone who wants interesting flavours and wholesome, fresh nutrient dense wholefoods, but are especially aimed at people wanting to lose or keep off weight, active people who wish to consume more protein rich natural food alternatives, and to those looking for a non-dairy protein source. Look out for our new HiLo range in your local Dunnes today. They are also available in selected Super Valus and we will be launching into Tesco next week. Click below for further details of the HiLo range. Would love to hear from anyone who has tried them out!

HiLo Thai Spiced Vegetable

HiLo Bean and Quinoa

HiLo Super Greens


Posted in Uncategorized | 3 Comments

New HiLo Thai Spiced Vegetable Soup

The Thai Spiced Vegetable flavour was inspired by a desire for a new spicy exotic soup alternative which is healthy and assists in weight loss while providing a great source of nutrition. It contains Squash which is rich in antioxidants and also contains green beans which are well known for their antioxidant benefit s and are a great source of Omega 3!

Ingredients: Green Beans*, Squash*, Celery, Onions*(41.9% in equal proportions), Tomatoes* (19.7%), Water, Chicken Stock* (Chicken Carcass*, Water), Coconut Milk*, Ginger*, Garlic*, Extra Virgin Olive Oil*, Thai Green Curry Paste*(Chilli*, Lemongrass*, Garlic*, Salt*, Onion*, Pepper*, Kaffir Lime*, Coriander*, Galangal*, 0.26%), Salt, Chilli Peppers*.

*From certified organic production.

Nutrional Information: Typical values per 100g: Energy136kJ/33kcal, Protein 2.6g, Carbohydrate2.8g (of which sugars 2.1g), Fat 0.9g (of which saturates 0.5g), Dietery Fibre1.2g,. Sodium 0.2g (199mg).



Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

New HiLo Bean and Quinoa Soup

The Bean and Quinoa variety is made with Black Beans and Quinoa which is an ancient powerfood used by Inca warriors to aid stamina! Both quinoa and black beans are very high in protein and black beans are also known for being high in folates and they are great for blood sugar reduction.

Ingredients: Tomatoes*, Water, Black Beans*, Carrots*, Celery*, Onions*, Chicken Stock*, (Chicken Carcass*, Water), Quinoa*, Spinach*, Cider Vinegar*, Extra Virgin Olive Oil*, Salt, Red Chilli Peppers, Garlic*, Ginger*, Lemon Juice*, Raw Cane Sugar*, Cumin*, Ground Coriander*, Thyme*, Black Pepper*

*From certified organic production.

Nutritional Information: Typical values per 100g: Energy 260kJ/61 kcal, Protein 4.1g, Carbohydrate 8.1g (of which sugars 2.8g), Fat 0.9g (of which saturates 0.1g), Dietary Fibre 2.5g, Sodium 0.2g (199mg)



Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

New HiLo Super Greens Soup

Super Greens is packed with some of the most nutrient dense foods available, namely peas, spinach and broccoli. These are rich in protein, folate and iron as well as a multitude of other healthy goodness. An excellent option to pack in as many nutrients as possible for your lunch or evening meal!

Ingredients: Water, Greens*(Spinach*, Peas*, Brocolli*, 26% in equal proportions), Celery*, Onions*, Chicken Stock*, (Chicken Carcass*, Water), Salt, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Organic Mint, Pepper*

*From certified organic production.

Nutritional  Information: Typical values per 100g: Energy 115kJ/27 kcal, Protein 2.9g, Carbohydrate 2.0g (of which sugars 1.4g), Fat 0.6g(of which saturates 0.1g), Dietary Fibre 1.4g, Sodium 0.2g (183mg).



Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

What to do with the Turkey!

If your house is anything like mine you have the eternal problem after about two days of Christmas ..

Oh, what do you do when, every time you revisit the fridge, there appears to be even MORE leftover turkey. Can people actually be sneaking in past the dosing springers and leaving their unwanted turkey in our fridge? Well, here are a few simple solutions that will wake up those taste buds.

Turkey  and Green LentilEasy Turkey and Green Lentil Dhal      

This really is a fancy description for a curry!

Serves 4


300 g diced cooked turkey

1 pot Just Food Spicy Lentil soup

1 bag washed baby spinach

Salt, Pepper

Garnishes: Natural yogurt, fresh chopped coriander, Sweet chilli sauce to taste


Empty soup into large saucepan; add turkey, and heat, stirring, to simmering point. Add the spinach, put lid on saucepan, turn off heat, and allow spinach to wilt for a few minutes. Remove lid, stir spinach into turkey mixture and gently bring back to simmering point. Season with salt, pepper.

Place garnishes in individual bowls.

Serve with brown rice, poppadoms, or crusty bread and a green salad.

Turkey and Black Bean wraps

Turkey and Black Bean wraps

Turkey and Black Bean wraps    

Serves 3 to 4


250g cooked diced turkey

1 400g pot Just Food Cuban Black bean soup

1 deseeded finely diced red chilli (optional, to taste)

4 flour tortilla wraps

100g grated mature cheddar

1 large red onion, sliced into thin rings, mixed with a splash of olive/rapeseed oil

Salt, pepper to taste


Pre heat oven to 180 degrees

Empty contents of black bean soup into medium saucepan, add diced turkey and diced red chilli, optional, dependant on taste. Heat gently till simmering and season.

Assemble wraps: Place ¼ of this mixture in centre of each tortilla, and fold up envelope like, placing the 4 wraps side by side in an ovenproof dish.

Sprinkle over the grated cheese.

Bake in centre of oven for approx 20 to 25 mins, then sprinkle over the red onions, and leave in oven for a further 3 to 5 minutes.

Serve with following sides: Tomato salsa, crème fraîche, mixed leaf and cherry tomato salad.

Enjoy !!


Deirdre Hilliard is the founder and owner of Just Food

Posted in Christmas, Organic, Recipes | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

THe Ploughing Championship

Well, four days on, and I am still only recovering from the PLOUGHING … what a blast, what a massive gulp of fresh country happy air that it was! A little like forgetting the pain of childbirth, all of the pain of the monumental traffic queues, the mud, the weather, is instantly forgotten, as soon as the stream of country folk come over to your stall and bring back those cosy childhood farming memories. I was a ploughing novice till last week – coming from a farming background myself, it may at first appear strange that I had never been as a child; however, being the youngest of nine children, with the first half of the family all (precious) boys, the odds were always against me securing a spot in the family car for the trip to the Ploughing.

With the date for the event slyly creeping up on me in the last week, the sister from London (of the chocolate Pops variety box household) was implored upon to come and help out on the stall (I reckoned she owed me this at least). And help out she did – we were able to serve eight hot soups each day, satisfying even the most fussy “plain vegetable” soup eaters (Message to Batt : Mary will be down to help with the fencing on Thursday; I haven’t yet told her about the bullocks).

While there, I was asked to do a soup making demo, which went fine, with the exception of the tins of tomatoes which refused to open (tip for anyone else doing a demo : don’t rely on the ring pulls on cans to work as they normally would, two can fail at a time, probability 1:1 million). See recipe below.

Just Food Organic Carrot & Coriander Soup

  • 1kg Carrots
  • 200 g onions
  • 100 g potatoes
  • 50 g celery
  • 50 g leek
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 10 g butter
  • Pinch ground coriander
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1.1 litres water
  • 100 ml milk
  • 20 g fresh coriander leaf, finely chopped
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 10 g salt, or to taste

Process the first six ingredients until finely chopped. Melt the butter over medium heat, add the chopped veg, stir, add ground spices. Cover and sweat for a few minutes.

Add water, bring to boil, simmer for approx 10 mins. Blitz with a stick blender, add milk , bring back to simmer. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add chopped coriander and serve.

Note 1: Older and larger  carrots actually have more beta-carotene than younger ones, so you can feel virtuous hauling the oldies out of the back of the fridge (and I am hopeful that this “older and larger is better than younger and smaller” applies to all manner of things)

Note 2: We don’t use any stock cubes/commercial stocks – instead, the combination of veg added at the outset creates the stock which is the basis for the soup – in this way, you get a lovely fresh tasting soup, with all of the fibre of the retained veg, and none of the nasty additives that lurk in commercial stock cubes.

Note 3: We never use flour to thicken our soups, so all of our soups (excluding chicken noodle) are gluten free – our soups are naturally thickened by the addition of extra veg, providing extra fibre and associated health benefits.

Note 4: This soup has 2.5 of your recommended 5 a day servings of fruit/veg in each 400g portion. Job done!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Chocolate Granola recipe to satisfy a 13 yr old boy who may be looking for chocolate pops

Ok, this granola wasn’t intended to be my first recipe on the blog (that was to be a new majestic soup recipe), but this recipe is actually a big, no, not big, a massive win for me in my house.

It started innocently enough, the love affair between my 13 year old and the chocolate coated rice pops. A trip to an aunt in London, where the small cereal variety boxes were descended upon each morning with glee. Back home, during the school holidays, I managed to side step the odd request for said choc pops. However, as the new school year started, the serious pleading for the purchase of the choc pops began … did i not realise just how much better his mornings would be if only he could have that lovely chocolate bowl of deliciousness like all of his friends. It was the sheer scale of the desire for said  cereal that got me thinking a few things at once one morning : the chocolate ingredient was central, the rice pops were not. So what about a really healthy breakfast, but with a little chocolate added, still making a pretty healthy breakfast? It just had to be a chocolate version of my toasted muesli/granola! A few trial runs later, and we have it sorted, with the breakfast time happy again (for the moment).

So, here is the final version:

600 g jumbo oats

100 ml rapeseed or sunflower oil

100 ml maple syrup or honey or brown sugar

150 g milk chocolate (i use one containing from  28% to 33% cocoa solids)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius.

Lightly oil a large baking tray or cover with baking parchment.

Place oats in generously sized mixing bowl; mix syrup/honey and oil together in a small bowl (if using brown sugar, will need to heat sugar and oil together gently in saucepan to allow the sugar to dissolve and mix into the oil), add to oats, and mix very well – you want to get each oat flake coated with the mixture as this will yield a crunchier granola. Pile onto baking tray, spread evenly, place in middle of oven, bake for 40 to 50 mins, turning mixture over a few times, to ensure even browning. Once cooked, take out of oven and leave to cool to room temp. When cool, pop back into large bowl used earlier for mixing.

Next, break the chocolate up and  either microwave to melt (being careful not to burn), or place in a bowl over hot water to melt. Add the melted chocolate to the now cooled, crisped oats, mix very well to ensure even chocolate distribution, spread out mixture on tray and allow to cool again; once cool, store in an airtight container. Will keep for 1 month, but will not last that long!

Above quantity makes approx 20 generous servings of 40 g each, which have 7.5 g of chocolate each – this is actually just a little over one square of chocolate per portion (a good stat to hold in ones head, in case one begins to feel guilty about the chocolate addition). Amazing really, this is a small indulgence for  a big flavour impact!

The above recipe is the basic oat and chocolate version (which we are sticking to at moment); once the granola is cooked, a combination of one or all of the following can be added (depending on taste, pickiness of eaters, etc):

Sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds (50 g in total)

Raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots, dried dates (50 g in total)

Walnuts, hazelnuts, peanuts, chopped brazils almonds (50 g in total).

Fresh fruit such as blueberries, strawberries, sliced banana, go very well also.

Hope you try this and enjoy. Love to hear back from anyone.




Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment