Carina Contini: We must lead by example on sugar intake

File picture: supplied

File picture: supplied

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MY name is Carina and I’m a sugarholic. I love ice cream, shortbread and a Friday night box of chocolates. Now this is something I’ll admit but I know others won’t feel as comfortable doing so.

Scotland’s sugar addiction is reaching epidemic proportions. We just need to look at the newspapers over the past weeks to see how high sugar, and its impact on our health, is on the media and political agenda.

My family and I are lucky to have a heritage where cooking fresh unprocessed food is in our DNA and is always available, but for many others this simply isn’t the case. The ease of sitting in front of the TV with a sweetie and a can of fizzy juice is the norm. While people don’t see the damage this is causing, believe me, after reading the new report from Food Standards Scotland about the state of the Scottish diet, alarm bells were ringing.

Two out of three people in Scotland are overweight or obese, 87 per cent of type 2 diabetics are overweight or obese and, most alarming to a mother of three, is that 31 per cent of children are overweight or obese. After reading the last statistic repeatedly before it sunk in I decided action was needed.

Last week we hosted an event to discuss a Sugar Drinks Tax in Scotland. Highly informative, the evening presented shocking consequences of too much sugar in our diet. Some fascinating insights included that fizzy drinks are direct causes of childhood obesity and diabetes and artificially sweetened drinks actually confuse our bodies into believing we’re not consuming calories so we eat more.

But is a tax really going to help? I’m of the opinion that lifestyle changes may be the better answer.

So we’ve redeveloped the baking range across all Contini sites using significantly less sugar. Our shortbread, a customer favourite, is now made with 50 per cent less sugar and still tastes delicious. This is just one small step we’re taking. We’re also marking our menus with sugar guidance and we offer free milk with meals ordered from children’s breakfast and family menus.

We have government guidelines for all aspects of life and I don’t think another tax is going to change people’s sugar habits. We need to restrict access to fizzy drinks in schools, sports centres and hospitals and review advertising regulations. I believe all a tax may do is just get us talking about sugar. We need to lead by example.

My niece recently told me about a mobile app that scans barcodes and tells you how much sugar is contained – what a great start.

I’m committed to offering my support to the government on this and change my own sugar habits. I know I’ll be on and off the wagon but I’m determined to kick the habit before I kick the bucket ten years earlier than I should.

• Carina Contini is one of Scotland’s best known cooks and cookery writers. Alongside her husband Victor, Carina owns three of Edinburgh’s most popular eateries – Contini Ristorante on George Street, Cannonball Restaurant on the Royal Mile and The Scottish Cafe and Restaurant at The National Gallery of Scotland on Princes Street.