I love holidays.
Let’s face it who doesn’t? A time to travel, explore, relax and indulge a bit… okay, make that quite a bit.
But I never thought I’d be saying this: a trip to the United States is good for your health.
Well at least it was for me and my husband.
Our initial hotel had a ‘continental breakfast’ provided as part of an additional, compulsory, daily ‘resort fee’.
It was a little bit unusual – each room was provided with a small cold bag that you filled from the buffet and then you could eat it by the pool, on the beach or your hotel balcony. We chose the latter because of the stunning views we had.
On the first morning we arrived with our bag and filled up with fruit juice, fresh fruit, fruit yoghurt, mini muffins and coffee. After about ten minutes we both felt sick.
Oh dear. Sugar overload.
So from then on we stuck to coffee, croissants and fresh fruit only.
We’re not food freaks, health fanatics or anything vaguely close but we do take an interest in what we eat and so we started to take note of what was in some of the foods.
We found sugar in crisps (potato chips). Usually here you’d expect a problem with salt and fat – but sugar?
In sauces we found sugar – nothing new there – but then we noticed an ingredient we were not familiar with in Australia: high fructose corn syrup (HFCS).
And suddenly we found it in so many things – in those fruit yoghurts – even, and get this – in a low-fat plain yoghurt!
Everywhere it felt there was sugar, sugar, sugar.
I know sugar is the new evil in a long list of diet fads – I’ve been there through most of them. The low-fat diets of the 90s, the low-carbs of the noughties and now the quit-sugar regime.
I’m probably preaching to the converted but it took me a long time to realise how we were conned on the low-fat diets because to make products tasty after cutting out the fat, manufacturers had to add something else and lo and behold it was sugar or a man-made sweetener or sweet derivative.
Increasingly I am convinced by the arguments about (or against) sugar – or so-called sugar ingredients – being added to our food.
In the US, The Sugar Association is taking on the manufacturers of HFCS over false advertising that “sugar is sugar”. The Association wants clearer labelling of HFCS and other sugars.
And increasingly I’m finding it so important to look at food labels carefully.
Part of our holiday was also a seven-day cruise. We were told that on average people put on around one pound a day on a cruise – I quickly worked out that would be 3kgs in a week.
There’s no way that was happening. We made a pledge we would be the only cruisers NOT to put on weight.
We filled up at the salad bar and ate fish, curries and vegetable bakes – very little fried food and we never went near desserts or sauces. I often chose a smaller plate rather than the huge dinner plates you could fill at the buffet.
There were free drink machines – mostly offering sugary cordials and sodas and waiters walked around with trays of these drinks. One morning my husband tried the ‘Cranberry Cocktail’ saying “well cranberries are good for you aren’t they?”. It was like a red sugar syrup and if a cranberry had been anywhere near it I’d be very surprised.
Don’t get me wrong – we ate really well and I did have some cheese (my weakness) and we drank a fair amount of wine. But you know what – we didn’t put on weight.
At the end of the day – as adults – we all have to take responsibility for what we put in our mouths, and our children’s mouths.
So going to the US was good for our health – it made us read labels even more carefully, think about our food choices and we came home feeling refreshed, relaxed and like we’d had a very sweet holiday.