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  • Ireland Needs A Sugar Tax…

    My one consistent passion in life has been sport. I’ve been lucky enough from a very young age to have had great encouragement and support to participate in sport of any kind. Both my parents where sport enthusiasts with my Dad being a very successful track and field athlete and a league of Ireland footballer, so I suppose the competitive edge has grown with me throughout my life, and I’m very grateful to them for instilling this gift in me.

    My brothers and I were the kids who were always kicking a ball or running around the park timing ourselves and then going hell for leather to beat each other’s records!   And as I write this blog I’m thinking of all these mini sporting achievements and apart from cooking it’s probably the only other thing I can truly say I was good at, I think I even have an Irish dancing medal at home somewhere…. But then again, who doesn’t!!

    Over the past few years the word obesity has become a regular topic of discussion, as a professional chef I’m always interested in all discussions involving food. However I must say I have really strong feelings about this topic and it probably interests me more than most, mainly as it combines my passion of sport and my lifelong professional passion of food/cooking and all it entails.

    I myself have always been interested in healthy eating and nutrition long before I became a cook. It is such a confusing topic and with so many conflicting statements throughout history it’s no wonder people are so confused. There are so many experts and so called experts using buzz words like antioxidants, low Gi carbs and polyunsaturated fats and so on to try to convince people to eat some horrible sounding dish or ingredient.   In my opinion will never work, as generally people don’t understand what these words mean and they are never explained in simple plain English. I am one of these people who have to truly understand something before you get me to buy into it, thus I think the message is being communicated to the public completely incorrectly. In my opinion the focus needs to be changed from not just what you eat, and what it says on the side of the packaging, but to take a more holistic approach and encourage all forms of exercise, which in turn will generate more awareness and make people think more about their food choices, and be more interested in becoming informed of what their food and lifestyle options are.

    Speaking personally, I find when I make the effort to exercise, or just go for a walk, I then become conscious of what I eat afterwards and not the other way around. As a nation we should encourage our children and teenagers to go outside and play more and encourage them to get involved in sports, dance or whatever they lean towards themselves and hope this interest carries into adulthood, I am fully aware what I’m saying here isn’t something we all haven’t read before, but it really is the first step that sets us on the right road, once we help people start to makes changes the rest will follow.

    We need to face the facts, and the facts are shocking and very revealing, 80% of overweight children grow to be obese adults. I find that statistic to be incredible, and as a parent it’s always not far from my mind when I see my kids sitting around on the iPad or playing PlayStation for hours on end, day after day. I’m very conscious of the fact that if I allow them to sit there all day they will, so Sabine and I always take the fight on the chin and get them outside to play whenever possible.

    When it comes to fighting the obesity epidemic and the shocking stats that have been reported recently, the one that is showing that we are all heading to obesity by 2030 didn’t surprise me. I’m not a nutritionist or a dietician but the obesity enemy is very clear to me.   After talking to thousands of people regarding the food they eat throughout my entire career the common denominator is always the same, SUGAR! Sugar is everywhere and in pretty much everything. It’s claimed 75% of all manufactured foods contain added sugar and its playing havoc on our waistlines and causing a multitude of serious long term diseases such as type 2 Diabetes, heart disease, fatty liver, cancer and many more. It’s something I believe needs tackling head on and people need to realise the global devastation it is causing. I for one believe for our children’s sake and for our own future a Sugar Tax should be added to foods with high levels of added sugar. Believe me when I say this, as a chef and a food lover a sugar tax is the last thing I want to see but as a parent and someone who has a reasonable grasp of health and nutrition, there is no other viable solution or reasonable argument.


    Here’s a little overview of some of the things that sugar does to the body in plain simple English without all the buzz words and I stress, I’m not qualified on paper to give this advice but I am 38 years old and have really focused my lifestyle towards being a fit, healthy adult with a BMI of 8% and with 20 plus years of food knowledge so I think I’m relatively well qualified to speak on the topic with some authority, I’m not here to preach, I’m really just hoping that you find these suggestions to be something you have a think over, and maybe implement some of them even slightly into your lifestyle…

    • Added sugar (fructose) is not needed by the body and the liver can only deal with small quantities so excess is stored in the liver causing Non _Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD)
    • It directly effects the bodies insulin resistance and can lead to Type 2 Diabetes
    • Added sugar (fructose) is made up of empty calories which don’t trigger the brain hunger hormone (ghrelin) and this can translate into overeating
    • High sugar diets spike insulin in the body and it becomes very hard to lose weight even if exercising
    • Because of the effects on hormones and the brain, sugar dramatically increases the risk of becoming overweight or obese
    • Evidence is mounting that Sugar and NOT saturated fat is one of the leading causes of heart diseases as a direct result of increased fructose in the body and on our metabolisms

    The evidence goes on and on and again, I’m not here to preach, but hopefully there is enough there to get you thinking a wee bit. Sugar is now scientifically proven to be incredibly addictive and like any addictive substance the only way to combat it is abstinence. So if you want to lose the lbs cut the sugar out of your diet, here’s what I recommend and you’ll be amazed at the results very quickly.

    Take the challenge, drop the sugar and let’s get fitter!

    • Never consume sugar or sweet substances in the morning/lunch including fruit, fruit juices, honey, muesli etc.
    • Read the labels on everything and you will soon realise so called healthy food is not so healthy (remember 5g sugar is one tea spoon) so a healthy cereal bar containing 18g is nearly 4 spoons!
    • Don’t count calories! it’s a complete false economy
    • Don’t eat low fat foods they are full of added sugar
    • Use real butter, not spreadable variants, or cooking oils
    • Reduce carb intake such as pasta, potatoes, rice etc.; You don’t need to eat carbs every night. There is nothing wrong with eating just vegetables and meat/fish every other night and remember, all carbs get turned into sugars when consumed, so lots of carbs means lots of sugar and you won’t lose the fat!
    • Take sweeteners in tea/coffee instead of sugar
    • Obviously no fizzy or sweet drinks (if you must drink, drink diet)
    • Drinking is obviously something we need to be very mindful of, but you can swap your pints for spirits but stay away from no diet mixers, just one pint of lager is 225cals approx, whereas 4 vodkas with diet coke comes in at the same 225cals number)
    • Allow a cheat day every week to eat what you want and make sure you enjoy it guilt free, but don’t forget about Mr Sugar being addictive !

    If you stick to this even for a short period of time you will notice a huge difference in body fat reduction as well as reducing the possibilities of much more serious medical complications down the line for you and your kids and greatly reduce their risk of obesity. While you are at it get out and be more active, walk a little more run a little more and more importantly get the kids involved.   It’s our responsibility as parents to protect them and educate them, so let’s get to it!

    I’m such a firm believer in this we have started to develop a new menu at Bon Appetit, we will be adding three delicious new starters and mains to our regular menu.   These dishes will be all Low carb, low sugar, low calorie, low saturated fat and high in protein so our guests can make informed choices if they wish to be lean and mean. We will be highlighting the nutritional breakdown of these 5 components in these healthier dishes so regardless of your diet we will have you covered and I promise these will be stunning to eat!

    P.S: As mentioned above sugar is highly addictive so get ready to go cold turkey and suffer the withdrawals that follow, it’s a real eye opener how reliant we have become on it! So be strong! It will take three to four days for your body to adjust and then you will never look back.

    See you down the park!






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