Waiter, There’s a Ghost in My Food!

Waiter, There’s a Ghost in My Food!

By Arunima Rajan
It’s scary and invisible — but it’s not a ghost, it’s sugar. Here’s how to exorcise it out of your diet.

Avoiding junk food does not necessarily mean that you are staying away from high sugar content. In fact, some of our favourite Indian foods contain more sugar than you realise.

However, simply abstaining from specific Indian dishes is not quite enough. According to Karishma Chawla of the Mumbai-based nutrition consultancy Eat Rite 24x7, “We often give up our homemade ghee paratha in favour of bread, thinking that it has a lesser amount of calories. But two slices of white bread packs three teaspoons of sugar, and a bowl of cereal has four to five teaspoons of sugar.”

With the number of diabetics in India expected to rise to over 100 million from the current 65 million by 2030, the time has come for us to find out how much sugar we are putting into our bodies. When we asked thousands of Indians how they planned to live a fulfilled life, many wrote statements such as “I will ensure that my family remain healthy and disease free.” You can start by rooting out the sweet stuff that leaves a sour taste.


Ryan Fernando, celebrity sports nutritionist and founder of Qua Nutrition, a Karnataka-based nutrition clinic, points out that something as simple as fruit juices may contain high levels of sugar. “When you buy a small juice for Rs 15, you don’t realise that it contains four teaspoons of sugar.”

Perhaps even more nefarious is when sugar goes by a different name and hides in plain sight. For example, labels on various food products may sometimes refer to sugar as:

-high fructose corn syrup

-cane sugar





-malt syrup


-agave nectar

Quick tip: Even harmless looking food may contain hidden sugars. So scan the ingredients of white flour, white rice, bread, pasta, mayonnaise, cereal, preserved meats, energy bars and even ketchup.


It has been scientifically proven that a person experiencing high levels of stress has a higher likelihood of picking up high-sugar and high-fat foods. However, that doesn’t mean that such cravings cannot be controlled.

If you really need to feed a craving, Fernando recommends a five-o’clock snack — and we are not talking about snacks with high sugar content either. “It could be a salad, sweet-salty chaat made with tomatoes, carrot and puffed rice, protein shake, peanuts or even a fruit with popcorn,” adds Fernando.

Here is another idea: make a healthy version of a snack. “If you must sweeten foods, add a little pure fruit juice or try some shredded raw or dried apples, coconut, raisins or dates. Or use spices such as cinnamon [and] cloves. For tea and coffee, you can swap sugars for organic no-calorie sweeteners like Stevia,” advises Pritisha Jadhav, a consultant nutritionist from SRV Hospital in Goregaon, Mumbai.


Find it tough to quit sugar cold turkey? Even small actions can win the health battle. “The key is to become aware of the sugar content in your diet and reduce it over a period of time,” explains Fernando.

“Thirty-four-year-olds come to me with diabetes. Indian food is carbohydrate-based and the basic unit of a carbohydrate is glucose. Large portion size and improper meal timing are our two major problems and, if we correct this, diabetes can be prevented.” So even skipping a second helping is a step in the right direction.