Your nutrient questions answered


Thanks to everyone who completed our recent survey asking about the extra nutrient tracking we’ve added to the service. From your feedback, it is clear it has raised a few questions – especially around some of the targets and what this means for you.

So I’ve addressed below the top 3 questions that have come up.

1. Sugar! I’m going over my target really easily, should I be worried about fruit sugars?

In short – no. Sugar is a tricky nutrient to track because there is no way to distinguish between added sugars and those naturally occurring in things like fruit and milk. This is because current UK labelling laws don’t require manufacturers to split out these types of sugars in the nutrition panel. But eating sugars from natural sources is not the same as eating lots of added sugars.

At present, the official guideline for sugar intake is only for added sugars – to reduce these from 10% of our total energy, to 5%.

In a perfect world, food packaging should show how much sugar is from natural sources and how much has been added to the product, but unfortunately it doesn’t, and the recommended intake on UK food labels is still set for total sugars. The amount is 90g per day based on a 2,000 calorie a day diet – which equates to 18% of daily energy coming from sugar. This is the figure we use for our Well Balanced nutrient guide.

However – I would just highlight that this 90g figure is based on 2,000 calories a day and many of you are on a reduced calorie intake, so eating less than this. This does make the sugar target more challenging as 18% of 1,400 calories is 63g total sugar per day – a third less.

I appreciate it can be off-putting to see you have gone over the target set for you, but what you need to be most concerned about is the source of sugar in your diet. This is what I’d advise:

1. Look through your diary to see which foods are contributing most sugar. If it is mostly coming from fresh fruits, vegetables or milk products, there is no real need to be concerned – even if you are exceeding your target a little. This is because natural sugar sources also contribute lots of beneficial nutrients such as vitamins, fibre and calcium. These can also alter the way the food is broken down in the body and therefore the effect the sugars have on your body, so going over is not a big issue in terms of your health and weight loss.

2. If you have Website & App membership, also look at your ‘20 Highest Sugar Foods’ report. The ‘Reports’ link is just above your food diary.

2. Am I OK if I have gone over the nutrient targets but my calories are under?

In terms of weight loss – yes. The most important factor is your overall calorie intake, so as long as your calories are within your allowance then you should be on track. But in terms of health, whether or not you need to try and reach this amount each day, really depends on the nutrient in question – as this differs.

iphone_bar_chart Fat, saturated fat and salt
These are the nutrients you should be most concerned with staying on track with. Your targets for these are upper limits, so you should aim not to exceed these each day. Overconsumption of saturated fat has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease, while too much salt can lead to high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.

Total fat is a little more tricky, as the type of fat you’re eating plays a part. Fat is the most energy dense nutrient at 9kcals per gram, so watching our total intake is important for keeping calories in check. However in terms of health, unsaturated fats can be beneficial. These are found in oily fish, avocado, nuts and olive oil. If you find you go over your total fat intake for the day, but a large proportion is from these healthy sources – then don’t be too concerned.

Carbohydrates and protein
Your allowances for these nutrients are guideline amounts for the general population. Eating around the level advised should ensure you get a good balance of the nutrients you need. However, eating a little above or below these guidelines is not of huge concern. However if you are going vastly over your carbohydrate allowance for example, the main concern is that the overall balance of other nutrients in your diet – so protein and fat – wouldn’t be optimal. So it’s helpful to stay within the levels recommended for you, but it’s not a huge health concern if you go over either.

In terms of protein, this is important for many functions in the body, so it’s important we get enough each day. Many people find they eat over their protein target amount quite easily, as we do tend to eat more protein than we essentially need. This is absolutely fine up to a point, but an excessive intake over a long period of time can be harmful – but you would need to be eating over double your allowance for a significant length of time for this to be a concern.  If you’re going over a little, don’t worry.

This is a maximum amount like fat and saturated fat – so it’s fine if you don’t eat all of this. As explained above, if you eat lots of fruits, vegetables and milk based foods, you may find that you reach your sugar guide amount quite easily. But foods containing naturally occurring sugars aren’t the ones to worry about. It’s the foods such as chocolate, cakes, biscuits and desserts with lots of added sugars that we need to try and reduce. So limit your intake of these foods to stay close to your sugar allowance if these are the reason for going over.

3. What are the Nutrient Guides?

For members who are interested in focusing on a specific nutrient, we have put together 5 nutrient guides to help – Well Balanced, Lower Carb, Less Sugar, Higher Protein and Lower Fat – as well as the option to set your own targets. These have been created by our nutritionists, with targets set to increase or reduce a specific nutrient.

While we don’t believe in cutting out or hugely restricting entire food groups, adjusting the nutrient breakdown of your diet a little is absolutely fine. The targets set are still within healthy limits.

nutrient-guide-6-box-layoutWell Balanced – this guide is the one we recommend for everyone. The nutrient breakdown is based on the guidelines for a healthy balanced diet: 50% carbs, 15% protein, 35% fat (and within this 11% sat fats, 18% total sugars and 6g salt).

Lower Carb – this guide offers a moderate reduction in carbs with a matched increase in protein. This is for anyone who feels that eating fewer carbs helps them stick to their calorie allowance better.

Less Sugar – this guide takes a strict approach with sugar, reducing your total sugars allowance to just 12%. This is for anyone who essentially wants to eliminate added sugars from their diet and only have sugars from natural sources.

Higher Protein – this guide offers a higher protein intake with a matched reduction in carbs. This is useful for people wanting to up their protein in order to help them stick to their calorie allowance. Protein has been shown to be more satiating than carbohydrates for example, so it can be helpful to eat more when trying to lose weight.

Lower Fat – this guide offers a moderate reduction in total fat. This approach can help some people stick to their total calorie allowance easier, as fat is the most energy dense nutrient – so reducing it has a bigger effect on reducing your total calorie intake.


  • Does the information about natural sugars and carbohydrates apply to diabetics?
    My husband was recently diagnosed and the level of sugars in some things surprised us, milk for example! We have been using lactofree milk.
    Fruit, grains and pasta seem to be very high so we have largely avoided them and stuck to salad veg and new potatoes in small amounts with minimal wholegrain bread.
    His blood glucose has plumetted and so has his weight.
    Do you think we are getting this right or being over cautious?

    • Emma Clarke Nutracheck Nutritionist says:

      Hi Gloria,

      Thanks for your comment.

      Current advice for someone with type 2 diabetes is to eat a healthy balanced diet which includes foods from all the main food groups. Whereas years ago people with diabetes would have been told to cut out certain foods, this isn’t the case now. So essentially it’s not necessary for your husband to completely cut out things like milk and pasta.

      However as you know, foods high in carbohydrates will have an effect on his blood sugar levels, so it’s important for him to be mindful of this. But as long as he’s eating a balanced diet including plenty of vegetables and fruit, wholegrain carbohydrates, lean protein and low fat dairy or calcium rich dairy free alternatives, then he should be fine.

      It is however personal preference also, and if your husband has found that cutting down on the things he has, has helped with weight loss and blood sugar management – then he may wish to continue doing so. But in terms of official advice, it isn’t necessary to cut anything out completely.

      There’s a really useful Diabetes UK fact sheet with information on what to eat which you might find useful. I’ve included a link to this below:

      click here

      While it’s important your husband keeps his blood sugar levels in check, it’s also important he’s getting enough fibre and a range of vitamins and minerals. So things like wholegrains are a good think to include from time to time as these foods are high in fibre and B vitamins.

      I hope this helps and please let me know if you need anything further.

      Best wishes

      Nutracheck Nutritionist

  • Marjorie says:

    It had been suggested by a NHS dietitian that I go on a FIDMAP diet. Would it be possible to have information on appropriate foods or even recipes?

    • Emma Clarke Nutracheck Nutritionist says:

      Hi Marjorie,

      Thanks for your comment.

      As I’m sure your dietitian explained, Low FODMAP diets have been shown to have some success in the management of IBS, however they are quite complex to follow. For this reason, it is advised that Low FODMAP diets are only undertaken under the advice of a trained Dietitian.

      For this reason we don’t have any information available for following a FODMAP diet, as you will need to do this under the guidance of a registered dietitian.

      I’m sorry we can’t help with this, but recommend you go back to the dietitian who recommended this diet and they will be able to give you the recipes you need.

      Best wishes

      Nutracheck Nutritionist

  • Sharon Lynch says:

    Not sure about numbers above but excellent explanations just what I was curious about.
    I wondered about sugar intake
    Thank you very comprehensive

  • Sharon Lynch says:

    Figured it out now

  • Maria says:

    Hi I just start from 23 Feb 2017 the app really like it i try my best 95% to stick with it honestly but didn’t see any weight loss but my problem is the sugar protein and carbohydrate always above in intake chart in orange I don’t eat raw sugar cake or any thing from sugar but I do eat lots of fuirts should I need to be worried about sugar and protein as I always inside my kcal but hiting orange on these 3 things like 125 to 130% in intake chart will this much above 100 is OK

    • Emma Clarke Nutracheck Nutritionist says:

      Hi Maria,

      Thanks for your comment.

      The most important thing for weight loss is sticking to your calorie allowance. If you go over or under your nutrients a little, but are within your calories, then this shouldn’t have an affect on your rate of weight loss. s

      If you read the answer to Q2 in the blog post above, this should help to reassure you. There is some more information there about each nutrient and what to look out for.

      I hope this helps.

      Best wishes

      Nutracheck Nutritionist

  • Hi Emma. I am really struggling to stick to any healthy plan although the last few days hsve been within or slightly over allowance its been food that I like not necessarily healthy. I was asked by my Drs recently to take statins but I refused as I take blood pressure tablets, thyroxine and andropline and was confused as to why I should take statins, so I said I would try to alter my diet but have failed miserabky and put lots of weight on but did succeed in losing 5lbs last week. Can you help please, am at a loss as to what food to eat , lots of the good food is very expensive. so then turn to rubbish. Thank uou Angela Richards. or Angela51

    • Emma Clarke Nutracheck Nutritionist says:

      Hi Angela,

      Thanks for your query.

      To let you know I have sent you an email with some tips.

      Best wishes

      Nutracheck Nutritionist

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