Bubble tea brands to have healthier drinks
Each-A-Cup, Koi, LiHo working with Health Promotion Board to fight diabetes
Major bubble tea brands here are working with the Health Promotion Board (HPB) to provide healthier choices for consumers.
Each-A-Cup, which runs 26 outlets in Singapore, is applying to get 20 of its drinks qualified as "healthier" under HPB's Healthier Dining Programme.
Koi, which has 44 outlets here, said it is working with HPB to get some of its products passed as "healthier".
LiHo is aiming to have "a number" of its products certified with the HPB's Healthier Choice Symbol. For non-carbonated beverages, this means a sugar content of 6g or less for every 100ml.
This comes after an announcement last month that brands such as F&N Foods and Coca-Cola are committing to a cap on sugar content in their drinks at 12g, or three teaspoons of sugar, for every 100ml.
The move was announced by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at his National Day Rally speech last month and in relation to the Government's ongoing war on diabetes.
The recommended daily sugar intake for adult Singaporeans is 40g to 55g, or 10 per cent of daily caloric intake.
Most bubble tea chains offer consumers a choice of sugar level, from 0 per cent to 100 per cent.
Director and founder of Each-A-Cup, Mr Michael Chua, said a sugar level of 20 per cent for some of its bubble teas is equivalent to 6g of sugar. A sugar level of 100 per cent is 30g of sugar in a 500ml medium cup.
The companies noted they have adapted their menus over the years to include healthier options, such as fruit juice.
In June, LiHo switched to natural glucose with a lower concentration of sugar, said Mr Dean Koh, operations director at RTG Holdings, which owns the chain.
Each-A-Cup has introduced healthier toppings such as basil seeds, ai-yu jelly and lemon.
There, the maximum sugar level is 120 per cent, though Mr Chua noted that "very few" customers ask for it.
LiHo, too, recently introduced a maximum sugar level of 120 per cent.
Ms Jaclyn Reutens, a dietitian with Aptima Nutrition & Sports Consultant, said teenagers should consume only 44g of sugar a day.
"If they drink bubble tea, a can of cola and ice lemon tea with sugar once a week, then the chances of them exceeding their calorie budget is high, which makes weight gain likely.
"Excessive weight gain increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and some cancers," she said.
Confessions of a sugar lover
While the war against diabetes in Singapore picks up pace, I continue to sit on the sidelines, sipping bubble tea.
But I am nervous now.
I have been drinking 120 per cent sugar level milk tea since I was 16. I am 20 now, and I still drink at least three cups of bubble tea at 120 per cent sugar every month. Some days, the drink hits 200 per cent sugar levels.
Before you start quoting Health Minister Gan Kim Yong or Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at his National Day Rally this year, I know my habits are the kind that prompted the Government to declare war on diabetes last year.
During the debate for his ministry's budget in 2016, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said that a third of the more than 400,000 diabetics today are undiagnosed and unaware that they have the disease.
Like Mr Lee said at the National Day Rally last month that personal choice and responsibility make all the difference when it comes to diabetes.
He is right. I often choose instant gratification over health.
Meanwhile, the Government is trying to save people like me by implementing measures like reintroducing the National Steps Challenge, and getting soft drink manufacturers to pledge to lower the amount of sugar in their beverages.
I often choose instant gratification over health... But the threat of diabetes is a sobering thought.
On Sept 1, the new Diabetes Risk Assessment tool, launched by the Health Promotion Board, was rolled out. It is an online questionnaire to assess a person's risk of being diabetic .
I took the test consisting of eight questions, from asking if I had a history of hypertension or gestational diabetes mellitus, to my body mass index and how many sugary drinks I have a week.
I take five to seven a week, so I expected to be certified "at risk" for diabetes - I was not.
But I still feel I could become diabetic if I continue down this road.
Like so many in my age group, the mantra is "I am here for a good time, not a long time".
But the threat of diabetes is a sobering thought. I will now pause for a while longer before getting my bubble tea fix.
Perhaps soon, I will be able to say that even 50 per cent sugar is too sweet for me.