It has become the enemy, the villain, the taboo word in the health food industry; sugar. With the likes of Jamie Oliver campaigning for a tax on the refined carbohydrate at a time when obesity and tooth decay is at an all-time high, his programme ‘Sugar Rush’ really struck a cord with me.
“An unnecessary form of calories”, I have always been careful to reduce my intake of added sugar as much as possible, choosing natural sweeteners instead and avoiding the usual suspects like sweets and chocolate. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an angel and certainly don’t deprive myself of a drink when going out, but it’s quite shocking just how much of the white stuff we’re consuming as a nation.
It’s all well and good the problems being highlighted, and waving the finger of blame (are we, ourselves, parents or the global companies responsible for shoving sweet things down our throats?), so I thought I’d put a positive spin on the subject and share some easy ideas on how to reduce the need for including sugar in your diet. Trust me, it’s easier than you think!
Fill Up At Breakfast
The most important meal of the day, this is your chance to top up on key nutrients like protein, good fats, some complex carbs and vitamin-rich fruits and/or vegetables. Many breakfast cereals contain added sugar, sometimes even more so in the ‘diet’ options, so look on the label – or, if you’re feeling creative, make your own!
- Eggs are a great choice to start the day – whether poached, scrambled, hard of soft boiled, or cooked as an omelette. Season with black pepper, herbs, perhaps some chilli or Tabasco, and serve with tomatoes and mushrooms. Sorted!
- Overnight oats, or similarly Bircher Muesli, make a great choice if you have to rush out – simply make the night before and soak oats in liquid of your choice (choose unsweetened almond milk, cow’s milk or coconut water), add some flavouring like vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and stir in some fresh or dried (unsweetened) fruit in the morning before you leave.
- As the weather gets colder, porridge is a top option to warm you up in the morning. Cook with a little water and unsweetened nut or cow’s milk, and serve with toppings like fresh or dried fruit, nuts and seeds, a dash of honey or swirl in some natural yogurt and sprinkle with cinnamon, mixed spice or ginger.
- Whizz up a smoothie, made from soft fruits like berries, banana, mango chunks, with some natural yogurt, a little fruit juice, ground nuts for a boost of protein and good fats, plus a little coconut water or unsweetened milk. Easy!
- Pancakes are an ideal weekend treat, and can be made simply from mashed banana, eggs and a little coconut flour. Serve with fresh fruit, ground cinnamon or ginger, or go savoury and choose avocado, tomato and chilli as a topping.
Indulge Your Sweet Tooth (Healthily!)
- Got chocolate cravings? You can make your own raw chocolate, from three ingredients by melting 1 cup of coconut oil and 3 tbsp raw honey in a small pan and stirring in 1 cup of raw cacao powder. Whisk well and leave to set in the fridge. Add goji berries, raspberries, nut butter, vanilla etc. to make it interesting!
- Want to indulge in ice cream? Simply whizz up chunks of frozen banana with a little coconut milk, plus any flavour of your choice – from cacao powder, nut butters, vanilla, ginger, other fruits – and serve straight away or keep in the freezer until needed!
- When baking sweet things like cakes and muffins, opt for mashed banana, pureed apples, pumpkin or beetroot. Flavour with vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, cacao…And add texture with nuts, dried fruits etc. If you’re stuck for ideas, check out my #IndulgingInnocently recipes to satisfy your sweet tooth!
- Snacks – do you usually reach straight for something sweet? Why not consider savoury options? Pitta bread strips and raw veg crudites with hummus and/or guacamole for dipping, cubes of cheese with raw apple, celery or carrot sticks and peanut butter, strips of chicken for a protein boost…The list is endless!
More Tips For Being Sugar Savvy
It’s easy to assume that only sweet things contain sugar, but you’d be surprised at the amount of savoury things that contain high added sugar levels. Key tip: always check the label…and consider cooking or making the same thing yourself from scratch so you can control what’s it in. Culprits include bread, ready-made soups, sauces, salad dressings, crisps and ready meals.
Diet products are probably the worst when it comes to added sugar. Yes, you may think they are healthier than full fat versions, but what is removed to reduce fat levels, more than likely, sugar is added to replace that. We should be encouraged to eat more healthy fats, but excess sugar will only be stored as fat in your body anyway! Don’t be fooled by the marketing ploy.
Fruit juice – personally, I’m not a fan and would rather eat the fruit whole. In the juice form, even if no sugar is added, the fibre has been stripped away so you are effectively consuming pure fructose. Limit the amount you drink per day.
So there you go, nothing too horrific or outrageous, just simple switches so you can still enjoy food. I like to follow the 80/20 rule, so on a weekend, I will enjoy a glass of wine or two without feeling guilty. At the end of the day, the more we can reduce added sugar and rely on natural sources, alongside an active lifestyle, we can help to fight this battle!