No sugar November

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I consider my diet to be quite balanced. When it comes to sugar, I thought I was doing pretty well – I don’t have fizzy drinks, I don’t have sugar in tea, we only occasionally have take out and we don’t use convenience foods such as microwave meals. Therefore I was intrigued to find out where all of this ‘hidden sugar’ that we hear about in the press, was lurking in my diet (apart from the obvious – cakes and wine. I will come clean now that I do love cakes and wine) (And ice-cream).

What surprised me was when I started reading the side of food packaging, there really is sugar hidden almost everywhere – muesli, hummus, ketchup, cooking sauces, mayonnaise, low fat yoghurts – in fact low fat EVERYTHING, tinned food was a shocker – don’t get me started on baked beans! Breakfast cereals are a complete mine-field. And then there is bread, tinned soup, crisps – and the dreaded take-away. Turns out sugar does sneak into much more of our food than I had given it credit for – I like to call it #stealthsugar

The way I see it, there will always be sugar in my diet – I’m ok with that but I want it to declare itself so I know about it. Basically, obvious sugar that doesn’t try to deceive me is ok with me. I can manage that – I know that it’s there. I’m aware that chocolate peanut butter brownies, though a favourite of mine, are not good for me and so should not be eaten regularly. What I don’t want is to be tricked by foods I am wrongly assuming are ‘healthy’ – or at least wrong assuming are not full of #stealthsugar. So, I decided to have a go of life without sugar – initially for 2 weeks. After those first 2 weeks I had learnt enough to change some of my eating habits permanently and also accept that my diet is never going to be entirely sugar free.

If you fancy going sugar-free, or like me just want to drastically reduce all of the hidden sugar in your diet AND you have a family to cater for, here are my top 5 top tips:

1 – do – plan in advance.

I bought Davina McCall’s cook book which is all sugar free. I love this book as it has lots of easy ideas which for someone like me, who is not a regular cook, are ideal. The book has salads, soups, main meals and even CAKES and I can honestly say that everything I have cooked from here has been delicious. This has really helped me to focus on what I can eat, rather than what I can’t. Please note this is not a sponsored blog, the book is really great – and reasonably priced here on Amazon:

Essentially, Davina is all about cooking from scratch which isn’t as difficult or time consuming as I had first feared. Jamie Oliver also has a great superfoods book out at the moment that is worth a look.

I find it useful to plan out at the start of the week all of the meals for that week so that I am not scrapping around last minute / calling take out / making do with a jumbo bar of galaxy as there is nothing in the fridge.

A slow cooker is ideal for midweek ease – you can even prepare and freeze then slow cook on the day. Facebook pages like this one have endless ideas (if you can avoid all the fudge! – Although the fudge is really good too)

If you would like to follow my foodie updates, you can find them on Instagram @notjustrsmother

2 – do – have snacks ready.

For me, those points in the day when I need to eat but not a meal are the worst. It’s too easy to reach for something sugary or convenience food rather than prepare something healthy (boost bars are my all time snack fave – especially at a service station. In fact I pay-at-pump now just to avoid the temptation!).

My favourite things to always have available are – nuts, carrot sticks, hummus and pitta bread, ‘almost’ ice-cream (blend frozen bananas, frozen raspberries and sugar-free peanut butter – makes a lovely, sweet dessert), and every day mid-morning I have 1 litre of blended smoothie (half leafy greens, half fruit, nuts, topped with water), water in the fridge, bananas, sugar-free muffins (if you have the time to make them these are fab and can easily be frozen).

*** Aldi is great for cheap, fresh and frozen fruit and veg.

3 – do – be realistic.

Going completely sugar-free is changing the habits of a lifetime. Sugar is everywhere – even in foods that we think are healthy, just look on the food labels of cooking sauce. I decided after 2 weeks without sugar that although I would cook meals from scratch and get rid of some convenience foods out of my life, I would also allow myself a few treats during the month….. mainly cake and ice-cream. I am no Davina, I can live without a six pack but I can’t live without cheesecake.

If you are going out for dinner, it is inevitably going to be difficult to ensure your meal is sugar free. It may not be impossible but I decided that when I went out for a meal that I was just going to eat what I wanted. For me, going out for dinner is an occasional treat so I have decided it’s ok to choose what I want from the menu – and to eat dessert (of course).

I have also had the odd glass of wine and I am not beating myself about it!

4 – do – get rid of temptations.

Before Nov 1st I used up all of the things that I knew I would find hard to resist – ice-cream, biscuits, sugary cereals, jars of cooking sauce, ketchup, chocolates, crisps, popcorn, white bread etc.

Not having them to hand has meant I can’t eat them!

5 – do – think about what your goal is.

Is your aim to lose weight, or to improve your diet, or to stop having sugar in your tea, or to try cooking more from scratch, or to cut out fizzy drinks, or to recognise where the hidden sugars in your diet are, or to have an alcohol free month, or to cook from scratch once a week, or to have no take-out til 2016?

Decide on what your aim is before you start and set a realistic time limit on how long you will try it for.

For me, it was really to make me think about where sugars are and then to try and get rid of as many hidden sugars as possible. As a result of this my diet is healthier, and I have lost weight – but my sugar reduction has been coupled with exercise which has no doubt helped with weight loss.

I have undoubtedly felt better in myself, I have had no sugar rushes – or crashes. I have surprised myself by enjoying cooking more from scratch and by planning out what we are eating carefully, we have saved money on shopping. Bonus!

So my challenge to you is to set yourself a sugar target between now and Christmas! Let me know how you are getting on with it via my FB page. Pics on either FB, twitter or instagram (or all three) are also welcome – don’t forget to tag me in!



Follow me on twitter and instagram @notjustrsmother

To find out about the exercising I have done alongside cutting down on sugar, and read why I am a mum on the run, click here

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