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Sugar, and particularly the thought of cutting it out or back, can be a contentious subject, mainly because people are so attached it. Think birthday cake, an ice cream cone on a hot day, a biscuit with your tea or coffee. Who doesn’t love those things? It has great memories for a lot of us but when consumed in excess, it can pose some health risks.
I know quite a bit about consuming sugar in excess because I am a reformed sugar addict. In overcoming my addiction, ditching the extra kilos and sluggishness it contributed to I designed the 50 Days No Sugar Challenge.
In doing so I started others on a similar path. When I designed the 50DaysNoSugar Challenge, I wanted it to be accessible to the average person so I made sure it was nutritionist approved and that most of the ingredients are readily available in supermarkets. No one wants to have to hunt down weird ingredients that may just end up sitting in the back of the cupboard for months.
The recipes and food plan can be enjoyed by the whole family, they are quick to prepare and no one will actually cotton on to the fact that are low in sugar. I’m a foodie deep-down and I’m not interested in starvation weight loss methods. I’ve managed to cut back on my sugar intake since 2012 and a typical low sugar day looks like this:
For something fast: Green smoothie with fruit and veggies plus a non-dairy protein powder boost plus a long black
or a small bowl of The Muesli with almond milk & berries
More time/weekend breakfast: 2 eggs and a little avo, slice of sourdough toast if I’m having a really active day plus an Almond milk latte (make your own Almond milk recipe ). Even dinner leftovers
I’m a big fan of the double breakfast, 2 meals split over say 4-5 hours.
Snack: Hummus and carrots/celery or protein snacky balls, like these lemon bliss balls
Lunch: Salad of colourful veggies, lettuce mix, oily dressing and a palm sized amount of beef or chicken
Afternoon: Piece of fruit (apple/orange/pear or the like) and 15 or so cashews with a cuppa sans sugar and just black for me!
Dinner: Handful of Sweet potato fries and a piece of steak with salad or a fish taco/burger or spag bol with zoodles instead of pasta and always a glass of red.
After dinner: A sneaky hunk of cheese, if peckish
So clearly, it’s not all doom and gloom- it’s pretty freaking delicious really. I apply the 80/20 rule with food and my life (that’s 80% whole food/healthy eating and 20% treats). I’m not perfect and I don’t intend to be. Here’s the basic tips that have helped me and others.
1. Going cold turkey doesn’t work for everybody so a slower approach may be better for you. I tell those who are not going cold turkey to start with breakfast – tweak that meal so it’s right. Then move on to lunch, snacks and dinner. You can also make a start by ditching sugar-filled juices/drinks and cutting down on the main culprits likes cakes, biscuits and ice cream.
2. Artificial sweeteners or sugar-free foods do not help, in fact they can hinder! My gut is happy and healthy when artificial sweetener isn’t in my body. No more “sugar free” items, unless of course they are fresh whole foods.
3. Some foods are better than others. What works for one may be a path to a downward spiral or an “attack of the binge”. The key really is experimenting. Now that I have limited my sugar intake, to be honest everything that is sugary tastes 400 times sweeter to me now. After 50 days, your tastebuds have done a complete 360.
4. Keep your mind occupied and busy. Do things when cravings hit; read, run, drink water, make a cuppa, call a friend, read an email or go brush your teeth – whatever works! You need to exercise your willpower muscle. Say no! Practice makes perfect.
5. Fruit is NOT a no-no. I still eat fruit and I encourage you to do the same. When I need that sweet fix, a piece of fruit does the trick. Frozen and blended it makes a delicious gelato! Yes fruit contains natural sugar but it’s really so much more than just sugar. It’s vitamins, minerals and fibre.
6. Prepare your meals and save time. This is a key factor to success, especially at the beginning. A few meals made in advance saves you in those times of craving.
7. Boost your diet with protein rich foods. Fish, lean meat, eggs, free range chicken and so on. You will also find protein in full fat greek yoghurt, legumes/beans and nuts.
8. It’s easier to stop saying NEVER I have indulged in a few sugary things over the past two years. I didn’t let that ruin me and I didn’t feel like a failure. I felt human. I’ve had an Italian gelato, a French tart or a sugary cocktail on the odd occasion. I’m a realist. It’s safer for me, and probably a lot of you, to adhere to the general guidelines of this plan and then if in a food moment (not in a stress or sad or weak moment) a sweet food is presented to me and I want it, I go for it. I don’t hang around people like a dog waiting for those food moments – it’s a bit more calculated for me. This whole eating philosophy has come about based heavily on past diet failures: I’ve been a binge eater, an emotional eater so I avoid those patterns. Doing lots of reading on how food affects us – not just the calories but the nutrients of the food – has helped motivate me.
9. Stop fearing fat QUALITY not quantity is where I sit. Get your fat from sources such as nuts, oils, avocados, butter, ghee, bone broths/animal fats to name a few. Steer clear of processed/hydrogenated oils, canola, sunflower, corn, and soy.
10. Going on a lower sugar diet doesn’t have to mean giving up alcohol. It’s about choosing better beverages to drink. Dry white & red Wine, vodka/gin/rum, beer- it’s all on the menu. Moderation is OBVIOUSLY recommended as alcohol has calories and alcohol content and that my friends is a whole different ball game.
11. Just check food labels. Turn your food products around and read the labels- if the first couple of ingredients are sugar (or maybe try reading this different names for sugar) it’s not the best idea.
12. Keep a food dairy or journal and note down how you feel. It’s much easier to stick to something if you have proof that it’s working. If you have heaps of energy and have lost a little weight- then I reckon that’s a decent incentive right there.
Have you tried cutting back on sugar? Any Success?