Sorry for the pathetic attempt at a movie pun title…
Thanks again for taking the time to read my blog. This post is going to lay out some fairly easy ways to reduce sugar in your diet without (hopefully) giving up too much of what you love. I don’t need to go in to the science of it. We all know that refined sugar has no nutritional value and that too much is bad for us in so many ways. However, it does tend to be hiding everywhere. This is why I encourage cooking from scratch as often as possible. If you use raw ingredients, which contain natural sugars, if any at all, you can control how much sugar you eat.
When buying food products, remember this one tip:
Ingredients are listed in order of quantity within that product, from highest to lowest. Take a quick glance at the ingredients list of a product and if sugar is listed near the top I’d avoid it. Unless you’re buying sweets, chocolate, pastries and cakes. They are consumed for the sole purpose of loading up on sugar and fat in a delicious way because we are all allowed to be irresponsible at times. Just do it sparingly.
If you look at the ingredients on the majority of cereals, sugar tends to be the SECOND or in some cases even FIRST ingredient on the list. That means that sugar is one of the most used ingredients within that product. So if you eat that first thing in the morning, you are basically having a big bowl of sugar.
In my search for a non-sugar filled start to the day I found a few cereals that do not contain added sugar. Rude Health do some good ones and I add chopped banana, raisins or other fruit to them for sweetness and flavour from naturally occurring sugars. If these non sugary cereals aren’t your bag, there are plenty of breakfast foods out there to eat instead of cereal. Mix it up and try something new. I am building a recipe portfolio at the moment so I will post some breakfast options soon.
2 Sugar in tea/coffee
I know this comes down to personal preference and I’m biased because I’ve never had sugar in my tea, but my advice is to try and wean yourself off of it. My husband used to have 2 teaspoons of sugar in his tea and coffee which ended up amounting to over 10 teaspoons of excess sugar every day. Over the past few years, he’s reduced it slowly and now only has half a teaspoon per drink, significantly reducing his excess sugar intake. If you try this don’t rush it, just reduce the amount little by little so that you barely notice the flavour difference and one day you could end up liking sugar free tea. Even if you get down to one instead of two teaspoons, you’ll be making a big difference.
3 Takeaway Coffee
Again, I have non-sugary preferences when it comes to my caffeine intake, so this is easy for me. I take my coffee straight black (it’s delicious!). But if you are more inclined to flavoured coffee on regular basis, you may be consuming more sugar than you imagine. Whether it’s a Frappucino in the summer or Pumpkin Spice Latte in the Autumn…these drinks are packed with sugary syrup. So yes, maybe treat yourself once a week, but for your daily caffeine hit, try a regular coffee and see if you like it.
Bread isn’t generally high in added sugar, but a fair amount of sugar occurs naturally through the baking process so having your ‘daily bread’ isn’t great advice. Try cutting down on the amount of bread you eat to only a few times a week. If like me you need carbs to get through the day, rather than eating a sandwich at lunch, make a lovely salad with a few left over potatoes thrown in. Cous cous, quinoa, bulgar wheat and other grains can also be a great alternative to bread based lunches if you are looking to reduce sugar. Roast a load of vegetables with olive oil, garlic and seasoning, then mix them in with one of the aforementioned grains (having cooked them first), crumble a bit of feta on top and you’ve got a very tasty lunch which should fill you up nicely.
5 Jar sauces
STOP USING THEM. They are the most unnecessary things you can buy. Whether it’s a pasta sauce, curry sauce or any other sauce in a jar, it’s going to be full of sugar, fat, preservatives and other terrible things. You can make your own so easily, yours will taste better and it will have zero refined sugar (unless you add a dash for flavour which is fine. The 1 teaspoon I add to my pasta sauce is a drop in the ocean compared to the pre-made jar version). Take a look at my simple sauces page. This gives you the basics for making some of the sauces that you may usually buy in jar form. If you use jars regularly in your cooking, cutting them out will reduce your sugar intake immensely.
Here’s where I become a huge hypocrite because the majority of my sugar intake probably comes from wine. Red or white it’s my biggest vice, I just love the stuff. I’m even halfway through taking a 9-week wine course as I write! I know, I know, just bear with me.
So…there are ways of reducing the amount of sugar you consume through alcohols such as wine. Some popular wines like Oyster Bay’s Sauvignon Blanc are made using a mix of younger, less sweet grapes and much riper, therefore more sugary grapes. The result of this formula appeals to the masses, but also means that the wine contains enough sugar to rival coca cola (no wonder I gained so much weight at university! I’d recover from a wine hangover by drinking gallons of coke).
Wines from other producers contain much less sugar because they harvest their grapes at the ideal time rather than using this mix. So if you are as big a fan of the vino as me, do a little bit of research, find some local wine tastings and ask the experts. You may be able to switch your favourite tipple to something lower in sugar and significantly reduce your sugar consumption without having to cut out this godly drink.
*always drink responsibly blah blah blah
7 Soft drinks/Energy drinks/Flavoured waters
STOP DRINKING THEM. Sorry to be blunt again, but they are terrible things. There’s nothing good about them and they are basically liquid sugar. If you love fizzy drinks, try drinking carbonated water instead. Don’t be fooled by the diet versions of these drinks either because they may have removed the sugar, but they are filled with additives and dodgy sweeteners which are terrible for you. I’ll probably write more on this in the future if you are interested, but for now, just trust me and avoid them.
If I’m craving something fizzy, I have a big glass of sparkling/soda water with a few lime wedges in it. I used to hate sparkling water when I was younger, but I tried it again about 8 years ago and now can’t get enough. Try it as an option and you might love it.
If you crave the sweetness of soft drinks or flavoured water, add fresh fruit to a water bottle. Strawberries, blueberries, mint, cucumber and so on, all give water such a great flavour, without turning it in to sugar water.
8 Veg to Fruit ratio
So far, I’ve been discussing ways of avoiding refined sugars that are added to products. However, naturally occurring sugars, found in things like fruit, honey, agave nectar, are not something we should be eating tons of. I am not saying to stop eating fruit! Fruit is wonderfully nutritious and you should eat it. But if you are consciously trying to get your ‘5 a day’, try and eat more green vegetables than fruits to avoid consuming too much sugar.
9 Read the labels
This goes back to my first comment about reading the ingredients on everything you buy. Try and make a habit of doing this, because all products are legally obligated to carry nutritional information on them and it will allow you to know what you are consuming and make informed decisions. Some products try and brand themselves as healthy or use strategic marketing to align themselves with health, when in fact they are unhealthy. I knew a guy who would always take a Lucozade Sport drink to the gym with him as he assumed that a ‘sports drink’ was healthy and would improve his performance. Of course, he had plenty of energy each time because he was drinking sugar, but all he was doing was burning off this Lucozade induced sugar high and not losing any weight (as was his aim at the time).
Be educated and informed in all your food & drink choices – ignore branding and decide for yourself if something is good for you using the information provided.
10 Sweets & chocolates
There is nothing nutritious about them, but we are never going to stop eating them because they’re too delicious. I don’t like the concept of ‘treats’ very much. Rewarding yourself with ‘bad’ foods for eating ‘good’ foods just seems counter productive to me (I could probably write a whole post on the subject if anyone is interested). So, I don’t consider sweets or chocolates ‘treats’, rather just something that I love to eat occasionally. I know they are not good for me so I try to avoid them unless I’m at the cinema or on a long car journey and have been drawn in by the petrol station display stands. Day to day though, I’ve begun keeping a little tub of almonds and raisins in my handbag to try and counter the craving for something sweet. Sometimes, you just fancy a sugar burst, often in the afternoon at around 4pm. This is because the energy you got from lunch is wearing off and your blood sugar levels are dropping. So, rather than hitting up the vending machine for a Twix, have a couple of handfuls of almond/raisin mix (or something similar). Nuts are great for satisfying a sugar craving and they are a great form of protein, giving you energy to get through the rest of the day. Measure out your portions to make sure you aren’t over doing it because nuts do contain fats and dried fruits contain sugar which is all fine, just in moderation.
So, that’s my 10 ways and I hope they help. Even if only a couple of the points work for you, you may be able to cut out a lot of unnecessary sugar from your life. Your feedback is always welcome, so feel free to comment or get in touch.
Ciao for now…
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