7 Steps to Sugar-Free
We know it’s bad for us, but that doesn’t always seem to matter. Sugary foods and drinks just taste so darn good!
Earlier this year, a report by Cancer Research UK and the UK Health Forum showed that a 20% tax on sugary drinks could reduce obesity rates by 5% in the UK by 2025. That’s the equivalent of 3.7 million fewer obese people. We cannot rely on a sugar tax alone to improve our health. We need to take action ourselves.
There are many reasons to give up sugar: weight management, better gut health and improved mood being three of the most valuable. A piece published in the British Journal of Psychiatry that showed that middle-aged people who regularly consumed processed foods, typically high in refined sugar, were much more likely to suffer from depression than those who ate a less processed diet.
But it's not always easy to give up the things we love. So here's 7 ways to remove sugar from your diet.
1) Learn where it's hiding
Okay, you know that chocolate, cake and cola are off limits, but sugar will still get you! It can lurk in the least obvious of places. Foods such as cereal, flavoured yoghurt, granola bars, fruit, ketchup, salad dressings, pasta sauces and alcohol can all have high sugar content, so make sure you read the labels. Learn the other names for sugar. Fructose, corn syrup, sucrose, etc. Sugar has many guises.
2) Make small changes first
Rather than cut it out completely perhaps start with your drinks. Lose the sugar in your tea, switch from squeezed orange juice to flavoured water and start checking the sugar content in different brands of the same foods.
3) Don't skip breakfast
Breakfast keeps your blood sugar levels stable, meaning you're less likely to reach for that chocolate bar. An ideal breakfast would be oats and a couple of eggs, for example. Earlier this month, Cancer Research UK revealed that Brits really do love their breakfast, so much so that 80% of people have eaten breakfast foods for dinner at least once. One in three of us eat “brinner” at least once a week, with eggs on toast being a particular favourite.
4) Focus on overall health
You can do this by limitting alcohol consumption and getting enough exercise. Alcohol contains more calories than sugar per gram. Not only that but it leads to a vicious cycle for sugary cravings. We’ve all woken up the morning after a night on the sauce and tried to eat every scrap of unhealthy food in the house.
Exercise helps to reduce stress levels, which is a major contributor to sweet cravings. Exercise also supports blood sugar level control, leaves you feeling energised, helps you sleep and makes you healthier.
5) Don’t give up on snacks
You can't have that Mars bar but that doesn't mean you shouldn't eat regularly. Snacks like two oatcakes with a slice of avocado and some cottage cheese, or a fat-free Greek yoghurt, berries and nuts, are perfect. Foods that contain vitamins B and C are particularly important as they help us to produce energy from the food we eat.
6) Save up your sugar for the good stuff
The idea of cutting down on sugar is not to say that you never eat it again but rather that you save its consumption for treats like a slice of cake. Foods like soup, dressings, yoghurt and cereal don't have to be, and really shouldn't be, sugary.
7) Stick with it
Giving up sugar can initially feel impossible. But if you learn to make your own dressings and get used to the food swaps, you can be sugar savvy. The health benefits outweigh any initial discomfort or frustration. You'll notice that fresh foods taste better than ever as your food habits change and will find that your cravings naturally decrease.
A recipe to try in your quest for a low-sugar diet
Key lime pie
Here we’re using lime, honey and vanilla to give the dish some natural sweetness. There’s no need for added sugar at all!
10 sugar-free cinnamon Graham crackers
3 tablespoons of honey
1 ½ cups of almond milk
½ cup of lime juice
½ cup of fat-free Greek yoghurt
2 tablespoons of butter/low-fat margarine
3 medium egg yolks
Optional: Fresh vanilla pods (avoid vanilla extract as this contains 13g of sugar per 100g on average)
- Use a food blender to turn your crackers into fine crumbs. Combine these with your melted butter, honey and a tiny pinch of salt, and press the mixture into the bottom of a bowl.
- Bake this in the oven at 160C for around 10 minutes.
- Now mix your almond milk, yoghurt, eggs, lime juice and zest into a bowl and whisk vigorously. You can add your vanilla in at this point if you are using it.
- Pour this mixture on top of your crumbly base and put in the oven for a further 15 minutes.
- Allow it to cool and then place the pie in the fridge for at least four hours. For best results, leave to set overnight.
- A traditional key lime pie will have cream on top, but our version is healthier and still tastes fantastic. If you are feeling indulgent (everyone’s allowed a ‘cheat day’, right?) whip some cream up and pipe it on to the top of your pie.