At the start of the year, I wrote a post about my health and how I wanted to embrace the concept of ‘wellbeing’. Whether it’s because I felt so ill at the end of 2014 or just because I’m approaching 30 and the finite nature of life is beginning to hit home (lol), these days I’m definitely thinking more what I eat.
When I was asked to take part in Canderel’s #SweetSmart campaign to try give up sugar for a week, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to give my attempts at healthy living a much-needed boost. You see, I’ve fallen off the wagon recently… unless two burgers in a week and an entire Dominoes pizza constitutes as ‘healthy living’! Ahem.
Although when it comes to sugar, I’m actually not too bad. I know there’s sugar in pretty much everything, but I don’t really consume any of what I’d guess to be the main sugar sins – fizzy drinks, sweets, sauces and sugar in tea or coffee. And I don’t really do any (traditional) baking or eat ready meals, so we’re good on that front.
Where I fall down is with things like white bread, tonic water (gotta have my Friday night gin…s), fruit and pasta. And I don’t believe in giving up the things you love to eat – life would be hella boring without carbs. So for me, the #SweetSmart challenge and my approach to healthy living is about two things – moderation and substitution.
Before I started my zero sugar week on Monday, I’d actually been trying to cut out sugar for a while. If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you’ll have seen me raving about Deliciously Ella and her amazing cook book – it’s a kitchen staple for me now and I cook from it most nights. The idea behind Ella’s recipes is that a healthy diet doesn’t have to mean giving up the things you love, but rather finding an alternative.
The classification of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ sugars is rife with disagreement and as I’m not a nutritional expert (how did you guess?), I’m not making any definite distinctions. I’m avoiding added sugars, but not ‘natural’ ones. Here’s how I’m doing it so far:
– Cooking from scratch
The easiest way to avoid sugar, as you control what goes into your food. Watch out for added sugar in things like tinned tomatoes, though.
– Drinking water
With a slice of lemon if you need a kick. I’ve also been loving cold pressed juices from Leeds Juicery.
– Checking labels
This is probably the most important part of cutting out sugar, as it’s everywhere and not always listed in the way you’d expect. This guide to sugar’s alternative names from the Canderel Facebook page is really useful.
– Clever snacking
Snacking is what catches me out every time. I’m trying to keep things like almonds on hand for those afternoon slumps, and I love Nakd bars and Bounce Balls. Why do they all have rude names though?!
– Satisfying the sweet tooth
I’m conditioned to expect something sweet after my dinner thanks to all the Penguin biscuits I ate as a kid, but I’ve been feeding my cravings with Deliciously Ella’s raw brownies which are *amazing*.
With these guidelines in place, I haven’t actually found it too difficult to cut out sugar completely. I’ve had a few headaches and energy dips, but these are soon sorted with water and a handful of nuts or a banana. Since I started avoiding sugar back in February, my skin has improved dramatically and I feel tons better now than I did at the end of last year, so it’s definitely working!
I suspect it’ll be far more difficult to stick to a sugar-free diet when I go out over the weekend, but I won’t beat myself up about it. I don’t really believe in restricting things to the point where life is not enjoyable – I want to go out and drink a glass of red, eat a pizza and follow it with sticky toffee pudding. I’ll never be the person who declines a dinner invitation or drinks water in a club because I’m trying to be ‘healthy’, but I’m happy to take a bit of control over my own food and make better choices to avoid the things that make me feel bad.
I’ve only got two days left of my sugar-free plan, but come Friday I’ll be holding on to these guidelines to help me eat more mindfully in the future. I won’t be missing out on an Easter egg this year, but it might be a 70% cocoa version instead of my usual Cadbury’s!
If you’re thinking of giving up sugar, take a look at Canderel’s Facebook page for some helpful tips to get you started. And if you have any of your own, share them in the comments!
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