Friday, June 8, 2012

Sugar Free Love for Mums

As a mum, mothers-group catch ups are essential for sanity. In essence I guess, their  purpose is to introduce the youngins to other youngins to develop their little youngin social skills.

However, these catch ups soon become pretty important to the mums (and maybe the dads) too. They provide a regular opportunity to whinge and whine (or maybe brag, if you must) about your little ones' recent frustrating behaviors and then of course, round off the conversation with a grimacing face and the often used phrase: "oh but I DO love them.....". 

I've always loved my weekly catch up with my mothers group. On top of the casual form of counseling, I relish the opportunity for us to share a delicious mid morning snack of cake, slice or biscuits.

Going sugar-free kind of wholloped that in the butt.

When I told my fellow mums I was going sugar free, the plates on offer (and I'm ever so grateful for them supporting me) soon changed from caramel slice and Anzac biscuits to plain old cheese and crackers.

I attempted a number of sugar free muffins (going against my grain and rather than follow a recipe I just let my creative juices flow....). It was a pretty dismal outcome. A half-muffin left on the side of the plate kind of outcome.

So when Sarah Wilson (and folks that have been following me on here, know that she has been my catalyst for diet change) released her I Quit Sugar Recipe E-book I couldn't hit the pre-order button quick enough.

So today it was my turn to host mother's group... I flipped through the pages of my book (sorry Mother earth, I'm a touchy-feely person and had to print it out) and decided that the Almond Butter Bark would surely impress. Impress it did. For me firstly. It's a one-bowl kind of creation. It's a 25 minute kind of creation. It involves nearly no cooking, no cooling, no cutting. Mix, melt, freeze and snap. 

And here's the result:

I'm pretty sure it impressed my guests as well (either that, or they were just glad it wasn't another one of my muffin creations). The whole plate of "bark" cleared pretty quickly, so that has to be a good thing.

Later the same afternoon, feeling a little chilly, exhausted (TGIF), and proud of my morning's achievement, I decided to treat myself to another one of Sarah's Recipes. This time the Chocolate Peanut Butter Hot Cocoa. 

Hot chocolate without sugar? Get out! GET IN! My Lord, this is the ultimate smother-me-in-love kind of hot chocolate. It's thick and luscious. It's divine. It was a "kids-don't-bother-mum-I'm-in-my-own-world" kind of cup

It takes some prep work (especially because I prepared my own almond and coconut milk) but it's worth the wait. It does have some dried ginger root in there, which provided an unexpected but warming taste. Next time I might try it with out, as chewing my way through a hot choc felt a bit wrong. In any case, I'll be mixing this up again when I need a pick me up.

Can't wait to try a few other recipes from the e-book collection. It's good bye cheese and crackers for a while !

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Sleepiness, sickness and celebations

Hi there - you haven't heard from me in while. Because things in my sugarfree land have been going relatively swimmingly. And as much as I love to talk about myself, I'm sure there's only so many times I can write that I'm feeling fab and going sugarfree has changed my life.

But this post is about falling of the wagon.

This post highlights the reality of sugar addiction.

As I said, I've been feeling fab and confident that I had my sugar addiction pretty much licked, for choice of a better term.

But two weeks ago I started planning for my son's 5th birthday. I arranged these fabulous (easy peasy, but cute and decorative) choc dipped marshmellows on sticks. I also planned chocolate spoons sprinkled with various sweet jewels. I made a heavenly rich chocolate slice. I thought I'd be able to cope handing such treats out to the guests and keep myself in control.I thought I'd be able to keep myself dignified and cool.

But I didn't. Not by a long shot. 

There was spoon licking, taste testing and leftover gorging galore. I had allowed myself permission to celebrate my son's birthday, but that permission stretched for the remainder of the week, smack bang into my daughter's 3rd birthday. Where equally decadent treats were to be had. And oh how I had them.

In amongst this I was hit with a strange bug that zapped all my energy and left me feeling sorry for myself. 

As I write this post I have a belly full of left over marshmellows.

I've flicked that switch on in my mind that says "oh just a little bit won't hurt". The same way that a gambling addict might say - "just a few dollars won't stretch the budget", or an alcoholic who says "I could have just one drink" or a reformed smoker that declaring to "just smoke when I drink."

Being addicted to sugar is real. 

I'm weak when I'm tired, sick or celebrating. Individually I'm strong enough to sail past each of these obstacles. I've proven that in the past. But as I have learned over this past week, bundle them altogether and I'm in strife.

So, I've written this post as a reminder to myself that I'm no super hero against the clutches of sugar. I've also written as a little warning to anyone who is an addict like me - that's it's just like any other addiction. It's easy to fall and it's easy to fall fast. Lastly, I've written this a bit of a contract to myself. To forgive myself for and allow myself to move on.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Mealtimes with Master 5

Ok, so my diet feels in check (all bar a little overeating on activated nuts and rice cakes). I feel healthy. I feel freaking fantastic really. I can control myself around temptation (Easter was an entirely different experience this year: who knew you could really enjoy just one or two eggs?).

Now I have a bigger challenge on my hands. The diet of my almost-5 year old son (in my mind I am hearing those dom dom  drums of gloom... you?)

I want you to read these and tell me honestly, am I being a neurotic mother?

Master almost-5 started off eating really well - anything we gave him really. But somewhere between 6 and 9 months (while darling husband and I were high-fiving ourselves for getting that element of parenting right), he became a fussy eater (dom dom). 

Now his diet consists of Weetbix (but if I let him have sugar laden Just Right it'd be less of a struggle), grain bread (he'd rather white), cheese on some days (I haven't worked out the formula as to which days he does and which days he doesn't), chicken nuggets, chips and fish fingers (he is almost 5 after all). He'll eat some noodles from out big stir fry cook up (but lordy help me if they are contaminated with the sauce or a shred of bok choy). He'll eat my homemade pita bread pizzas (Hawaiian only), but all the while will be asking when can we have pizzas "from the shop". 

I have managed to convince him that peas, carrots and corn will give him the superpowers of big muscles, seeing in the dark and running fast, so with a lot of help he'll eat them too (but I think given that he still can't lift or run as fast as a car, and apparently he can "see in the dark anyway", my days are numbered.)

He is a good fruit eater.

He won't eat pasta (except one that has since been taken off our weekly menu because it is  high in fat and sugar) and the only red meat I can get him to eat is in the form of a pastie from one particular local shop. So if one more person tells me to lace his spaghetti bolognese with zucchini I'm likely to strangle them with fettuccine.

I've tried all the tricks: making funny faces with the food on the plate, offering foods 15 times over, growing and involving him in our own vegie garden, had him look through recipe books to choose what he'd like, involve him in the cooking, and sending him to bed without dinner (this is our current tactic). It has all, apparently, been in vein. 

He has no problem eating unhealthy foods - packet potato chips, fish and chips-chips, lollies, biscuits and chocolate. He'll gorge on this kind of food. On two occasions he has eaten so much then ran around with typical boyish energy, then vomitted. So naturally, when he is around these type of foods I watch him like a hawk warning him to "not eat too much", "slow down", "maybe that will do...." (This is where the neurotic mother appears). 

I bet this little girl eats her dinner.
Meanest Indian
Attribution 2.0 Generic
(CC BY 2.0)

I am wondering (as I do with my parents' influence on my eating) if I am too strict with the unhealthy foods. By withholding the aforementioned unhealthy foods am I encouraging him to take a hunter-gather approach and stockpile (internally) when he gets the opportunity?  I see other parents freely handing out lollipops and processed foods to their youngsters who then seem to be able to eat half and walk away. 

I just want my son to try a variety of foods (I'd be happy for him to at least try - rather than screw his nose up the minute he sees it!). I want him to balance the good with the bad. I want him to know when he has had enough. I want to send him to bed knowing he has eaten. 

I don't want him to get to his 30's and still believe he doesn't like salmon, lamb, stir fried beef, rice, capsicum, cauliflower, pumpkin, potatoes or spinach....

Any advice (other than the bolognese suggestion?!), or should I just relax and let it happen by example?

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sugarfree: easy as ABC.

People tend to think giving up sugar borders on the almost impossible (Truth be told some days it feels like that to me too). Some seem to thing it's fad kind of thing, or a detox if you like. It gets placed in the same category of the soup diet maybe.  It's no fad. It's detox but it lasts a lifetime. And here's my A-Z on keeping it possible.

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

A: Almonds. Keep Activated almonds in your handbag/car/office drawer for on-the-go nibbling. Almond spread on rice cakes for a three o'clock hunger buster. And almond milk is a protein rich addition to smoothies. (I'd suggest making your own - supermarket varieties of almond milk contain inulin which spikes blood sugar levels the same way sugar does).

B: Breakfast. We all know that starting the day with breakfast is important.  But don't go thinking that flakes that turn you in to a bright red K are suitable. Make it a sugar free meal. I consider this my number 1 factor  in staying "clean". Because I have a completely sugar free breakfast, I don't set off those little alarm bells in my appetite screaming for more fructose.

C: Coconut. Shredded coconut or coconut flakes are great on oats and yoghurt (be careful when buying shredded coconut/coconut flakes etc - many contain added sugar. Look for organic/preservative free). Coconut milk (homemade is easy) is great smoothies. Coconut oil is the best option for cooking. And as a bit of a sweet treat drink every now and then - coconut water.

D: Drink. It's an age old remedy, but often if you think you're hungry, you could be thirsty. Have a glass of water.

E: Experiment. Unfortunately quitting sugar means ditching a lot of your common pantry items. But it's a great way to start experimenting with new foods and flavours. I'm a stickler for following a recipe, but since quitting sugar I've played around a lot more in the kitchen. I've had some failures, but I've had some good wins too!

F: FAT! Yep, I said it. (However, permission not granted for a trip to the golden arches for a burger: buns and sauces are sugar-laden). Stop being scared of fats. We've been trying low fat foods for years and no-one is getting any healthier from it. Go back to full fat yoghurts, full cream milk and snack on a bit of cheese. Eat good fats from avocados, nuts and coconut oil. Your body will tell you when you've had enough.

G: Green tea. The benefits of green tea are huge. Check them out. I tend to drink it just before I have lunch. It stops me picking at the food I am preparing and apparently can lower the GI of the food you eat. So why not?  (FACT ALERT: -  green tea should not be made with boiling water. If, in the past you've found green tea too bitter, allow your water to cool for 10 minutes or so before steeping).

H: Health Food Shop. Make a visit to your health food shop. They stock a lot of products suitable for the sugar quitter. But beware - just because it's in a health food shop doesn't always mean it's healthy! Be sure to read the labels.

I:"I" It's all about you. Don't try to convert people to your sugar free lifestyle. Rather, think about (and maybe talk about) how go this change has been for you. "I used to be addicted to sugar"; "I am so much calmer now"; "I am finding it really quite easy."; "I feel so much healthier". Soon, others might want to be the "I" too. 

J: Juicing. I know it can be a pain - chopping up all those vegetables, slurpping down a drink that you can barely handle, only to then have a stack of bits and pieces to wash up. But done a few times a week it's a great way to add some vegetables to your diet. Find yourself some juice recipes that you like (ginger and mint can make the nastiest of juices tasty!) and slurp away. (Resist temptation to juice fruit - it removes any of the good nutrients and just leaves you with the sugar...)

K: Kale. I've only recently jumped on board the kale train. This nutritious vegetable is fabulous with a bit of oil and sea salt and roasted in the oven for 10 mins... the result crispy kale chips to snack on any time of the day!

L: Labels - get to know how to look for sugar and all of its sneaky little alternate names. Check for how much sugar is in a product. I don't eat anything over 6g of sugar per 100g.  And I pretty much avoid artificial sweeteners.

M: Menu. Planning on eating out? Many restaurants now have their menus available online. Have a geezer sometime before you go, so you can carefully choose what you are going to eat. Be aware of sauces, marinades and chutneys - they are usually huge sugar hits.  

I have to add another M: Make Your Own. A fabulous way to avoid sugar is to make your own. Most of our processed and packaged foods contain sugar and salt to act as a preservative... so invest in some good cookbooks (or experiment!) to help you make your own of just about anything. Sauces, milks, muesli bars, muffins, dressings etc etc can all be made sugar free.

N: Nuts. Perfect snack-anywhere food. As mentioned above, my nut of choice is activated almonds, but I'm not against the occasional cashew or pistachio. I also like to put hazelnut meal or toasted walnuts on porridge and yoghurt. 

O: Organic foods. Going sugar free steers you onto a path of unprocessed foods. While you are avoiding sugar, you may as well avoid all the nasty chemicals that are sprayed over our fresh foods too. Use farmers markets, health food shops or grow your own.

P: Pears. In my first 8 weeks of being off sugar I banished fruit altogether (which was easy because I wasn't a big fruit eater any way). Now that I don't have any other sweetness in my diet, a low fructose piece of fruit (such as the humble pear) is a delicious treat. I have these straight up, diced up with yoghurt or grilled. PPPPerfect!

Q: Quality Foods. Get away from the supermarket and into some quaint quality food suppliers. Often smaller producers don't need to add loads of sugar to preserve their goods, so you can stumble across some really lovely foods that are much lower in sugar than their mass produced cousins.

R: Research. I've had times when my will power for sugarfreeness has waned. But knowing what I know now about sugar, it's addictive qualities and what it can do to my body, makes it really hard to back pedal on the idea. Do your research about sugar, sugar alternatives and suitable recipes and you'll stay on track.

S: Soda Water. As a reformed Pepsi/Pepsi max addict (although I didn't think I was that addicted until I tried to give it up), a soda water is now my drink of choice when I feel like something a bit zippy. And in desperate times, I'll add a splash of cordial.

T: Tea... Herbal teas are awesome. Enough said.

U: Understand why you are quitting sugar. It makes it so much easier to stick to if you understand the basics of what is wrong with sugar and how you personally react. I know that sugar in my diet makes me moody. It makes me undignified around food and sends me on a rollercoaster of pantry hunting.

V: Vegetables. Bit of a no brainer really... eat loads of them.

W: Water. Drink water. It cleans out your system, keeps you hydrated, helps with hunger... 

X: Xylitol. Ok this one only makes it in here because there wasn't any other options for "X". Xylitol is an artificial sweetener with a question mark over it's head for safety and addictive characteristics (which most artificial sweeteners do). However, in desperate times I have grabbed a chocolate bar sweetened with Xylitol. But I'd keep these very few and far between. Suggestions welcome for another X idea, so I can scrap Xylitol from my list. 

Y: Yoghurt. Yoghurt is a fabulous snack. And if you choose a full fat natural variety (of course no sugar) you'll find you don't need as much as you may have had otherwise. Experiment with flavouring it yourself with cinnamon, coconut flakes, berries or nuts.

Z: zzzzz. Get plenty of sleep. It makes it much easier to make good food choices when you're on top of your game.

Now I know my ABC's, next time won't you sugarfree with me?

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I'm hungry, it must be Autumn

I've had a rough couple of weeks on the sugar free train. I've stayed fairly controlled, but it's been hard yards. At first I thought it was because my husband had returned home and whilst I was high-fiving myself for keeping the chocolates in the pantry unopened, was I also seeking rewards for my efforts?

I wouldn't say I have been craving sugary food, I've just wanted to eat everything in site. Sugar filled or otherwise. From early in the morning, right up until before bed, I've been anxious and ravenous. 

It got me thinking back to my yoga going days and my instructor, who was very focused on what happened to our bodies, our energy and our appetites as the seasons changed. So I did some googling to see if I could let myself off the hook for all my late night binging. It turns out cravings when the seasons change is fairly common. It's believed to be our body's way of communicating the need for different nutrients.

Bcmom Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Chinese dietetics believe that our body's internal processes follow the external changes of the season and that we need to design our eating habits and food choices around the seasons.

We've just come out of Summer, where according to the Traditional Chinese Medicine, I've been right on target by eating spinach, cucumber, tomatoes, yoghurt, lemon and green tea (other things they suggest for the Summer diet are rabbit, wheat beer, mussels, endive hearts, apple, melons, oranges, pineapples and pears.). These are all cooling foods that disperse heat and build up fluids.

As we move into Autumn our energy decreases. During this time we need to support our bodies with warm foods such as oats, millet, corn, rice, carrots, leeks, radishes, cauliflower, beef and lamb. Garlic, cinnamon, chilli, onions, and ginger are also beneficial during this time for stimulating circulation to help us handle the cooler weather. 

Now in all honesty, I can't say I have been craving a bowl full of rice. But I guess it's likely that I have been seeking out foods to stimulate my circulation. 

So to cope with the current climate of my body wanting more food than usual (I didn't think this was possible) I've had a big Autumn cook up today. To carry me healthily though the week I now have some lovely seedy gluten free bread, some braised Autumn Vegetables (with those warming foods - ginger, garlic, onions) and a zucchini and almond loaf (with cinnamon and nutmeg).

Even the smells in the house made me feel warm and happy!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Solo sugarfree success

After 2 and a half weeks away, my husband is back in the country. It's fair to say I've missed him. So have the kids.

The days without him here were busy, as always. The nights were somewhat lonely. No one to chat to about the events of the day. Or no one to share the silence with. I knew food would make good company in his absence. And I'm going to be honest, I did eat more food than I needed to. Emotional eating is such a be-atch.

But.... the numerous boxes of chocolates (and I think there's a bag of marshmallows) in the top of the pantry remained untouched. In fact I didn't even consider opening them. Instead I found other ways to sweeten my solo time:

  • I got my girly on. I'm not really a girly-girl when it comes to beauty treatments. But one evening I kept myself out of the pantry by soaking my feet in warm water and bicarb (great for softening the skin) then lathering them in coconut oil and wrapping them in glad wrap. Following some much needed exfoliation, I painted my toenails - (pink of course!). All the while I had a face mask on, and watched The Sound of Music. Can it get any girlier? 

  • I made a delicious sugarfree thick shake (a number of times). A few scoops of sugarfree icecream from Lee Holmes' Supercharged Foods, mixed with some milk, a tablespoon of cacao powder and poured over a couple of ice cubes. It was a divinely decadent!! 

For sugarquitters - this chocolate sugarfree thickshake is heaven!

  • I sold stuff on ebay! There ain't much sweeter than making money and decluttering!

  • I'm bringin' berries back. Some sugar quitters put the veto on fruit altogether, but I subscribe to the idea that if fruit is the only source you get your fructose from, then one or two serves per day is ideal. I opt for blue berries because they are lower in fructose than other fruits such as apples. And well, they're just berry yummy! I love them with natural organic yoghurt.
Berries & Natural Yoghurt = Berry Yummy! Pardon kids bowl. Little bowl, makes portion seem big ;)

  • I did, ashamedly, purchase a sugar free (sweetened with Stevia) chocolate bar on a couple of occasions.  Whilst the ingredients seems to check out ok, I think it still sets up a an emotional pathway - that when lonely, (bored or tired...) chocolate is a quick fix. The great thing about this sort of bar though is that it didn't leave me hankering for more and for me to buy 2-3 chocolate bars over the course of 2 1/2 loooong weeks is a minor miracle. 
I am still a bit apprehensive about these "sugarfree" products.
So there you have it - I am a sugrafree woman. Hear me roar.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Suddenly Solo and Sugarfree

My husband has just left the country for 2 and a bit weeks. This is not particularly uncommon. What is uncommon is that this time, I'm sugarfree. 

Usually, when DH goes overseas (or indeed just goes interstate for a couple of nights) I feel it is completely justified to fill the void with food. Sweet food. 

It's emotional eating at it's very best. 

After 12 hours or more with my two pre-school aged children and minimal adult interaction, I feel like it's my right. I deserve it! Or I might feel angry that I'm here and DH is somewhere fabulous (that "somewhere fabulous" is, in reality a pokey motel room and a laptop that nags him to keep working into the wee hours of the night.) Or I just feel downright tired. Or I'm so grateful for the silence at the end of the night that I just want to hear the sound of my jaw chomping on something delicious.

Emotional Eating is defined as the practice of consuming large quantities of food -- usually "comfort" or junk foods - in response to feelings instead of hunger. Experts estimate that 75% of overeating is caused by emotions.

Shanghai Cowgirl
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
Emotional eating can be brought on by depression, boredom, loneliness, anger, fatigue, anxiety, frustration and stress. All common buddies of mine when my husband is MIA (In fact, as I'm sure most mums can attest to, they come to visit most days, but at least when DH is around he's home before the shizniz really hits the fan).

There's the usual advice for overcoming emotional eating: have a warm bath, go for a walk, meditate, do some breathing exercises. Blah blah blah. 

I'm probably just going to tweet, facebook, blog (you may see a slight increase in my blog presence over the next fortnight) and do loads of online shopping!

And maybe a few indulgences of the beauty variety, like a dessert essence facial scrub from Lee at Supercharged Foods and a do-at-home pedi. Might be time to get my girly on!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Oh the sugar shame of it all

Last weekend I had my biggest fall off the sugarfree bandwagon in over 3 months. My (adorable) nephew's birthday cake (of which I was in charge of making) was my undoing. 

Getting the cake right took 3 attempts. My first attempt didn't even require willpower. All the mixture made it to the tin. Any leftovers were scraped clean into the bin (oh I do tell I lie... I had two little munchkins at my side who licked their fair share from the beaters). But for me: no spoon licking, no taste testing, nothing. 

When cake numero uno failed however my emotions rose and my willpower dropped. By the time I'd dragged two kids to the supermarket to get yet another 3 boxes of cake mix, another thing (what is the noun for...) of butter and another half a dozen eggs, I was in no state to be strong. Cake number 2 found me having a taste test and another and another and just a little bit more.

THEN, by the time cake 3 came out (and successfully turned out of the tin) I was onto the icing. Pure icing sugar, mixed with butter, vegetable shortening and green colouring. I was slurping up slops and inhaling icing. It was messy. It was ugly. It was undignified.

But I paid for it and I paid big time. Later that night I was bloated and uncomfortably hot. I was on the verge of vomiting. 

I had a sugar hangover.

It was even more sickening to calculate that what I'd taken in over the prior 24 hours was a drop in the ocean compared to my life before #IQS (I quit sugar). In the past, that indulgence would have been forgotten as soon as I'd left home for the party. Pre IQS me would have continued the day with a glass or three of soft drink, sauce on my BBQ meat, a few man-sized handfuls of M&Ms, a snack size milky way and probably more than one slice of birthday cake (all of these things were on offer, but thankfully I avoided: apparently my willpower switch wasn't completely defunct).

Despite being very physically uncomfortable after my sugary binge, it was somewhat comforting to know that I have changed the make up of my body in someway. I've shifted the boundaries. I have cleansed my system. Rather than being complacent, my body now rejects sugar overloads.

Happy Birthday Max !

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Wholesome foods pt 4: Activated Nuts

On Friday night I told my husband I was going to activate some nuts over the weekend. It was naive of me not to expect the testosterone fueled response that I got in return. Much to his disappointment, his nuts stayed unactivated, while I turned my attention to almonds, pepitas, pecans and pinenuts. 

Activating nuts is a long process (considerably longer than the activity my husband had in mind that's for sure.). First, you have to soak the nuts over night in a bowl of salted water. After they've had a night floating in their saltwater bath, the nuts are then patted dry with paper towel. Then it's into the oven, on the lowest temperature possible, for a very long time. The recipes I have found for activated nuts differ in their suggested oven time anywhere from 5 hours to 24 hours. From what I can decipher it depends on the nuts you are using. It's seems best to go by feel and by taste. (When they're done they should look, feel and taste dry).

One for almond milk, one for activated nuts

So why activate nuts? Nuts are full of enzyme inhibitors that prevent them from sprouting in dry conditions. And those enzyme inhibitors can make nuts difficult to digest (sometimes resulting in constipation, stomach cramps and bloating). Soaking nuts in salted water breaks down the enzyme inhibitors, tricking them into sprouting mode and therefore making it much easier for the body to absorb the nuts' nutrients (Still, I can't help the voices in my head telling me I've just eaten a sprouted almond... am I going to grow into a almond tree?). 

The dehydration process (The 5+++ hours in the oven) ferments the nuts and breaks down their complex carbohydrates - again aiding digestion. Dehydration differs from roasting which spoils many of the nutrients that nuts have to offer.

Almonds are a popular choice when considering activated nuts. Almonds are great for cardiovascular health, contain no cholesterol (and even have the super power of being able to reduce bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol), they support the brain and nervous system, boost the immune system and have anti-inflammatory benefits. Talk about wholesome!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

But whatabout keeping the Doctor away?

I'm generating a bit of conversation amongst my peers regarding my sugar free lifestyle. Most people think it's a common sense kind of approach to eating, but when the topic of fruit comes up jaws begin to drop. The notion of giving up fruit seems to shift the sugar free concept from common sense to the just blooming ridiculous. 

Before I go on, it needs to be noted that even though we use the term "sugar free," it is actually the fructose in our diet that we are trying to eliminate or reduce significantly. Sugar as we know it, is actually 50% fructose, 50% sucrose. There's a whole stack of things (and different types of sugar), like fruit, that need to be reduced/cut out/moderated when going "sugar free". I guess sugar free sounds a bit sexier than fructose free.

To be honest - I don't have a firm grasp on the different types of sugars, fructose and other 'oses. (Glucose, dextrose etc). Nor do I fully understand the chemistry behind the way they interact with the human body. But for me, I know that prior to going sugar free, fruit wasn't a huge player in my diet. (I'm more of a vegie kind of a gal). But now that I am sugar free, fruit is a lot more appealing and something I regard as a bit of a treat. 

And that is the point we aim to get to.

Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Going back in history (before the invention of sugar in the 1800s), humans would get their fructose intake from 1-2 small pieces of fruit each day. 150 years ago our sugar intake per year was next to 0kg, now it's a whopping 60kg per year. (Being a Ballaratian I'm sure the invention of boiled sweets like raspberry drops, now available at Sovereign Hill is largely to blame... dang they're good!)

The thing is our bodies are designed to metabolise only a small amount of fructose per day. If we were just eating 1-2 pieces of fruit, it would be ok. But nowadays we consume sugar with our breakfast cereals, snacks bars, soups, sauces, breads, dairy products etc etc etc etc. As Sarah Wilson puts it in her eBook "sugar is natural, but the amount we're exposed to isn't"."

If we eat too much fructose (i.e. more than what is in 1-2 pieces of fruit) the liver can't process it fast enough so it starts making fats from the fructose and sending them into the bloodstream as triglycerides which are then converted to body fat and can create a risk of cardiovascular disease. 

Too much fructose also bypasses the appetite-regulating hormones. So you are left feeling unsatisfied. Fats, proteins and carbs have corresponding appetite hormones which tell us when we have had too much. Fructose is the only molecule that doesn't have a a relative "off switch" in our brain. I know personally, I couldn't eat as many cubes of cheese as I could Starburst fruit chews. 

Now that I've completed the 8 week program, I've started to allow a little bit of fruit back in my diet (and foods with a less than 6g sugars per 100g). I'll have some berries (low fructose fruit) with my yoghurt, I'll have a sip of the freshly squeezed juice I make for the kids. But I'll treat it like a treat. Which is how the body is designed to have it. We quit sugar so we can have 1-2 pieces of fruit per day.

Not so blooming ridiculous hey?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

If not sugar then what?

When I tell people that I have quit sugar, it is surprising how many respond with "well, what do you eat then?". Clearly, people are aware how prevalent sugar exists in our western diets. Most are aware that sugar isn't good for us. But very few can contemplate cutting it out. Possibly due to that question alone - what would one consume if it weren't for sugar?

Carbon NYC
Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

So, as boring as it may seem I thought I'd give you a bit of a snap shot of my day to day culinary delights:

Breakfast: I almost always start the morning with a lemon tea (slice of lemon in hot water). Then what used to be a breakfast of muesli, fruit and flavoured yoghurt has now been replaced with rolled oats (cooked on stove) in full cream milk, topped with natural yoghurt (I'm loving Barambah Organics at the moment) and a generous sprinkling of cinnamon. I often follow this with a slice of Aussie Farmers Direct multigrain sourdough, with a smear of coconut oil. (Of which there are many, but so far my choice is Niulife - it's extra virgin, organic, unrefined and just damn tasty.)

Midmorning: As a mum of young children, mothers group morning teas, shopping centre trips and cafe stops for mental sanity are rife. So my mid morning snack would have once been anything in the field of a chia latte, hot chocolate, black tea with sugar along with a muffin, sweet slices or biscuits (NB: plural... I never stopped at one). These days, mid morning will often pass without hanger pangs. On occasion, I might grab a "Cheds" biscuit (less sugar than their first cousin the Country Cheese) with the kids  and with much gratitude, my mothers group has been retrained to put out a plate of saladas with cheese or vegemite. It doesn't showcase our 'housewifeyness' quite as well, but it does do our waistline wonders.

Lunch: Thankfully quitting sugar for me coincided with the warmer months, so it worked well with my usual lunch time salad. I make a colourful mix of spinach leaves, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, red onion, celery, radish (give or take any number of these things) with a tablespoon or so of apple cider vinegar, then topped with shaved turkey, danish feta and the new addition of chia seeds. (I've blogged about the benefits of these here). In the past this would have been frantically followed with chocolate, a sweet biscuit, or meringues (basically I'd rummage around for the sweetest thing in my pantry). Nowadays, it's a much more civilised (and delightfully sweet) licorice root tea. 

Mid arvo: I'm normally hungry come 4 o'clockish, so that's when I reach for a rice cake or two with a smear of almond spread. Otherwise I might have a slice or two of cheese.

Dinner: Well, like anyone, this can vary. But I avoid packaged sauces (so for example if I make a chicken parma I'll crush fresh tomatoes for the sauce). My all time love, sweet chilli sauce, has been turfed (almost 50% sugar) so pasta dishes usually have a light dressing of lemon juice and maybe some oil. I'm yet to use Tamari, but come winter time this will be the best option for my beloved stir fries. If I make a pizza, I'll use passata instead of the higher sugared tomato paste, or depending on the toppings, I might use oil or pesto. I use a lot more herbs than ever before and lemon and garlic seem to make their way into most dinner dishes I make. 

Over and above this, for Christmas I "arranged" for myself (and by "arranged" I mean that I bought it, gave it to my husband and instructed him to give it to me Christmas morning) a copy of Lee Holmes' Supercharged Foods. As a result, all of the above has been invigorated over the past week with things such as Tropical Blueberry Smoothie (a breakfast, lunch or snack option), a Green Renewal Juice and Super Seeded Bread. I'm absolutely loving the book (great present, thanks husband) as it is inspiring me to fine tune my diet even further with vitamin rich, wholesome, body loving, SUPERCHARGED foods!

So there you have it. A day in the life of my tummy. Goes to show how one can survive without sugar really quite merrily!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wholesome foods pt 3: Chia seeds

I've traded chai for chia. While the two aren't really interchangeable, Chai lattes once made a common appearance in my diet and now Chia seeds are common little lunch time buddies. 

Chia is a species of flowing plant in the mint family. It was originally grown in South America and used as food from as early as 3500BC. Chia seeds are high in fibre, protein, Omega 3 and Antioxidants. They come as tiny little black or white seeds. I first picked mine up at the health food store, but have noticed them starting to make an appearance at regular supermarkets.

Chia seeds can assist in weight loss due to their tendency to expand with water, thus making you feel fuller for longer. They can balance blood sugar thus providing more constant energy.  AND because Chia seeds are a great antioxidant (which fight free radicals in your body) they work as a brilliant "age-defier" (do a I hear a whoop whoop in da house?).

Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

I sprinkle a tablespoon or so of white chia seeds on my salad each day. (I'm told at my local health food store, nutritionally there isn't really much difference between the black and white seeds, so it's personal preference. The little buggers do have a tendency to get stuck in your teeth like sesame seeds, so I find white a little more inconspicuous). There are stacks of recipes available for muffins, slices, dips, soups etc etc etc. They don't have a lot of flavour, so you can put them in just about anything. In fact, I'm going to sneak a tablespoon of two into the coating of our fish tonight.

Look out world: high omega 3 fish and high omega 3 chia seeds - people might start mistaking me for my daughter!