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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.

Nickjohnson
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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.


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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!