Can you give up sugar for life? Writer Nicole Mowbray did, and has written a new book showing how you can cut down – or give it up completely. If you’ve ever tried, and given up at the first hurdle (deciphering mysterious-sounding ingredients on food packaging, succumbing to temptation when a box of cupcakes swing by during a tense office meeting), Nicole’s book will help you. Read her six step guide to going sugar-free below...
‘Sugar’s been in the news a lot recently. We all, it seems, want to eat less of it. It’s not surprising bearing in mind all the ailments laid at the door of the white stuff - everything from weight gain to skin problems, sleep disorders and mood swings. Two years ago, I was living with all of these things in varying degrees. I didn’t realise that the ‘healthy’ diet I was existing on - granola, sushi, fruit, smoothies, stir-fries with gloopy sauces and white rice – was high in sugar. I also didn’t realise that the ‘natural’ sweeteners I would so liberally spoon onto my porridge; the honey, the agave, the maple syrups of this world, were little better than granulated sugar. Perhaps this sounds familiar. Perhaps you too want to cut back on the amount of sugar you’re eating, but worry it will be too difficult. That’s where I come in. I’ve written a book chronicling how I kicked my sugar habit two years ago, and, importantly, how I’ve stuck at it. I’m here to help you curb that sweet tooth of yours once and for all. Here’s how to do it below...’
Step 1: Know your sugars
Get food label savvy. Aside from things that taste sweet, you’ll find a lot of products that you wouldn’t expect actually contain sugars – bread, for example, and processed meats. Often these sugars are actually unrecognisable as such – anything ending in the word syrup for example, is a sugar. Date syrup, high fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, cane syrup… Likewise, anything ending in –ose (dextrose, sucrose, fructose, maltose), ditto honey, agave, maple syrup and their ilk. Lastly, things that are sweetened using fruit juice are also to be avoided.
Step 2: Remove temptation
Minesweep your kitchen cupboards. Turf out all of those jars of processed sauces, any biscuits, jams, chocolate, salad dressings… Cordials need to go, as do flavoured yoghurts, ice creams, juices, processed foods (most have sugar added to them) – and anything that is sweet. Don’t ‘just finish them off’, remove the temptation, today. That includes alcohol – although I do still occasionally allow myself a glass of good quality red wine (or two), or a vodka, fresh lime and soda.
Step 3: Go shopping!
Eating more protein will help you overcome sugar cravings, so be sure to stock up on nuts, full-fat plain yoghurts, cinnamon and fresh vegetables, organic lean meat and fish. Buy a good quality olive oil, some coconut oil and prepare to cook ‘clean’ – ie fresh wholesome food that’s not going to be drowned in sauces or marinades. Don’t forget to put some cinnamon in your basket either, it’s good for regulating your blood sugar.
Step 4: Preparation is key
It’s all very well to be low sugar when you’re home, but what can you eat when you’re on your lunch break? The easiest thing to do is make more of whatever you have for your dinner the night before, but if you’re caught on the hop, chains such as Pret now do a variety of good salads with sauces on the side. Their soups are pretty good as are the little protein pots – eggs with spinach or crayfish with quinoa. As a general rule, avoid sushi (aside from being high GI, the white rice has a sweet marinate), sandwiches (again, bread often contains sugar) and anything processed.
Step 5: Get your head straight
The zenith of my high-sugar life coincided with a time in which I was pretty unhappy. I had a high-powered stressful job which left me no time to see friends, socialise or even do my laundry. On top of that I’d been dumped. As a consequence, I spent quite a lot of time ‘treating’ myself with indulgent things to eat – ice cream, chocolates, cakes, cocktails. Sweet things were the crutch I would lean on when I’d had a hard day. We all know that emotions and food are intertwined, so when I cut back on sugar I had to refocus my sense of ‘reward’. Instead of envisaging a tub of Ben & Jerry’s as a ‘treat’ after a long day at work, I made my goals longer term. I’d prefer better skin to a bowl of sticky toffee pudding, and to drop a few pounds instead of having five mojitos on a night out.
Step 6: Stay strong
For the first few days I felt rubbish. Chances are you will too. Your body is so used to existing on using simple sugars for energy, you’ll likely feel tired, moody, irritable and a bit down in the dumps. During this time, I planned nice things to do at home – a new yoga video, binge watching Game of Thrones... you know, the normal. When you’re feeling wobbly, avoid places where you’d normally indulge in anything sweet too – for me, the cinema (with its delectable wafts of sweet popcorn) was out.