I don’t know about you, but I’m done with the excesses of Christmas. But I’m not done with it in a ‘ready to stop’ sort of way. I’m just looking to my annual January health kick, and this year it will involve a sugar detox.
Christmas is the one time when I manage to totally stop working for a few days and relax. And like most people, this results in self-reflection and a few life-changes for the New Year. Health-wise, I feel like I’m on a slippery slope at the moment. I’m consistently attempting to eat better, exercise more and lose some weight. And failing.
My sugar addiction
I don’t have a bad diet as such. I cook most meals from scratch to make sure the children eat well. But then the afternoons arrive bringing cake and biscuits. And the evenings tend to bring a glass of wine and maybe some chocolate. All full of sugar. So maybe it’s just another fad diet, but this January I’m going on a sugar detox.
Why a sugar detox?
According to the NHS, most people in the UK – both adults and children – eat too much sugar. There are various types of sugar but the ones we over-consume are called free-sugars. These are the sugars added to processed food and drinks, but they also occur naturally in fruit juice, honey and syrup. They’re high in calories but have little nutritional value and adults should consume no more than 30g per day. That’s equivalent to 7 sugar cubes.
Eating too much sugar leads to weight gain, lack of energy and tooth decay. And it also leads to addiction. We should only eat sugary foods occasionally, gaining most of our calories from other sources. But sugar is added to most processed foods – because the truth is, it makes them taste better. So even if we think we don’t have a sweet tooth, we probably consume too much sugar.
My sugar detox
I have been doing some research on sugar detox and I’ve made a few decisions. I’m not going to follow a set diet because it’s too difficult with a family. I need to cook big meals to feed us all. They need to be healthy and quick as well as sugar-free and I’m also vegetarian. So instead of sticking to one diet, I’ve looked at various different tips to come up with a list of sugar-free meals and snacks.
Sugar free breakfast
Most breakfast cereals are full of sugar – even the ones that claim to be healthy. Bread also contains sugar, so my alternatives don’t include bread:
- Porridge with a tiny pinch of salt to taste and some cinnamon to sweeten
- Scrambled eggs wrapped in a lettuce leaf wrap
- Poached eggs and avocado
- Fruit smoothy
Some sugar detox books recommend cutting out fruit, particularly while you are acclimatising to the lack of sugar. Fruit does contain naturally occurring sugars and short sugar-detoxes tend to focus on getting rid of your sweet tooth, so you don’t crave sugary snacks. This can be easier if you go completely without sweet tastes for a while.
Sugar free snacks
For me, snacking is one of the main sources of my sugar intake. I’m too quick to reach for the biscuit tin every time I have a cup of tea. Or grab a chocolate bar when I’m bored. Or have a slice of cake because it’s Monday. Or Tuesday. Or Wednesday – well, you get the picture. But what I don’t want to do is try to eat less at the same time as cutting down on sugar, so I’m replacing snacks instead of stopping them. Here are a few ideas:
- Raw vegetables such as carrot, cucumber and celery
- Sugar-free crackers
- Rice cakes
- Pickles such as gherkins
Sugar free lunches
- Cous cous with vegetables
- Salad with chickpeas
- Home made soup
- Jacket potato with cheese
- Boiled egg with sliced asparagus and mushrooms to dip in it
- Egg fried rice with stir fried vegetables
- Pasta with home-made tomato sauce
Some diet plans suggest cutting out starchy carbohydrates such as bread, rice and pasta because they can contribute to sugar addiction. Some also advise cutting out dairy products and caffeine. But I won’t be doing any of that.
I don’t consume much dairy at all anyway but don’t intend to cut it out completely at the same time as reducing sugar. I may cut out bread because I know it contains sugar, but I won’t cut out rice or pasta because it seems like too much to do at the same time. And as for caffeine? I think I’m going to need that!
Sugar free drinks
I don’t drink fizzy drinks and only tend to drink juice once a week. So I find it quite easy to suggest a few alternatives to those. But for me, the difficult thing is cutting out alcohol. So I’m not going to. Well, not totally. I intend to only drink at the weekends – Friday and Saturday. I look forward to a glass of wine at the weekend so I’m going to keep this as a treat.
Here are my sugar free drink suggestions:
- Tea or coffee (without sugar)
- Herbal teas
- Cocoa (made just with cocoa powder and milk or sugar-free milk alternative)
- Home-made smoothies
Sugar free dinners
If I don’t cut out pasta, this is quite an easy one for me. Although making sure we get enough protein is important, especially as we always eat the same as the children. Here are a few ideas of vegetarian sugar-free dinners.
- Home-made moussaka with chickpeas, lentils and vegetables
- Stir-fried vegetables with Quorn pieces and rice noodles
- Shepherd’s pie made with sugar-free mince
- Fajitas with sugar-free tortillas
- Chilli made with sugar-free mince or vegetables, served with rice
- Pasta bake with home-made tomato sauce
- Egg and chips with vegetables
- Home-made pizza
The beauty of cutting out sugar is that other things that aren’t particularly healthy are not off-limits. You’re not calorie-counting or avoiding fat or carbs.
I mentioned above that I’ll still be having a glass of wine at the weekends. I’ll also be allowing myself the odd treat. My aim for my sugar detox is to keep it all in balance. I want to curb my sweet tooth and stop craving sugar but I don’t want to allow food to become an issue.
I also hope to keep this up. Maybe not for the whole year but it would be nice to make it to the end of January! After last year’s ultramarathon I decided to enter a half-ironman as this year’s challenge. I’m hoping that the varied exercise and cutting down on sugar will get my fitness back on track. Wish me luck!