If you’ve been following us on our sugar-free June mission, then congratulations, you’ve almost made it! We hope that, like us, your cravings have disappeared, you feel more healthy, and have made some lifelong changes to your diet as a result.
I have to admit that in the past week I’ve been looking longingly at apples and dark chocolate more than I did for the first two weeks, but I really, really don’t miss other sweet foods one bit. Going cold turkey on sugar can be brutal, but in this instance, it has worked a treat. Both Maria and I have found our appetites to be completely re-set so that we don’t feel hungry between meals, we feel a normal and not unpleasant sensation of hunger before meals rather than that low blood-sugar hunger that can drive unhealthy eating patterns. Our energy is more balanced during the day and our weight more stable. I have shed that last bit of tummy padding that wasn’t really bothering me but I’m also glad to see the back of at this time of year.
Just a reminder…
It’s important to eat carbohydrates from healthy sources to provide energy – we love colourful starchy vegetables like sweet potatoes, squash and carrots. Try peeling sweet potatoes and cutting them into wedges before roasting them in the oven in coconut oil and with some fresh thyme. Or peel and cut a butternut squash into 1-inch cubes, roasting in coconut oil and fresh sage. And of course we can’t forget to mention those wonderful berries, they are so delicious at this time of year.
Lots of protein at breakfast time helps balance blood sugar levels for hours afterwards – eggs are a great choice, but also try fish (smoked or fresh) and meat patties using ground beef, lamb or turkey with onions, garlic and herbs. Leftovers are ideal for this – see next point! Serve eggs, fish or meat with greens like spinach and asparagus, as well as healthy fats from avocado, extra virgin olive oil, organic butter or coconut oil, and some colourful sides like grilled tomatoes or sliced peppers. We want you to think of breakfast as just another meal, you can eat whatever you want so don’t feel restricted by breakfast cereals, toast and fruit. One note about protein intake though, try to vary your protein sources, so if you’re having meat for breakfast, go for either fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, pulses and organic dairy as your protein sources for the rest of the day – remember to mix protein from plant sources together to make a more complete protein, so for example, mix pulses with nuts/seeds and cheese. Always buy the best quality meat you can afford (grass fed and organic is best) to avoid taking in antibiotics, hormones and chemical pesticides, and eat your meat with lots (and lots!) of green and leafy vegetables.
Cooking more at dinner time or at weekends provides useful leftovers to help deliver nourishing meals at a moment’s notice. Organisation really is key when it comes to eating well and if you have a leftover salmon fillet, some burgers or cooked chicken in the fridge, as well as some leftover sweet potato wedges or squash, you can build a really healthy breakfast or lunch around it the following day by adding salad ingredients and healthy fats.
When you reach the end of June, you will no doubt be looking forward to increasing your intake of fruit and other sweet foods. We recommend that you go slowly, add in a piece of fruit to your daily intake initially and see how you feel. Perhaps some dark chocolate after that in small amounts. Keep an eye on hidden sugar in packaged foods like cereals, sauces, snack bars, yoghurts and ready meals – intake can easily creep up again to unhealthy levels. After adding more sweet foods to your diet, pay attention to your energy levels, sleep quality and digestion and cut back on sugar if anything seems to be amiss. Have more sugar-free days per week, keep using the healthier sugar alternatives in cooking and baking to reduce your reliance on refined sugar, avoiding artificial sweeteners at all costs. And you can also bring in unrefined sweeteners like maple syrup, coconut sugar and raw honey, all of which contain enzymes and nutrients, although they are still a source of sugar and should be used sparingly. We hope that your desire for the less healthy sweet stuff has now reduced, and sugary foods are likely to taste really sweet to you now which should help you to moderate your intake further. And finally, remember the reason you wanted to do this in the first place – sugar is really addictive, fattening and plays havoc with digestion and energy levels, so from now on it’s best to get your sweet fix from natural sources as much as possible and keep overall intake low.
Please keep us posted with your feedback and progress, and we hope you have a wonderful, healthy summer.
Written by Emma Rushe