Sugar is getting a lot of flack at the moment. It’s evil. It’s poisonous and oh yes of course it WILL kill you (come to think of it I did choke a bit the last time I had some cake).
Some bloggers report how going sugar-free has been life-changing. Certain conditions, such as poly-cystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) can benefit from cutting down sugar intake. The hormone that responds to sugar (insulin) does not work sometimes as effectively in PCOS and can lead to higher blood sugars; not ideal at all. So, if cutting down or even out the sugar has worked in these cases, amazing. Also there will be healthy people who have cut down/cut out sugar and feel completely great. This is fine, as long as the restriction can be maintained, the diet is varied and nutritionally complete and a person is happy.
On the contrary a few people look like they are really struggling with trying to go sugar-free, feeling unhappy and guilty when they succumb to a cup-cake! This bothers me. Of course if you cut down on sugar you may lose weight; you are eating less calories. However, you may find you don’t if you compensate for the lack of sugar and eat other foods, like crisps or chips.
When I consider the media coverage sugar is getting, I think back to my late Grandad (who lived until he was 91). Tall, strong and always a healthy weight. He was active, ate 3 meals a day and adored his cakes and biscuits, washed down with Yorkshire tea (no other tea compares!) I imagine having a conversation with him, telling him he needed to go sugar-free. Not a chance.
Sugar has been around forever and now it is everywhere and I do mean everywhere. Our diet has changed, foods have changed and we are reaching for more processed foods that have sugar added. The worst thing is some of these foods are marketed as healthy. Tins of soup, pasta sauces, ketchup, yoghurts, low fat products, jars of food, ready meals and take-aways. My Grandad wouldn’t have touched anything like this. His meals were usually unprocessed, cooked from scratch and balanced.
The difference is he chose when he fancied some sugar and he fit it in as part of a balanced diet. He was also very active. No restrictions and full food enjoyment. I try and model my eating on this. If I want a small amount of chocolate after my main meal, I’m going to have it. Because I’ve chosen to have that sugar. It’s not been added to a food that I thought was “healthy”. I then try and avoid foods where extra sugar has been added and here’s how:
- Trying to cook from scratch – it’s hard doing this all the time but batch cooking can really help so meals can just be warmed up later on. This avoids jars, packets and ready meals where sugar is added.
- I don’t tend to have low-fat products, just small amounts of normal foods. So I have a blob of Greek yoghurt and berries for pudding and steer clear of low-fat yoghurts. I’d rather have 2-3 squares of chocolate, than have a low-fat alternative.
- I avoid sugary breakfast cereals and start the day with a boiled egg and granary toast.
- I snack on almonds, fruit (yes fruit has sugar in it but also a tonne of vitamins and poo-happy fibre so I’m not cutting that out!) and seedy crackers and soft cheese. This avoids the obvious cakes, biscuits, cereal bars, chocolate and sweets.
- I don’t really drink juice or smoothies – yes they contain some vitamin-packed fruit but they are very concentrated in sugar and, do you really want to drink your sugar?
- The obvious avoidance of sugary fizzy drinks and squashes.