What do you think of cacao nibs? Too bitter? Or an awesome sugar-friendly chocolate hit? Let me know in a comment below.
What do you think of cacao nibs? Too bitter? Or an awesome sugar-friendly chocolate hit? Let me know in a comment below.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted a recipe. I seem to go through phases of deep emotional sugar-related thoughts to a flurry of recipes and then back to the deep stuff. If you like or liked your cake (like me), then this recipe is for you.
In my eyes right now, this sugar-free sweet potato & walnut cake is quite simply awesome. It’s authentically, completely sugar-free. That means it has NO sugar substitutes in it. No dates, no coconut sugar, no stevia, nada. It’s naturally sweetened with the sweet potato and dessicated coconut which are both low fructose. It hits my cake texture craving spot perfectly.
As ‘sugar-free’ starts to go mainstream, I predict you’ll see the ‘sugar-free’ label a lot. You need to watch out because it’s being used all over the shop for things I wouldn’t really consider truly ‘sugar-free’. Just keep your wits about you on this one.
Anyway here’s the recipe…
Makes about 10 portions
Now this recipe isn’t gluten free I know. If gluten is an issue for you, you could make it gluten free by using buckwheat or quinoa flour. You could also make it dairy free by using almond milk. But note, I haven’t tried this recipe with either of these options so you’ll be experimenting. Let me know how it goes!
What do you think about ‘sugar-free’ cakes and bakes? Have you found ‘sugar-free’ recipes that you don’t really think qualify? Do you get ‘cake’ texture cravings like me? Have you tried cooking this and if so how did it turn out?
Sugar is annoying. Self doubt is annoying. We indulge in both and we don’t want to…blegh WHY?
I write this because sometimes, like everyone, I feel some self doubt about things in my life. This makes me remember some of the doubt that I felt with sugar not so long ago. These doubts have now evaporated from my life but I think it’s worth sharing what sugar-related self doubt can creep up on you at times. I’m living proof that you can push through this doubt and I’m hoping that writing this helps you, but also reminds me that the things I’m thinking now, I will push through in a similar way.
Life is too short. Sugar is nice. I don’t care as much about the long term health impact, I’d rather eat my cake now, enjoy it and live a happy life. Do you know how many times I thought this when I was in the throes of changing my habits?…A LOT. There were many times when I wasn’t completely sure if I did want to eat less sugar, but I kept going and I can honestly say I’m really really thankful that I did. Forget working out if you’re sure or not, and just do it. Give it a try for a sustained period of time and make a decision based on a longer timespan rather than a moment like this. Chances are you’ll come out on the other side smiling and very willing to carry on.
You think your emotional attachment to [insert sweet food] is too strong to break right? You love that sweet food way more than the average Joe and could never give it up forever. I thought this too… about muesli bars… yes muesli bars! I know, I know, most people are addicted to drugs and alcohol but I couldn’t go a day without some dried fruit-sticky-puffed rice concoction, it was a bit sad. Anyway, I don’t eat them now….like ever! They aren’t part of my life. I did go through a period of sadness about this, but it passed. I wouldn’t want to eat a Special K now if someone paid me to. Let me tell you, if I can leave my muesli bars behind, you can leave anything you want to behind. It can be done.
Well I can tell you, they don’t actually care THAT much. I have possibly been on the side of caring what people think of me too much in the past. This played into making me question changing my sugar habits when no-one else was because I was worried what they’d think and how I’d come across at times. No-one really wants to be that awkward one at the dinner party do they?
However, it turned out my friends like me exactly the same if I eat sugar or not; people were in fact more interested in what I was doing and saying rather than dishing it; and without knowing it, I secretly inspired people to change but they never let me know. I really wish I had know all of this when I was worrying about what people thought.
So it isn’t easy at times, in fact it’s not easy a lot of the time. These thoughts will come and go and it’s important for you to know that most people feel them. Like sugar cravings, self doubt just pops up and is not easy to instantly shake, but persevere and you can come out the other side as a winner.
Have you got any self doubts that are limiting your healthy low sugar efforts?
So hey ho, you’ve decided you want to cut down on the sweet stuff and you’re feeling uber motivated with all the articles you’ve been reading about why you should eat less sugar. You’re ready to give it a serious go but perhaps you’re not sure what the best approach is.
Do you go hard with a brutal cold turkey sugar detox or do you go for the more gradual option, where you gently prise yourself away from your beloved chocolate? To answer your sugar detox method woes, I thought I’d weigh up both approaches with the pro’s and con’s. Then you can make a decision that suits you and your personality the best. I know it’s mega annoyingly cliche, but like many things, there isn’t a one size fits all with this.
A gradual approach allows you to change without a drastic overhaul of your lifestyle. You don’t have to worry so much about the social dilemmas. This is great if you have lot’s going on and a sugar detox is not at the top of your agenda – sometimes the rest of life can just get in the way!
You have a greater chance of changing habits long term because just changing 1-2 things at a time, you allow yourself to focus. For example, you can simply work on reducing the sugar in your tea for a month and nothing else, knowing you’re still moving forward and making progress.
Things don’t seem overwhelming and you don’t feel down at the complete lack and deprivation of everything sweet (a feeling that I definitely know I felt early on).
Because fructose will still be in your day to day diet in some form, you will still feel (& need to resist) sugar cravings, potentially daily. This will require regular amounts of ongoing willpower and can get somewhat exhausting mentally.
It takes longer and you don’t make marked progress as quickly.
It’s harder to determine the differences that are directly related to sugar – there could be other things you’re changing or that are impacting on your health.
It’s easier to slip backwards without really realising.
You can stay in the same place for a while and get a bit complacent.
You can make a marked step change in your physical cravings and increase your sweet sensitivity (basically you re-calibrate your tastebuds to sugar).
You can attribute any noticed health improvements directly to what you’re doing e.g. clearer skin, increased energy. This can provide you with great motivation in the future.
There are clearer boundaries and this is sometimes easier to stick to.
You learn a lot in a short period of time and can use the knowledge longer term to help you.
You’re in the unhealthy ‘good’ and ‘bad’ mental state which is dangerous, especially if you have binge tendencies.
Cold turkey isn’t as sustainable because it’s hard to keep everything up longer term.
You have increased chances of experiencing unpleasant detox symptoms.
You can get caught up on finer details and lose sight of the bigger picture e.g. fussing over a few grams rather than addressing the root emotional causes for your cravings.
Can be anti-social (but you can get around this if you want to!).
Well, I did a bit of both. I started off with gradual changes – changing the topping on my porridge, swapping lower sugar products into my diet etc.(If you sign up to Happy Sugar Habits, I send you some gradual tips to focus on each week to help you with this).
When I reached a place where I was still craving sweet but I had made lots of healthy changes and substitutes, I started playing around with some experimental detox ‘cold turkey’ periods. I then went back to being more relaxed but at a new baseline. I now float around a bit. For some periods of time there’s barely any fructose passing my lips and others there’s probably a little too much (for me, anyway). The main marker of success for me is feeling like I’m 100% control of things. I think this is a nice thing to aim for, but you need to understand what that looks like and what it feels like for you.
There’s certainly a place for both of these approaches and a blend of them depending on where you’re at in your life, what other priorities you’ve got, what you’re commitment level is and of course, the level of sugar you’re currently consuming as your ‘baseline’. Your personality traits will also come into play. Just know there’s not one right way and you will have your own individual journey. Weight up the pros and cons in terms of what is more valuable to you and give things a go.
What approaches have you tried? Do you think there’s a ‘better’ one? What did you find worked/didn’t work?
You may be doing well with your healthy ‘eat less sugar’ efforts so far, but you need to keep going for a sustained period of time to really benefit from reduced cravings and longer term changed habits.
If your resolve is wavering, here are some quick tips to keep you on the straight and narrow as you soldier on:
Just pretend today is the last day. Wake up tomorrow and do the same. This little tip worked wonders for me when I was really struggling with initial cravings. Some of those I’ve worked with who are finding things really tough break it down even further. Take it half day by half day, or even hour by hour if you need.
Surround yourself with inspiring health or ‘keep going’ quotes. I’ve started playing around with Pintrest where I’m collecting up my own collage of inspiring thoughts. Find your motivating quotes of choice, print a few out and stick them on your fridge. Add one as your screen saver, write another on the first page of your diary or even set one as your alarm if you can! You’ll be quoting in your Here are a few motivating quotes to set you on your way…
Tell people about where things have gone well. Tell them about your bright spots (even the tiny ones) and highlight the things that have been working. Even if it’s not been plain sailing, make sure the out loud stories you’re telling are the more positive ones. This will help you firstly remember what you did that worked so well, and thus remind you to do it again.
So keep going, keep going, keep going my sugar fighting friends! Little baby steps. Small tweaks and improvements. Eating more (healthy food) rather than less, and of course, accepting it’s not meant to be a smooth straightforward ride. Embrace those bumps!
What other things are you doing to help you sustain and embed your new healthy habits?
Ho ho ho! Did you have a very Merry Christmas? I hope you had a lovely day wherever you are in the world.
This time of year is so special and fun, you really don’t want to be feeling anything negative. But I know guilt and other annoying feelings can creep in at times, especially if you’ve an overexcited sweet tooth in there, that’s well and truly gone to town.
If you find your sugar habits have gotten the better of you over the past few weeks, here are some essential things you need to ask yourself post-Christmas for some deep nourishing reflection. They’ll set you up mentally to help you move onwards and upwards to tackle the sugar demons into 2014 and beyond.
Seems a pointless question but is important before we go on. Did you have an absolute blast? I know technically it’s not over yet with New Year still in the pipeline, but this is just a question to remind you that the whole point of Christmas is to enjoy yourself to the max. Remind yourself of all the awesome things that have made it so great focussing on the special moments, memories and laughs rather than all the food.
Did one slice of Terry’s chocolate orange spiral into a dozen? Don’t worry, this isn’t actually your fault, it’s sugar’s. Because fructose is meant to be rare, we’re biologically designed to gorge on it whenever we get a chance. That is the problem with being surrounded by it in ridiculous quantities.
Then again you might have found you had a portion of something and that was enough. You did feel more control than last year (yay!). Put the control you felt on a scale of 1-10. Remember 10 isn’t the strictest control ever, but a place that will make you the most happy with your choices. This question tells you a lot about how you feel about sugar.
Ok so you had two helpings of Christmas pudding after all, but you managed to snack on nuts all day instead of chocolate and your lunch was piled high with vegetables. When we talk about change, Chip and Dan Heath in their book ‘Switch’ talk about using your ‘bright spots’. One of the most effective routes to successful change is to identify and focus what went well rather than what went wrong. You can then put your energy into doing more of that.
Guilt is one of the worst feelings, like ever. Did you keep it in check or let it suffocate you? Continue to be kind to yourself and free yourself from guilt. It’s the first step to sugar-savvy empowerment, but it’s easier said than done. Practice being kind to yourself all the time because it’s a skill that needs mastering like anything else.
Are you happy if you are in the same place next year with your sugar habits? If yes, then great. If no, then what would next year’s ‘ideal’ Christmas look like from a sugar perspective? How much control would you like to feel? How would you like to deal with any guilt? This is a great question to ask over the next few days as you contemplate your renewed healthy efforts in the New Year and start to make plans.
So this year was interesting because after a year of a low sugar diet and with new habits firmly cemented over a long period of time, I’m confident I won’t ever go back to eating sweet food like I used to, even after eating it. I did eat a little Christmas pudding and some dark chocolate on the day which were both delicious. I had a mouthful of my cousin’s rainbow birthday cake and can safely say I didn’t want any more. Really artificial sugar like that just doesn’t appeal to me at all anymore, give me raisins, dates and bananas instead please! You might think i’ve got it all together but I’m still working on things. I am near the top of my control scale, but perhaps not so much with nuts so I’ll try to reign that in a bit come 2014. I don’t suffer guilt with sugar but I am working on being kinder to myself in other areas in my life. Always work in progress. So there’s my share…
What are your self reflections and observations? What bright spots can you identify? Leave a comment below and you’re self reflection is done!
Of course, if you want help, support and guidance you know where to come…. I’m booked up now with health coaching clients starting Jan but Mentor Me Off Sugar Detox kicks off on the 6th Jan (book before Dec 30th) and there are a few spaces.
I’m here (and would love) to help you every step of the way… nutritionally, emotionally and socially. Like the bright spots, I’ve collected up lots of helpful habit changing theories to help you reflect and take on not just a diet, but a journey of self development – because that’s honestly what I believe this is.
I have a simple philosophy really. That you CAN live a lower sugar lifestyle, feel truly in control and still have a life doing everything that you want, without long term pain or ‘missing out’.
You’ve just got to take consistent action, commit to it and put some work in (a detox period and some self development) to get there. If you’re feeling ready to make 2014 your healthiest happiest year, and want me to help you, then don’t miss out and book today to secure your place.
A big element of Mentor Me Off Sugar is the community and accountability it offers to help keep you on track. I also know this works even better if you’ve got a close friend, colleague or family member bobbing along with you.
So in Jan sales sprit, if you book between now and before Monday 30th December, you’ll get over a 50% discount off another place for your sugar-busting pal. So if you buy MMOS Core pacakage, you can get two places for £210 (£105 each if you split it). Just select the ‘bonus plus one’ option in the drop down menu when you book your places.
So you can put yourself off dessert occasionally because you rationalise that you can save a little bit by doing so. Motivation is held by helping your health and your wallet at the same time.
Maybe you’re also pretty good at not spending extra pennies on sweet goods when you’re food shopping. Again, you use the cost of the bad stuff to help you avoid it. Nice little strategy eh?
This is all well and good until….the hotel buffet strikes and there are free biscuits in your room. You’re somewhere where three courses is the same price as two, or dessert is included in the price you paid. They’re giving out free chocolates at the conference stand or work have funded some Friday ‘treats’…
Suddenly money doesn’t come into the decision and you’re battling with what I call ‘free’ sugar. That kind of sugar that you feel obliged to eat, because well, it’s free. It’s almost a crime not to, isn’t is? May as well make the most of the free food….
A few days ago I had a conversation with a colleague saying she only ate the sweet food because it was ‘free’. We were working at a hotel where there was more ‘free’ sugar available than I’ve ever experienced. Freshly baked cakes mid morning, a full dessert buffet after lunch, pick and mix come afternoon and biscuits everywhere. Oh, not to mention the 24 hour hot chocolate and marshmallow station. I really wish now I’d taken a picture so you can truly comprehend the extent of this sugar feast.
I reflected on the situation because I used to suffer horrendously from ‘free sugar’. It was the case that I wouldn’t often consciously buy myself unhealthy sweet food – however, if it was on offer for free, not only would I find it hard not to eat, I would also then overeat it. In some cases I didn’t even want it that much, but it was free right? It had suddently developed into an unhealthy, and unnecessary habit.
Now you could just call me a foodie cheapskate but it’s way more complicated than that…
I realise now that the causes for my ‘free sugar’ syndrome developed from a number of things, including my upbringing and beliefs. My beliefs not just about food, but about money, resourcefulness and appreciation. It also got worse as my ‘free’ rules grew into habit. These rules I was living by were dictating how healthy I was being, rather than me doing it myself. It was essentially a semi guilt-free way of eating sugar. Little did I know that every time I did eat sweet ‘free’ food, it was costing me the long term control I deeply desired.
So how can you start to turn the tables against this tricky psychological strand of sugar addiction? Asking yourself some powerful questions is the best place to start:
If you manage to pause and consider some of these questions, it might just help you start to learn a bit more about yourself and how you justify eating sweet food in these situations. This is the start of the process for rewiring your habits to make a healthier happier you.
Once you’ve re-wired you’ll become more rational and bring decisions back into your control. You’ll be able to take or leave ‘free’ sugar as you see fit, depending on that situation, feeling gloriously empowered.
Over to you…what are your thoughts on ‘free’ sugar’? Is this just me or are you more likely to eat things if you haven’t paid for them? Please share, I would love to hear your views on this one. Let the discussion begin!
P.s I dive into depth on ‘free sugar’ strategies and touch upon other real life manifestations of your sweet habit during the official Mentor Me Off Sugar Detox. Early bird places are limited and are filling up, so make sure you don’t miss out and book yourself on for the Jan 2014 start.
Everyone has their own main reasons for positively changing their sugar habits. A lot of the time it’s control and weight loss. Mine was definitely control over the cravings and the desire not to sabotage the rest of my healthy diet with a daily sugar fix. You’ve got your own motivating reasons I’m sure, but have you ever considered how your productivity would increase once you got sugar properly out of system?
Productivity sounds a tad formal, but essentially what I mean is your ability to do more of whatever you want with your day and effectively, your life. This doesn’t have to be work. It could be time spent with family, on new hobbies or your little ‘pet’ project.
Looking at the science, there are obvious reasons how sugar impacts on your productivity:
On top of the scientific evidence there’s personal experience to draw on. I obviously didn’t wake up sans sugar and be the queen of productivity, but I did notice a difference in some particular areas that are worth sharing…
Initially, the easiest place to see a little difference was my sleep. I noticed I was sleeping deeper and as a result was waking up more refreshed. I don’t often wake up feeling ‘groggy’ anymore, but when I do these days, boy do I notice it (& dislike it!). A while back I also interviewed a lovely chap called Phil Ryan for The Sugar Diaries (my UK Health Radio show). Ryan talked passionately about waking up alert at 6:15am every morning after cutting sugar out. He used the extra time to write his first book which is a pretty cool output of a dietary change is it not!? Phil got in touch with me simple because he couldn’t get over how dramatically sugar changed his life and he wanted to share his experience with others.
So this is hard to measure, but I think Happy Sugar Habits itself does the talking here where I’ve kept up with the blog and other things. Don’t get me wrong, I have naff days like everyone else (why am I looking at these random photos on Facebook…). My time management skills are always work in progress. However, I honestly 100% believe I couldn’t keep up with everything I’m trying to do at the moment if I was eating sugar like I used to. I would revert back to those ‘scatty’ days when I was up and down on the sweet stuff trying to do half a dozen things at the same time, get more stressed and thus seek solace in another ginger nut biscuit.
Sods law I’m going to write this and come down with something next week, but I don’t often get sick (touch wood). When I do, sometimes I feel that sore throat coming on but it often never materialises, which is nice. I think I’ve had one mild cold in a year, which is pretty good going considering some of the Baltic temperatures we’ve experienced at times. Unfortunately my low sugar diet didn’t stop me from falling over earlier this year and breaking my wrist which severely impaired my ability to type. Nope, broken bones and clumsiness are not protected by this change!
I’ve left this to last, but it’s one of my favourites. Not thinking about food as much means I think about other things. I think about my other life goals, I make plans and I spend my energy working out how to get you off of sugar instead! I don’t spend 5 minutes weighing up if I deserve the brownie or not. I don’t spend self demolishing time feeling guilty after eating too much or a sugar binge. All these little bits add up and it’s liberating, it really is.
As you can see, getting a handle on sugar can improve your productivity and give you more time in a variety of ways. A healthy lower sugar or sugar-free diet isn’t a life sentence that takes all the joy out of your life like you might initially think it does. It’s meant to enhance your life and help you bring more joy into it by freeing up time and giving you more energy to do more of what you love. Ask yourself what you want to do and start making some fun plans!
Do you notice any of these benefits when you eat less sugar? What or who would you love to have more time for?
Ok, so this is exciting to finally announce after a lot of hard work! You can now book your place on the Jan 2014 start of Mentor Me Off Sugar Detox. The course starts on the 30th December where the first week will be your ‘Preparation’ module before we officially kick off on the 6th Jan. Read the full details here. Early bird ends on the 7th December and there are only 20 places available, so book in now to avoid disappointment.
Also to note: The full (& highly entertaining) interview I mentioned earlier with Phil Ryan is available as part of the Mentor Me Off Sugar Detox Programme. There are lots of other insightful and inspiring audio recordings you get each week to listen to while you drive/run/commute to help keep you strong! This one will certainly make you laugh, he’s an absolute sugar-free legend!
1. Sanchez, A, et al. “Role of Sugars in Human Neutrophilic Phagocytosis.” Am J Clin Nutr. Nov 1973; 261: 1180-1184.
2. Molteni, R, et al. “A High-fat, Refined Sugar Diet Reduces Hippocampal Brainderived Neurotrophic Factor, Neuronal Plasticity, and Learning.”NeuroScience. 2002; 112(4): 803-814.
3. Reiser, S., et al. “Effects of Sugars on Indices on Glucose Tolerance in Humans.” Am J Clin Nutr. 1986: 43; 151-159.
Ah Halloween, you’ve come around again. Another annual occasion that screams chocolate, sweets, chocolate, and sugar in a myriad of forms *sigh*.
It’s halloween, of course you’ve got to eat fake vampire teeth and some sugar disguised as slime, right? Well no thanks, I’d rather not.
As a kid, of course I used to trick or treat around my local neighbourhood collecting up goodies in utter sugar addiction delight. I then got home and proceeded to make myself feel quite sick on excessive sugar, although never as much as my brother who would polish off the lot and then complain about stomach pains. I remember the odd satsuma being a healthy respite in it all.
With my sugary ways reformed, Cadbury witch themed chocolate rolls don’t appeal to me as much. So what does Halloween become instead? Here’s a list of 8 things to make sure you don’t feel left out of the spooky celebrations when you eat less sugar.
Do all of those 8 things and you won’t miss the sugar. Fearing that you’ll miss out by not eating things is just a fear. The least you can do is test it. See how you go, you really don’t need to eat sweet things to enjoy Halloween and in my opinion, it’s a good will power warm up for Christmas.
Happy Halloween! How do you feel about the excessive sugar at this time of year? Do you find it surrounds you everywhere?
Last week there was uproar in the obesity expert community. The Telegraph, amongst others, reported that the EU has approved a health claim around the ‘benefit’ of fructose.
Unfortunately it’s true. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will allow foodmakers to make the following claim if they replace more than 30% of the glucose or sucrose with fructose:
Consumption of foods containing fructose leads to a lower blood glucose rise compared to foods containing sucrose or glucose.
Now this claim is technically true, but in my opinion, it’s totally misleading and is likely to confuse consumers. I felt a very strong need to write about it.
The reason this claim has been approved is because fructose has been found to be a lower GI (Glycemic Index) than sucrose and glucose. Here’s are some other points to consider:
The experts did shout about this. George Bray, an obesity expert from the Pennington Biomedical Research Centre quoted:
“Assuming that it is correct that manufacturers can substitute up to 30% fructose for glucose or sucrose, it would be a very sad commentary on their review of the literature. The quantity of fructose appearing in the diet is already excessive in my view. Promoting that fructose does not raise glucose as much as other sugars ignores all of the detrimental effects of fructose from whatever source.”
Michael Goran of the University of Southern California sees the danger too, saying:
“In the long term, excess fructose is more damaging metabolically for the body than other sugars. This opens the door for the beverage and food industry to start replacing sucrose with fructose, which is presumably cheaper. This is a dangerous and problematic issue. There is going to be a big increase in fructose exposure.”
Even when health claims are based on scientific evidence, they still run the risk of being misinterpreted by the general public and thus having negative consequences on the overall health of society.
I feel strongly about this personally, just because I ate so many ‘healthy’ low fat products over the years that were full of refined sugar without a second thought. I believed what I read. I was a bit silly, yes, but I was young and busy. I wanted quick solutions to managing my hunger and weight where these products seemed to have the answer.
We like to think we’re being healthy, it gives you peace of mind and makes you feel virtuous doesn’t it?
However in this commercial day and age you can’t always trust those 5 healthy ticks on the packet as much. You need to be a health claim detective and make some effort to read and understand the ingredients, or you risk getting it very wrong (potentially for a decade or two).
Getting your head around labels, different sugars and health claims quickly isn’t an easy feat. With 228 health claims approved for use in the EU, it’s taken me some serious time, research, not to mention a load of trial and error. It’s why I’m building simple straight forward help guide to this in my Mentor Me Off Sugar Detox programme to help save anyone who wants to shortcut a lot of time and hassle.
You can sign up to the MMOS priority list and for those who do before the end of Oct, you’ll get first notice of the launch and special discounts.
Fructose manufacturers are obviously going to be pleased by this claim. It’s expected there will be a surge in sales of it from Jan 2014 when the ruling takes effect. Don’t be a confused consumer consuming more fructose because of this claim. I will add you can share this with friends and family to save them from doing so too!
What do you think of this recent ruling? Have you ever bought products because of their health claims?