Here’s the video I mentioned on 5 easy ways to use cacao nibs.
What are your thoughts on dried fruit? Were you a big sweet fan of them like me?
Here’s the video I mentioned on 5 easy ways to use cacao nibs.
What are your thoughts on dried fruit? Were you a big sweet fan of them like me?
I’m impressed. I’ve just walked out of Pret A Manger and was in awe of the latest sugar-free goodies to feast my eyes. So I’d thought I’d write about the advances in sugar-free snacking I’ve noticed today and highlight some of my favourite picks, explaining why.
It seems that things are starting to change when it comes to out and about sugar-free snacking . I’m increasingly noticing ‘sugar-free’ products or low sugar options. Whilst you still need to be cautious of ‘sugar-free’ as a health claim (read here for why), the range of things I can actually buy and eat these days when out seems to be increasing (hooray!). This is mostly down to shifting demand, where our choices as a consumer drive sales and profits which eventually speak to the people at the top. If you’ve been avoiding sugary shop bought affair for a while, take pride in the fact it’s working!
I remember when I put together my low-sugar snack guide in 2012, I walked into Pret A Manager and found hardly anything that I could go for. It was quite depressing at the time. There were nuts and maybe a bag of popcorn, but that was it. Fast forward 18 months and they’ve bought out this cute little range of snack tubs, kale chips and cold savoury soups.
Egg and spinach protein pot – Great as a snack or for breakfast on the go. A cheap option too at £1.50 as I know a round in Pret can suddenly add up.
Crayfish & quinoa protein pot – With over 15g of protein, this will keep you mega full as a snack!
A salmon based snack pot – Can’t find it on the website but it was there! Let me know if you find this one.
Kale chips – why buy normal crisps when you have such a tasty healthy option?
Pret also have a pretty hefty range of salads are aren’t afraid to add a good portion of avocado to some of them (a super filling fat source) e.g. this crayfish & avocado number.
The salads are colourful (which means nutritionally dense), many have a decent amount of protein (for a shop bought salad at least) and from the ones I’ve tried, they’re pretty tasty. Obviously watch out for sugary dressings, but since they come separately, you can leave these off your salad or just use a smaller portion.
I did also notice that Pret had some green juices in stock. I had a major success in New York discovering a fab low sugar green juice and so I assumed these were going to be similar…
Being suddenly in a major rush (after spending too long taking flipping pictures – typical me!), I grabbed one that seemed to have mostly greens with a view to trying it out. However, upon my first thirsty sip, I knew straight away this was a sugar bomb. The green colour is deceiving with these juices. This seemingly virtuous ‘Green Goodness’ was predominantly an apple juice (over 60%) with some added extras (cucumber, spinach etc. in smaller proportions). With over 40g of sugar per bottle, despite being ‘natural’, this was not my cup of tea and was way too sugary.
A green juice is of course loads better than a coke and many other drinks. So for those needing more greens in their life (Mum are you reading?) it’s a healthy swap. However, for those who are trying to get a handle on cravings and keep an eye on total fructose, just be aware of ‘Green Goodness’ type juices because they’re not quite as ‘Good’ as they seem.
Anyway, I guess it goes to say, well done Pret. These new products were nice to see and made me very happy one fine Thursday. I know buying on the go can be notoriously hard on low sugar-diet and it’s great to see things developing to give us more delicious & tasty options.
Have you spotted some good low sugar snacks out and about? Would you try any of these Pret options? Ever been a little bit mislead by a ‘green juice’ like me? Would love to hear from you so please share your thoughts.
Unless you were off skiing last week, you might have seen a number of news headlines hit home around sugar. To remind you of some the key points, and in case you missed any of it, I’d thought I’d do a quick lowdown on the things you might be most interested to know. For more information and background, head over to read why eat less sugar.
Things really started to kick off back in September when Credit Suisse published their report ‘Sugar: at the crossroads’. Some of their findings were as follows:
43% of the added sugar consumed comes from drinks.
4.8 million die of diabetes every year.
86% of their globally sampled doctors agree that sugar is linked to Type II diabetes, obesity & non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.
Over 85% of the doctors recommended Government intervention in reducing sugar consumption.
It was noted that colourful packaging could be replaced with plainer tones to reduce the appeal of products.
There’s also a video you can watch summing up the report.
Then over Christmas (whilst everyone was polishing off the chocolates!) the World Health Organisation (WHO) leaked a recommendation that the advised sugar levels should be cut in half (reported in the Sunday Times 29.12.13) A few things to note here:
Cutting in half would mean the added sugar guideline going from 10% to 5% of total calorie intake. Note that is a maximum, you could actually live with 0% if you want.
That is a guideline of 8 teaspoons (32g) for men a day and 6 (24g) for women (including fruit juice and honey).
These guidelines have not been updated since 2003.
When WHO last recommended a limit, the sugar industry kicked off (in a big and aggressive way).
Sugar Nutrition, who have opposed the changes, are owned by Associated British Foods, who made £435m in profit from the sugar business in 2013 (just saying).
Last week, Action on Sugar was launched – an organisation set up to encourage big companies to reduce added ‘hidden’ sugars by at least 30% in their products over the next few years. To keep things balanced you can read an argument against it here.
A great video animation also surfaced showing you how sugar affects your brain, specifically your pleasure dopamine receptors. It explains nicely why we crave it so badly!
This was the headline news last week. Sugar is addictive yes, but even Dr Robert Lustig claims not quite as much as tobacco and drugs. Is it really new tobacco? Well, let’s just wait and see how it plays out in the political field. I have to say, I think I’m in the yes camp.
Andrew Langley (ex-health minister) disputed the tobacco-sugar analogy and claimed we need to reduce on an incremental basis so not to shock consumers.
However, as Dr Malhotra rightly points out in another good article, the problem with sugar is that it’s consumed more widely that tobacco, so you could argue it’s even worse. It’s even so pervasive it’s hard to avoid when we want to (don’t we know it?!). What do you think?
Other random news
Lidl claimed they’re replacing checkout sweets with healthier options, to help reduce child pestering (I was one of those kids – sorry Mum!).
Monkeys at a zoo in Devon are now restricted with bananas – keepers are reporting they have better skin and calmed aggression. Interesting…
Also to note: I contributed as the expert for a piece in The Mail on Sunday about sweeteners & substitutes. I want to be clear that this article was to educate and I didn’t have full reign over it. To reiterate, once you are successfully ‘off’ sugar’, you don’t need these very often, if at all. I don’t eat any of these day to day. My comments were to help educate the public on what I think is a very confusing area at the moment, in light of all this news, rather than say it’s a good idea to drizzle a large amount of honey on your porridge.
All in all the wider awareness of sugar is great. It seems there really is a bit of a movement starting. Starting this blog essentially was done for that reason and so it’s fantastic that so many people will take note now, look at sugar like you and me do, and start reducing it in their own lives – leading to improved health all around.
It’s also great because the sugar content will now reduce and lower sugar options are likely to emerge, as consumers like us vote buy buying the better options. Whilst low sugar produce is generally good news for the general public, I would still advise eating whole real unprocessed food as much as possible.
In response to the awareness, some people will just stop eating sugar and that will be that (I’ve found men can do this easier than women). However, if you’ve tried to cut sugar and you are anywhere near to what I was like with it, you’ll know it’s a longer, harder and potentially more emotional journey. Sometimes it can be nothing short of a depressing not-that-fun uphill struggle.
So take this news as continued motivation to keep going. Get talking to your friends and family, and convince them along for the ride. Do share this article if you think it will help someone you know get their head around all of this.
What are your thoughts on any of this? Is sugar the new tobacco and should Devon’s zoo monkeys be deprived of their bananas?!
Recently, one of my lovely subscribers Noreen e-mailed me a question about dark chocolate…
“Have you found any chocolate that does not contain sugar or has a lesser amount? All the dark chocolate I have found still lists sugar as one of the top three ingredients.”
Great question Noreen – thank you! Let’s look at this….
Generally, there aren’t a significant amount of ingredients that constitute dark chocolate, so there’s a high chance that sugar will be in the top three. Bars that are lower in cocoa solids tend to have sugar as the 1st or 2nd ingredient, and for those which are darker, you may find it goes down to 2nd or 3rd, simply because the cocoa makes up more of the bar substance.
When you’re looking at dark chocolate, it’s better to look at the sugar per 100g so you can work out the % e.g. 10g sugar per 100g equals 10%.
Bear in mind, those with the same cacao % can still have differences in sugar amount. Here’s just a selection of chocolate that shows you the comparison (Highest in sugar first).
46.4g sugar per 100g
49% cocoa solids
28.9g sugar per 100g
70% cocoa solids
27g sugar per 100g
70% cocoa solids
13.8g sugar per 100g
85% cocoa solids
12g sugar per 100g
80% cocoa solids
7g sugar per 100g
90% cocoa solids
(I am going to do a full review of some of these in a separate post but I’m still in testing phase!)
More buying dark chocolate tips
Generally, what I first look for in a dark chocolate is sugar per 100g, and then it’s cocoa % because this is the powerful antioxidant element that has the health benefit. I think 12-13g is a reasonable amount, but I do also like the 90% which is only 7g. I appreciate you need to work up to these as your taste buds adjust their sugar sensitivity. Lots of people can find dark chocolate bitter, especially if they are accustomed to a sugary diet.
Think about the quality when you pick dark chocolate. Expensive good quality chocolate is usually associated with a nicer texture and deeper taste. It means you really savour each square and are more inclined to make it last rather than gobble it down.
Note: A year ago I used to love the Lindt Chilli chocolate but notice how that is top of the list and nearly 50% sugar, despite still being labelled as a ‘dark’ chocolate. Unfortunately I do find this one a bit sickly now but I love the flavour combination. (Hi Lindt, please can you make a Chilli 85% one just for me? Great, thanks!)
Some brands might advertise that it’s been sweetened with coconut sugar/nectar, xylitol or stevia which are all healthy-ish alternatives in their own way to raw cane sugar. I’ve posted on all three of these, so just make sure you’re clued up so you know what you’re ingesting when you eat them. At the end of the day, if it’s a square of dark chocolate eaten every once in a while, I’m happy to let this very small amount of raw cane sugar pass my lips.
To let you know, I now eat dark chocolate once or twice a week, if that. I used to eat it everyday. Consider that if you’re eating it everyday, you’re having refined sugar everyday and your cementing it as a habit, which with time will only get stronger. Try and break the routine if you can and do a good few days without it.
I hope that was helpful. What are your thoughts on dark chocolate? Do you love it or hate it? Find it so bitter it’s not worth having? Favourite brands?
P.S. I was delighted when Noreen e-mailed me with her great question so if you’ve a burning query, please let me know! (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Recently we’ve been blessed with a spell of hot sunny weather in the UK and Andy Murray winning Wimbledon (Wahey, *fist punch*). This of course means mass summer celebration. Mass summer celebration in England usually calls for one particular beverage….Pimms!
I have always loved Pimms as much as everyone else. I’ve enjoyed it over the years at Wimbledon, Ascot, many BBQs and various other social events. But HOW is this going to work with a low sugar diet? This post shall reveal all…
Pimms’s recipe is top secret, apparently only 6 people actually know it. Therefore there is a lack of ingredients and nutritional information on the label. A little bit of research and you can determine that ingredients generally include dry gin, liqueur, fruit juices and spices.
So Pimms has sugar. There is no escaping that fact, but let’s try and make it as low sugar as possible shall we?
Traditionally you mix Pimms with lemonade in a 1:3 ratio. This means the lemonade is the killer on the sugar front, rather than the Pimms.
Therefore my suggestion and strategy is, instead of worrying about the Pimms, which is pretty hard to substitute seeing as it’s a unique substance, we focus on limiting sugar in the Lemonade part.
Now I would advise anyone to stay away from lemonade full stop but if it’s a one off then it’s handy just to know this. I checked out the amount of sugar in lemonade and was at first quite surprised at the differences between brands.
With the worst offenders at the top, here are the sugar contents of varying lemonade brands (based on 100ml which is roughly what you might add to make a single glass of Pimms).ll stop but if it’s a one off then it’s handy just to know this. I checked out the amount of sugar in lemonade and was at first quite surprised at the differences between brands.
7up and Sprite (both 10.6g)
Asda Chosen by You (3.5g)
R Whites (2.4g)
Conclusion: Never ever buy Sprite or 7up. It’s got over 4 times as much sugar as others. That is just a staggering difference for what is essentially the same stuff.
You might be saying, well I’ll just have diet Lemonade with zero sugar. Yes this is an option as these usually have under 1g of sugar. You can read my take on sweeteners here, but generally be aware that with diet drinks you are drinking chemicals that we aren’t completely sure what they’re doing to us.
What I found interesting was that even the ‘regular’ lemonades still contained the artificial sweeteners, so don’t think you’re escaping the chemicals, you’re just drinking both!
The diet lemonades I researched generally contained both Aspartame and Saccharin, two of the most debated sweeteners on the block.
Every now and then when you really want a Pimms? OK. Every week or every day? Definitely not recommended.
Because my taste buds are accustomed to a lot less sugar these days, I find Pimms with Lemonade, even diet Lemonade, very sweet, so I’ve been experimenting…
Try mixing your Pimms with the smallest amount of lemonade (diet or no diet) you can manage and then top up the rest with soda/sparkling water. You can play around with the proportions to your own personal taste, but by doing this you’re diluting the sugar content and bringing it down to a lower level without too much compromise. Adding extra fruit and mint also enhances the flavour without the need for the sugary lemonade overload.
You can also do this soda water trick with gin and tonic to a certain extent. Just little ways of bringing the sugar content down without giving up everything that you like all at once.
What do you think of Pimms and lemonade? Too sugary or something that you’ll allow yourself on special occasions?
Sugar in its many forms can be confusing, but if there’s one to get your head around it’s fructose. You might know fructose as the fruit sugar – I know I certainly used to a few years ago, before I got wise. It helps to understand fructose in a bit of detail, so here are the essentials you need to know (Don’t worry, I’m not going to bombard you with biochemistry here!).
Fructose is a simple sugar that’s found naturally in fruit and in small amounts in some vegetables. It’s the sugar that makes things taste sweet and it exists as follows:
Fructose is unlike other sugars because it’s processed only by the liver. An excessive amount of fructose going through the liver puts strain on this organ. Our bodies just weren’t designed for the amount of fructose that is so readily available today (think fizzy drinks, 1litre cartons of smoothies and slabs of chocolate!).
Excess fructose in the liver converts to fatty acids as energy to be stored, so yes, it can lead to fat storage. This excess also increases bad cholesterol and uric acid. Whether it’s from honey, fruit, refined sources like chocolate, cake & sweets or agave nectar, you need to be conscious of your total fructose consumption.
Fructose doesn’t suppress your hunger hormones like other foods so you don’t feel as full on it. It’s why you can gorge or binge on sugar quite easily (now that explains my biscuit dilemma). Whilst fruit contains fructose, it also has fibre which does fill you up. This explains why you can’t eat 3 whole apples and a banana in one go (comfortably at least), but you could quite easily drink them in a juice or smoothie without feeling like a massive bloater.
It’s this sweet sugar fructose that’s addictive. It’s the taste that hits the sweet spot when you’re craving, it releases the feel-good chemical in your brain and it wets your tastebuds for more. You want more and you need more to get the same hit. I know that feeling!
In your quest for low sugar, be aware that you want to really keep an eye out for the amount of fructose you eat day to day. Our bodies can tolerate a little a day, but not much. Different individuals may have varying sensitivities to fructose. I don’t count fructose grams (way too much hassle), but I’m largely aware of where it is and this is what guides me to eat it in moderation. I generally get my fructose from a few portions of fruit a day, if that.
You can build up a tolerance and taste for fructose. This is where you move towards sugar dependence or the addiction end of the scale. Likewise you can decrease your tolerance gradually reducing or detoxing off fructose.
In a nutshell, it’s important to consider refined sugar and natural fruit together in your daily fructose count and be aware of what it is (which this post should have explained).
I hope this has helped. Hit me if you have any more questions on fructose in the comments below?
Dr Rober Lustig, Sugar: The Bitter Truth (You Tube) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM
The Skinny on Obesity (Ep.7 ): Drugs Cigarettes Alcohol…Sugar? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWnbMnnLo5w&list=PL39F782316B425249&index=8
There’s no doubt about it, sugar substitutes like xylitol, the artificial sweeteners and ‘natural’ sugar sources can all be confusing. I’ve been reading, researching and filling my head with this for over a year now, and I still find it all overwhelmingly baffling at times.
I wanted to get to the bottom of Stevia. Sarah Wilson, my faithful sugar guru, goes with it. Others say it’s processed and natural honey would be better. I decided to do some deeper research and form my own opinion on the new kid in sugar-free town.
Stevia is touted as the ‘natural’ sweetener, derived from the Stevia leaf of a South American Plant. The refined extracts of Stevia called Steviosides are said be 200-300 times sweeter than table sugar. The Japanese have used it for years, however it’s relatively new in the Western world and especially in Europe.
Stevia is growing in popularity and comes in three main forms:
It’s better than refined sugar. Why?
To be completely honest, I’m not really on the Stevia train, but I do think it’s useful. Here are my thoughts…
I cut back sugar and as a result don’t really need loads of sweetness in my life anymore. If you’re desperately looking for the sweet fix or replacement, you’re not really off it right? I satisfy my sweet with fruit, coconut produce and a little dark chocolate. This seems to work fine for me.
Many of the times I do eat sweet are due to those ‘in the moment’ occasions where I make the lifestyle choice to do so i.e. I’m on holiday and want to try a local speciality, I have a smidge of a homemade birthday cake or I have a pretty looking cocktail by the pool. I doubt they’ve used pure green leaf Stevia just for my convenience and I’m not going to stress about it.
I do think Stevia is great if you like baking or you’re making a dessert. You’re in control and you can make something healthy and sugar-free that still tastes good. I made a carrot cake with it and and no-one noticed. Occasionally I add a sachet to sweeten up a smoothie. I plan to experiment with the liquid variety a bit more in the future and share some interesting recipes, but I’m in no rush to bring it massively into my diet.
Consider Stevia a beneficial natural alternative to sugar (especially when baking) that is handy on occasion. However, don’t rush to buy all the new shiny ‘Stevia-fied’ products thinking they’re all saintly and virtuous, because chances are they’re going to be somewhat processed and unnatural. If you are feeding a sweet need, you’re probably better off with a natural alternative like a banana or a few berries.
I say concentrate on adjusting your tastebuds permanently to desire less sweet, banish your cravings and move towards a more savoury diet. If you want to get started with this, don’t forget to subscribe to Happy Sugar Habits and I’ll send you an easy tip each week for 6 months. Implement all of those and you’ll be well on your way. No regular Stevia habit required
Was this useful? Any more questions on Stevia please fire away? Have you tried it?
Now I was in a quandary when Natural Balance Foods wanted to send me some of their Nakd cereal bars to review. I actually had to sleep on it. Why? Because at one point, these little bad boys fed my sugar addiction. They are not the most sugar saintly thing on the planet. Would it be right to review on my blog? And could I live in peace with a whole box of them in the house?
I thought about those who actually might be reading the post, and I figured I could put together quite an insightful piece on these. It could help those at different points of their sugar-free journey, in different ways. So here’s a review; a handy comparison on a sugar front (they sent me every flavour); and my opinion on when I think eating these is most appropriate.
Cereal bars were my thing. I was at the forefront of trying the latest one. They were the supposedly ‘healthy’ way to cure my sweet fix. About 2 years ago I discovered Nakd and I liked them a lot, for the following reasons:
However, on a sugar front they are not so great, due to the following:
On average we’re talking 14-15g sugar per bar. This is near enough 4 teaspoons which is quite a lot in one hit. I’d say I eat 25g of natural sugar a day now, so it’s a big proportion of that. I found the average cereal bar, for example a Special K, usually was around 7g, so these are over double that. Natural sugars yes, but high in sugar nonetheless.
Here’s a list of the lowest to highest sugar content by flavour:
The lower sugar ones are my favourite anyway and the Rhubarb & Custard tastes a bit chemical-like, so that makes picking easy in my eyes.
So the question is, when are these appropriate? Here’s my view:
I’m most likely to have one of these when I’ve indulged on alcohol the night before. I’ve written about alcohol and blood sugar before, where you might find your body is craving energy while it processes the booze. One of these cereal bars can provide that sugar hit in a more natural way than a bottle of Lucozade if you’re on the go, and are desperately feeling awful.
I’m hoping this post has been helpful to you wherever you are on your low sugar journey. I do think Nakd bars have a lot of sugar and they certainly aren’t something I’d advise to eat if you’re actively looking to cut down. They are a big NO for those on my Mentor Me Off Sugar programme and not something I eat regularly these days.
However, I appreciate, everyone is different and at varying stages of lowering sugar, so really, it’s your call. Some are mighty tasty and they are a lot ‘better’ than other sweet things. At least now you can save yourself some sugar credits by opting for the lower sugar ginger bread flavour and you’re fully aware of how much sugar you’re putting away when eating one.
I can’t believe I managed to sit with these on my desk and not eat all morning. A good sign I must have eaten a decent enough protein filled breakfast, and that I’m ‘safe’ from falling back to old ways.
If this has been useful please share, like, comment or wave
What do you think of Nakd bars? I would really love to hear your thoughts on these….favourite flavour, when you eat them etc.
Sugar can get a little confusing. Can you explain what the difference is between a banana and a croissant? I’ve been self teaching myself for a while now, and still sometimes I find it hard to explain quickly and painlessly the differences between various foodstuffs.
If you aren’t clear what the difference is between our yellow friend and the French speciality, then read on for where I’ve come to on these two…
Easier? Clearer? Hmm maybe not. There are still too many bullets there than I wanted to write.
Ideally you want to be eating a healthy meal or snack balanced with protein and fat which neither a banana or croissant on their own provides. However, if you were on a desert island with only these two options, a banana obviously is going to be the all round healthier choice.
If you are trying to get a handle on your sugar habits and know you’ve already eaten fruits or fructose during the day, it’s possible the banana could take you over the ideal fructose amount. I feel it’s important to be aware of this, because fructose is the sweet tasting ‘addictive’ sugar.
I had a guy recently tell me he ate a few bananas a a day and still craved a maple and pecan slice…err way too much fructose dude!
When I was carefully watching my sugar in order to get off the sweet stuff and lesser my cravings, I was wary of bananas for a period of time. There are lots of other lower fructose fruits you can have as an alternative – berries, satsumas etc. As a result, my tastebuds have adjusted to fructose and when I have the occasional banana, my gosh, it tastes really flipping sweet.
I should also add that ripe bananas contain more fructose than their green tipped friends, so opt for greener ones if you’re on fructose alert.
Hope that helps a little to clear up any confusion. I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, so it’s nice to finally let it out.
Any views on bananas? Do you eat them everyday or just occasionally?