sugar free ketchup

Sugar free ketchup tomato sauce recipe

I’ve long wanted a sugar free ketchup recipe on Happy Sugar Habits but with limited ability to cook and develop recipes recently, I’ve been hunting down someone who can create something better than I could anyway!

Enter Jenna Brannock who has developed this amazing tomato sauce recipe for you.

This is special because ALL the sugar free ketchup recipes I’ve found previously use a sugar substitute of some sort – stevia, xylitol, brown rice syrup etc.

Whilst those recipes are better than refined sugar ketchup, this one is even better because it doesn’t contain any – it’s naturally flavoured in a clever way with herbs and spices only.

Sugar free ketchup tomato sauce recipe

Recipe & images by Jenna Brannock

sugar free ketchup

If you love ketchup but have never read the nutrition label of a standard bottle, you may be surprised to know that it contains sugar – usually in the form of white refined sugar or high fructose corn syrup (if you’re in the US). 

If you’re anything like me, you don’t use just one tablespoon of ketchup! This means your sugar intake from the “sweet” sauce could really add up over time and contribute to making your taste buds more accustomed to sweetness. 

For this reason, I came up with this sugar free ketchup recipe.

Get the health benefits of tomatoes…minus any sugar, plus a bit of a “kick!” It goes perfectly with baked french fries, potato wedges, on your favourite grilled burger, or anything else you enjoy with ketchup! It’s quick, easy, and oh so good!

sugar free ketchup

Ingredients

  • 28 oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • ¼ tsp onion powder
  • Pinch of cinnamon

Add cayenne pepper (optional) to desired level of spiciness (I usually mix in a small amount at the very end, taste test, and add more as needed)

Method

  • Combine all ingredients in a saucepan over low heat.
  • Stir often and simmer until thickened (about 15 minutes).
  • Place in a blender or food processor. Blend until pureed consistency.
  • Transfer to a bowl or jar, and refrigerate.

sugar free ketchup

About the contributor

Jenna Brannock is a Registered Dietitian and health coach, as well as a busy mum. She’s passionate about helping other women come up with practical solutions to healthy eating, and to lead an active, energised, and balanced life. 

Find her at www.nutritionconsultantsoftherockies.com or on Instagram @ncr_dietititian or Facebook.

Have you tried any other sugar-free ketchup recipes before or have been concerned about the sugar in tomato sauce before? Got any questions about this? Comment below and let us know so we can answer.

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30 low sugar recipes to tame your sweet tooth

When it comes down to it, it’s what you eat day in day out that will drive how much of a preference you have to sweetness.

The eating psychology, emotional and mindset side of things when shifting around sugar are of course NOT to be underestimated in any sense. However, learning to make, love and habitually eat lower sugar food at least 80% of the time will keep you in that zone where you really can taste stuff that is too sweet being too sweet.

That’s a powerful place because you build trust in yourself, you self regulate around sugar better, you use less willpower and you eat lower sugar without thinking and without it being a ‘diet’ (which can backfire anyway).

In a weird way it lets you eat sugar when you want it more freely.

So to help you get this lower sugar regularity into your life, I’ve compiled 50 ‘properly’* sugar-free recipes that will do this – decrease your preference to sweetness with repeated use.

*When I say ‘properly’, I mean no medjool dates overload or made sweet with a large portion of a sugar substitute like honey or stevia. Some of them might use a little of a sugar substitute or dark chocolate here or there but I’ve checked it’s small enough to keep these in the less sweet category. I haven’t bothered putting too many mains or salads in here because most of the time they are low sugar anyway.

This list is a mixture of my own and from other great websites and I’ve added some helpful notes around each. ENJOY!!

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1. Lemon cashew melts

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A great recipe for those post meal sweet cravings. These can keep for a long time and be eaten straight from the freezer. They are super easy to make and packed full of satiating healthy fat where you’re using coconut oil and cashew butter. The lemon twist makes them totally delicious.

Get the recipe here.

2. Coconut vanilla ice cream

COconut-ICe-Cream

Completely sugar-free and with just two ingredients this recipe is crazy simple. Thanks to Sonnet over on In Sonnet’s Kitchen it’s the completely sugar-free answer to a Bounty ice cream. Make sure you use quality full fat coconut milk and a fresh vanilla pod to really get the maximum flavor. Add your own fresh fruit as optional and enjoy as a delightful dessert.

Get the recipe here

3. Rosemary & walnut granola

rosemary-walnut-granola-spoon

We always think of granola having to be sweet but have you ever considered a savoury option instead? Rosemary is an incredibly flavoursome herb that will tantalise your tastebuds so much you’ll forget sugar ever exists!

Get the recipe here

4. Sweet potato smoothie

sweet-potato-smoothie

Smoothies are usually packed with fruit, which whilst healthy, can be a fair load of sugars in one hit. For a less sweet smoothie fix, why not try this unusual sweet potato smoothie which uses just ½ a banana, a sweet potato and desiccated coconut to sweeten. It’s thick, creamy, filling and delicious.

Get the recipe here

5. Warrior banana protein loaf

Warrior-Loaf-750x488

Love banana bread? This is an amazing lower sugar alternative where just a few bananas nicely sweeten a whole 8 portion loaf. Matt and Keris from Fitter Food have also managed to pack loads of protein and superfoods into it so it’s super filling and packs a nutrient punch 10x better than conventional banana bread.

Get the recipe here

6. Maca almond coconut fudge

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Sugar and butter are usually the main two ingredients of fudge, however this recipe magically has neither. Using almond butter, coconut oil, desiccated coconut and adding flavour with a superfood powder, this is fudge of the healthiest variety.

Get the recipe here

7. Crunchy harissa chickpeas

reciper_harrisa_chickpeas

You don’t want nuts but you want something crunchy and satisfying that’s a transportable sugar-free snack? Enter in these tasty roasted chickpeas by Amelia Freer which make an ideal snack and are super simple to make with just a few ingredients.

Get the recipe here

8. Savoury olive and almond flapjacks

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Traditional flapjacks are usually packed with sugar, golden syrup and dried fruit. Why not turn sweet flapjacks on their head and try a super tasty savoury version. These are great to make on the weekend and keep handy around the house or can be a great thing to bake for guests or friends who want something a bit unusual.

Get the recipe here

9. Cashew & vanilla butter

cashewvanillabutter

Nut butters in general are a great lower sugar staple but if you fancy one with just an extra bit of sweetness and an unusual twist, this fantastically simple vanilla cashew combination by Deliciously Ella could be one to try. Use it as a sugar-free porridge topping, mixed in with natural yoghurt or on a slice of toast instead of jam. Yum!

Get the recipe here

10. Quinoa, courgette & spinach bake

spinach-quinoa-bake

Making a big breakfast bake for the week is a low sugar lifestyle winner for sure. You’re able to get vegetables and protein in whilst saving yourself masses of time. If you’re still wanting a bit of a substance, this quinoa based bake is perfect and super satisfying

Get the recipe here

11. Buckwheat & oat bread

buckwheatloaf

I know eggs for breakfast aren’t always the most practical which is why I would encourage making a savoury loaf instead to keep handy as a quick grab. Also a great addition to salads at lunch time. This super seedy grain packed one by Madeleine Shaw is the perfect sugar-free, high in protein packed goodness to do the job.

Get the recipe here

12. Cardamon & buckwheat no bake bars

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Sometimes a delicate flavour can add a slight sweetness to a recipe that reduces the need for an excess of sickly syrup or dates. Cardamon is one of those that can work some serious sugar-free magic. There’s a smidgen of rice malt syrup used in this recipe to help them stick together but the simple flavours and textures combine to make these satisfying and sweetish without being an overload.

Get the recipe here

13. Quinoa sushi

quinoasushi1

It hurt me too when I found out, but yes sushi rice unfortunately does usually contain sugar. Now I usually have it out only once in a while so I’m not bothered for those few occasions when I do fancy it, but if you do decide you want sushi in your life more often, you could be really clever and make this sugar-free quinoa variety by the Sugar-free fairy.

Get the recipe here

14. Butternut squash and coconut soup

butternut-squash-coconut-soup

Butternut squash soup of the shop bought variety usually has sugar or something sweet added to it which is a shame as it’s a warming winter staple. Making your own and usuing the creamy richness of coconut milk will bring out the same natural sweetness of the recipe sans the sugar.

Get the recipe here

15. Roasted tomato & quinoa soup

roasted-tomato-and-quinoa-soup-2

Again tomato soup is a sugar culprit. Shop bought varieties and even restaurant ones tend to have quite a bit of sugar in them – more than other soups do. This tomato soup recipe from Laura Agar Wilson of Wholeheartedly Healthy has naturally sweetened this soup through roasting the tomatoes. She’s also added quinoa and avocado to the recipe that adds a bit more substance through protein and fat to make the soup into more of a meal.

Get the recipe here

16. Salmon & leek bake

salmon-leek-bake

Getting some oily fish in your breakfast kicks you off with super healthy protein and fat that set your tastebuds on the healthy low sugar train for the rest of the day. If you’re a salmon fan, this bake suffices as a totally delicious breakfast that will nourish and make you forget cereal ever existed.

Get the recipe here

17. Basil & spinach pesto

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You can really tantilise your tastebuds and make your food taste incredible with other flavour combinations that don’t go anywhere near sugar. Pesto is one of those wonder ingredients that can be combined with chicken, vegetables or eggs to add instant flavour that will make you literally fall in love with savoury food over and over again. This classic recipe from I Quit Sugar is just one of a number of great variations they have on their great sugar-friendly recipe website.

Get the recipe here

18. Completely sugar-free muesli

fructose-free-muesli-base1

Whilst many muesli’s can be added sugar free, they can still be packed with dried fruit and drive your cravings up if you’re not careful. It can be a much better idea to make your own dried-fruit free base and then add a fresh fruit like a few berries to naturally sweeten. This is a basic sugar-free muesli base recipe that is a low sugar stock cupboard staple once you make it up.

Get the recipe here

19. Courgette, mint & feta frittas

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Another way to have a savoury breakfast that feels fun and indulgent. Cheesy courgette frittas don’t seem healthy but if you fry them in a healthy oil then they can be. You can make a big batch of these ones from We Heart Living to carry as a sugar-free breakfast or keep as a nice snack in the fridge. Add greek yoghurt, a salsa or sour cream to serve

Get the recipe here

20. Creamed coconut sweet potato balls

coconut-sweet-potatoballs

Energy type snack balls are usually packed with dates which although healthy are still pretty sweet. Why not try a truly sugar-free option with these sweet potato and creamed coconut balls. They are filling and satisfying whilst just being slightly sweet.

Get the recipe here

21. Sugar-free tomato sauce

tomatosauce

It’s a staple yet most shop bought tomato sauces do nearly always contain sugar so having a sugar-free recipe in tow is essential. Although it’s an effort to make your own, you realise that it can taste so much more delicious and fresh. I love Deliciously Ella’s vegan recipe and in addition to all the traditional uses, my favourite is sugar-free tomato sauce slathered on a slice of rye bread with sliced avocado and maybe an egg for breakfast.

Get the recipe here

22. Sugar-free BBQ sauce

BBQ-sauce

BBQ sauce is a favourite for some but another sugar laden condiment that does the rounds. Thanks to Alex at Spoonfulofsugarfree.com you can have some fun recreating your own sugar-free version to impress your BBQ guests. Thanks Alex!

Get the recipe here

23. Smokey vegetable fried eggs

smokey-veg-fried-eggs

Sometimes keeping it simple is best. Fried eggs are simple, quick and easy and will always be a low sugar breakfast winner in whatever form. It’s best to add some colourful vegetables if you can so try this smokey vegetable fried eggs option as the perfect brunch option.

Get the recipe here

24. Cauliflower & coconut tart

 coconutcourgettetart

It’s important to feel like you can still indulge and eat super delicious things without the need for sugar. Rich creamy recipes are especially great for this and this cauliflower and coconut tart from Honestly Healthy fits that bill perfectly with lots of vegetables mixed in. It’s also efficient where it could easily be cooked on go and eaten for dinner, lunch with a salad or even for breakfast.

Get the recipe here

25. Berry & avocado smoothie

berry-avocado-smoothie

Smoothies can be either pretty high in sugar or much lower depending on the amount of fruit and sugar substitutes you put in them. Whilst always healthy, lower sugar smoothies will keep you more sensitive to sweet. Filling out your smoothie or a creamy component like avocado or natural yoghurt can help you keep them tasty and lower on the sugar side of things and this recipe does exactly that.

Get the recipe here

26. Dark chocolate avocado truffles

 chocavotruffles

Some days, only chocolate will do. It’s good to have some options and even though these truffles have a little sugar, they are extremely low sugar in comparison to a Lindt truffle ball. They also pack in the nutrition and healthy fat from avocado and are super fun to make.

Get the recipe here

27. Sweet Potato & Walnut cake

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Craving cake or carbohydrates but don’t want the sugar? Whilst this isn’t low carbohydrate, it really can curb a full on cake craving and you can keep portions in the freezer that can be microwaved into a instant sugar-free cake deterrent. It has no sugar substitute whatsoever where it’s sweetened with only coconut and sweet potato. I personally have used this recipe a lot and it’s the most popular one on my website.

Get the recipe here.

28. Salt & vinegar nuts

salt & vinegar nuts

Nuts are like a staple low sugar snack that you may find yourself frequently using but they can get a bit boring if you’ve been using them regularly. It’s really important you keep things interesting so you don’t go nuts on nuts! There are some fab recipes out there to jazz up your nuts but this salt ‘n’ vinegar one from Fitter Food is a good one to try and might starve off crisp cravings at the same time!

Get the recipe here

29. Kale & avocado porridge

kaleavocado porridge

Think porridge always means sweet? Think again! I never got around to getting a truly savoury porridge or oatmeal recipe up on to the blog but I want to show that it’s possible. Shape.com have some great starter recipes – particularly they kale and avocado porridge topping with cacao nibs! If you try please report back to me!

Get the recipe here

30. Sweet potato & coconut bake

sweet-potato-breakfast-bake

Want what feels like a dessert for breakfast? This naturally sweet tasting coconut and sweet potato bake feels decadently indulgent and is completely sugar-free. Add some cream or full fat natural yoghurt to really compliment the textures. It bears some similarity to traditionally sweet bread and butter pudding but without the sugar.

Get the recipe here

So now I am completely exhausted from putting this together and want to eat everything! If this has been helpful then please do share. All these amazing other individuals that I’ve mentioned – health gurus, chefs and photographers do amazing work and there’s plenty of low sugar foodie love to share.

Any more great ones you’d like to add in a comment below please do!

Laura xx

thai-pork-burgers-corner

Thai sesame pork burgers

Unfortunately Thai food can often equal sugar. Most bought stir-fry sauces will have a sugar of some form and many recipes online will call for you to add some.

However do you LOVE Asian flavours? What to do if you’re trying to shift to a lower sugar diet and lifestyle?

My love of Asian flavours

I had this dilemma for a while because I absolutely love Asian food and flavours. I practically lived off Thai green curry when backpacking around Thailand a few years ago and I used to often cook stir-frys because they could be super low fat, quick, easy and healthy (or so I thought). I would always use a bought sauce and hence be consuming hidden sugar.

However, since going low sugar and becoming aware of the sweetened nature of sauces, I have to say I moved away from stir-frys as a regular weekly meal – they became more one-off and I’d attempt at making a sauce DIY (please comment below if you use or know of any great sugar-free stir-fry recipes).

I decided to get Asian flavour in through other means and so here’s a recipe for Thai sesame pork burgers that gets some Asian flavour in without the need for sugar. I’ve also got an Asian dressing recipe that does the same.

Thai sesame pork burgers

thai-pork-burgers-corner

Recipe adapted from Fitter Food

Makes 6 burgers

Ingredients

  • 500g pork mince
  • 1 tsp fresh grated ginger (about a thumb sized piece)
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp sesame seeds
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • juice of a lime
  • 1 large handful fresh coriander
  • 1 fresh green chilli, chopped
  • 1 egg

thai-pork-burgers

Method

  • Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark and line a tray with baking parchment.
  • Add all the ingredients to a large bowl and with clean hands, mix everything together thoroughly.
  • Shape the mixture into 6 size burgers and place on the lined tray
  • Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes

Note: You may notice a layer of fat that lines the tray after baking – don’t worry this is normal!

Try this

  • Sautee some pak choi in coconut oil or sesame oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds
  • Add cold to a salad for a serious protein boost
  • Slice some cucumber and chop some red pepper on the side and add some sesame oil or Asian style salad dressing

pork-burgers-salad thai-pork-bugers-side

What do you do when it comes to Asian food and sugar? Any recipes or stir-fry sauces you’ve found that help? Share the love in a comment below or let me know how you go with this recipe.

 

 

spinach-quinoa-bake

Quinoa, courgette & spinach bake

The mornings can be a rush can’t they? You’re trying to kick off with your tasks and responsibilities. Get to work, sort the kids, respond to emails, social messages, organise your diary…. the list goes on. I commend all the Mum’s out there as I know you have it particularly tough.

The last thing you want is to have to spend longer than you want on a healthy breakfast.

So many people say to me, I don’t have time to make eggs each morning and I completely understand. Whilst my self-employed lifestyle is different these days, I did use to travel a lot with my job at IBM and on many days I had to leave at 6:30am to get a train somewhere.

Cooking scrambled eggs at that time was not really an option if I wanted to have a decent amount of sleep and look half respectable!

Egg type bakes and efficient cooking habits absolutely were the cornerstone to my low sugar success. They stopped me from grabbing sugary things from train stations and they saved me quite a bit of money too.

So here’s a easily transportable and reheatable spinach, courgette quinoa bake recipe that packs in super protein nutrition and gets those valuable greens in first thing.

spinach-quinoa-bake-close

I’m on a mission to ban ‘no time for healthy breakfast’ excuses if it’s the last thing I do!

This recipe is relatively easy and is a protein packed substantial breakfast-snack-lunch that packs in nutritious green vegetables and amino acid busting quinoa. It’s gluten-free but feels a little bit like a savoury flapjack of sorts.

Quinoa, courgette & spinach bake

spinach-quinoa-bake

Serves 9 small portions as a snack or 6 larger breakfast portions

Ingredients

  • 200g or 4-5 large handfuls of spinach (washed)
  • 1 courgette, make 9 slices and dice the rest.
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 knob butter & some extra for greasing
  • 1 tbsp dried rosemary (you can use fresh if you want)
  • 200g dried quinoa (1 cup) made according to packet directions
  • 3 eggs lightly beaten
  • 2 tbsp milk (I used almond milk in this case)
  • 25g grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt & pepper

spinach-quinoa-bake-corner

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Method

  • Grease an 8inch glass baking dish with butter and pre-heat the oven to 180C
  • Cook the quinoa according to the packet
  • Prepare a big bowl of water with ice cubes in it
  • Cook (blanche) the spinach by bringing a pot of large water to boil and placing the spinach in it. Cook for 1 minute until the spinach goes dark green.
  • Drain in a sieve and quickly put into the iced water. This helps keep the nutrients.
  • Once cooled, remove the spinach from the iced bowl and squeeze out the excess water. Place in a bowl on the side for later.
  • Heat the knob of butter in a large pan over a medium heat and fry the onion, garlic for a few minutes.
  • Add the diced courgette, rosemary and season with salt and pepper
  • Cook until the onion is translucent and the courgette soft
  • Add all the ingredients (quinoa, onion courgette mix, spinach, cheese, eggs) together in a bowl and mix together.
  • Spoon into the glass dish and push down evenly
  • Add the courgette slices, some extra grated parmesan and black pepper to the top
  • Cook in the oven for 60-70 minutes until golden on top
  • Leave to cool & then slice up into portions & keep in the fridge

Try this

  • Ok I know there’s garlic in this, but honestly it’s good enough to eat for breakfast!
  • Use as a carry around sugar-free snack or substantial protein-healthy carbohydrate addition to a lunchtime salad.
  • Use a sneaky way to get nutrient packed spinach into children’s diets or grown ups who don’t like green vegetables!

Do you struggle with finding the time to have a healthy protein packed breakfast in the morning?

alchemysalad

Living lower sugar…in Bali

In this article today I want to give you a bit of a guide and lowdown to how I’ve been living a lower sugar diet in Bali and the practicalities of this.

If you ever come on holiday or to work here, this may be helpful. However, it’s also likely to show you general principles, tips and tricks for keeping a practical healthy when you’re away and reassure you that life can still be lived without overdoing it on sweetness.

Why am I in Bali?

Just quickly I’ll explain this. I’m not on one big holiday as it seems. I’m actually here to focus and get clarity on where, how and what I want to do with Happy Sugar Habits going forward (exciting things in the making!). I’m in a place called Ubud – which is also renowned for it’s yoga and health scene but also now a supportive business community. It’s inspiration on steroids, seriously.

There is a co-working space called Hubud (with a raw food café!), a network of support and a vibrant expat community. I’ve continued to blog, work on projects and coach over Skype much the same as I would in the UK (my clients just see a lot of bamboo in the background!)

You can read more about where I am in this Telegraph article that was published last weekend all about it.

So what’s the deal with the sugar and food out here…

I’m eating out 90% of the time

I don’t really have a fully functional kitchen here so I eat out most of the time. It’s affordable and social. I miss my kitchen and the process of cooking somewhat, and obviously I’m not overseeing what exactly goes in the food, how it’s cooked etc. I know to some this sounds like a dream (no cooking hassle) and to others it sounds like a nightmare (loss of control). I’d be interested to know what your personal thoughts would be if you were to switch to this for a period of time? I have to say I’m really enjoying it, especially now I know where I can get quality goodness at a good price.

The first picture below is a raw food avocado sandwich from Living Food Lab and the second is a DIY salad from Alchemy.

rawlunch

alchemysalad

Experimental vs. home comfort

When looking through my pictures of food I realise I don’t have as many of real local food as I would like. You’re really spoilt for choice in Ubud and can get a very wide range of healthy and international cuisines. One minute I’ll eat really local but the next I’ll just find a feta cheese salad or something. This comes with being away for longer than a month. Sometimes I just want to know what I’m getting and that it’s going to have enough vegetables to make me happy and not too much suspect oil that makes me feel unwell.

I keep largely to the basic principles of eating lots of veg, ensuring some healthy fat (usually avocado, olive oil dressing, nuts or seeds) and some protein (usually eggs, tempeh, tofu, tuna or chicken).

gadogado2

Breakfast

Eggs are in abundance here. Breakfast I’m often having eggs with sides or just some local fruit (banana, mangosteen) with nuts or seeds if I’m not that hungry. One time I ate an avocado and some coconut flakes which was a bit random. Over the past few months I’ve started eating avocado like a fruit (technically it is one anyway).

breakfast

In my homestay where I stayed early on I would have poached eggs, tomato and a watermelon juice plus some nuts I bought myself on the side for healthy fat.

eggsandtomato

The pictures below are breakfasts I’ve had at Clear Café Ubud and Atman Kafe – two places that are more touristy/expat centred but have understood well what the health conscious yogi’s here want.

clearcafeeggsbreakfast

scrambledvegeggs

On the cheaper side, most local warungs (restaurants) you can get a load of greens & a few boiled eggs for less than £1. I’ve also tried some interesting savoury breakfasts like the rice, ginger, peanut and green bean dish in the picture.

savourygingerbreakfast

Pancakes are a common breakfast option here I’ve seen many have. I’ve had a couple – one being at 2am before I climbed a mountain. They are usually dripping in honey and have sugar added to the pancake mix so are obviously not the best regular breakfast to have. Note that day I also had warm banana sandwiches and boiled eggs cooked by the steam at the top. Flipping cool that I had to share!

mountaineggsbanana

Vegetarian focus (Ubud)

I’m not a vegetarian but I’ve been eating a lot more vegetarian. Ubud is this super health conscious bubble in Bali and there’s a big vegan and vegetarian scene. Generally I like this a lot as it means an abundance of vegetables, however sometimes I do find I’m craving more fat and sometimes more protein. Ordering a side of avocado or maybe some tuna helps with this.

The picture below is a tempeh lasagne I had. It was amazing but I was starving after a hardcore yoga vinyassa class and found I was still a bit hungry afterwards – needed more satiating fat!

tempehlasagne

One of my favourite Indonesian vegetarian dishes here is Gado Gado – boiled vegetables, egg, tofu, tempeh and peanut sauce. I’m not sure exactly what they put in the peanut sauce from place to place – but I know it most (if not all) of the time contains two ingredients I’m not a massive fan of – sugar and vegetable oil. Both of these are not ideal but I let them slide as generally Gado Gado is a healthy, cheap local option and I now ask for the peanut sauce on the side so I can dip at my leisure (I once ordered it and it was like a few vegetables in peanut sauce soup!).

gadogado

Sugar on the side

Juices, teas and coffees you usually get a shot of sugar or sugar syrup on the side here. I quite like the concept of this as it gives people the option to add sweetness according to their own taste preference (where I can opt to add none). Wouldn’t it be great if everything had this option?

However sometimes they do automatically add sugar to something like a watermelon juice or iced coffee so I’ve got into the habit of just saying ‘no sugar’ or ‘sugar on side’ when I order. It’s quite widely accepted as a request here – so much so that some places they even ask me before I say it. The picture below is an organic red rice tea I tried – naturally sweet from the rice and no sugar needed (well for me anyway).

ricetea

Drinks

I find in hot countries drinks are tricky because you can crave something more than just water. I written about this here and some tips you can use.

One amazing thing over here is the abundance of limes and coconuts. As an alternative to good old water, my low sugar drinks of choice to quench thirst are fresh lime juice (no sugar added) and young coconut water. Both are low in fructose and super refreshing when cold. You can also get lime and mint blends, water with cucumber and coconut water that’s infused with cinnamon. All totally sugar-free.

limejuice

When I get home, I’m going to make a big bottle of lime infused water and keep in my fridge for the summer! For anyone that complains just water is boring or is still tempted by fizzy drinks, this is a great one to try.

I do also have the occasional watermelon juice. It’s got a high water content and so is really refreshing without being too sweet (just check they don’t add the sugar).

Green juices are all around here. I tend to drink them for added nutrition rather than to quench or satisfy thirst. I also double check how much % fruit they are but I have to say the green juices here are veggie hardcore compared to the 60% apple juice type you get a lot of places at home in the UK.

Watching out for natural sugars

Because of the thriving health scene here, there are lots of ‘healthy’ sweet treats made with healthier alternatives to refined white sugar. Whilst this is great, I recognise this as a potential danger zone for me. You’ll find it hard to get hooked on white ‘sugar’ here but you’ll find it very easy to build up a fructose preference if you’re not careful.

There are loads of bliss type balls made with dates, cakes made with coconut sugar, blended iced drinks sweetened with honey etc. I’ve had a few as a treat here and there because largely I can trust myself more with sweet food, however there are days when I notice cravings creeping up if I go too much on these so I’m still careful. Luckily on the whole my body does tell me when I’ve had enough.

blissball

Sometimes I buy something and just test it out with my own tastebuds to gauge the fructose. For example I found these low sugar biscuits at a place Dayu’s Warung that are sweetened more heavily with coconut. I also found some bliss bars that again use goji berries and coconut rather than dates to sweeten which suffices for less of a fructose hit.

Finally…chocolate banana pizza!

I know this isn’t healthy but I found it amusing. There is a popular pizza joint here and they serve a chocolate and banana pizza. Some of my friends go crazy for it. I would have previously gone crazy for it but actually it makes me feel a bit sick now (I did try one slice of a friends and confirmed this).

chocolatepizza

 

I think it’s a good litmus test to help you determine where you are with sugar. Do you want to eat the entire chocolate pizza? Are you just curious to try a slice? Or does it really not appeal to you for various reasons? I would love to hear in a comment below!

The final message

I know this is a random lot of info but I just wanted to share honestly that I’m not eating super super healthy all of the time but I am still eating a lower sugar lifestyle whilst enjoying myself, being social, doing everything I want to etc. I hope it helps you do two things 1) learn some tips and tricks to use when away 2) know that wherever you are in moving towards a life less sugar, it’s really not a life sentence and can be practically managed.

Any thoughts or questions? Could you eat that PIZZA!!?? LOL

P.S if you like this article then let me know as I’ve got enough material to write a Part II!

P.P.S If you’ve enjoyed these pictures then follow me on Instagram for more and say hello…

@happysugarhabits (lower sugar lifestyle tips and inspiration

@lauraj_thomas (my personal account – food, sunsets and cute stuff)

 

 

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Efficient meal planning & a spicy bean egg bake recipe

Last week I wrote a very long post on where I’m at, so this week I’d thought I’d give you some time back posting a recipe that is quick, easy and suitable for vegetarians. This dish is super efficient and simple to cook. If you’ve got a busy life going on but want to eat filling wholesome home cooked food, then try making a batch of this and see how you go.

I’ve already written about my experiments with a low-sugar vegetarian diet previously, and these days I still try to have the odd week or few days where I eat more vegetarian. This recipe also came about when I got back from being away for a while. I had just a few limited ingredients that needed to suffice until I did a bigger food shop and I needed to ease myself back into cooking more regularly again.

Fair to say, I always keep a couple of cans of tinned tomatoes and pulses in my cupboards ready for recipes like this.

Spicy bean egg bake

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Gluten free & sugar free

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 can borlotti beans
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 tbls cooking fat (I used coconut oil)
  • 1 sweet red pepper, sliced
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 2 cans chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • ¼ tsp hot chilli powder (or a bit more depending on your spice preference)
  • 4 eggs (1 for each portion on the day you eat a serving)
  • ½ block of feta cheese
  • Fresh parsley (can substitute dried)
  • ½ lemon (for a squeeze of juice)
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Method

  • Heat the fat and fry the onion and the garlic for a few minutes until softened
  • Add the red pepper & fry for a few more minutes
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, cumin, curry powder, chilli powder & seasoning to taste and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Add the 2 cans of pre-cooked beans and simmer at a low heat for 10 minutes.
  • If serving four, make four holes and crack an egg into each then cook over the hob (& finish under the grill) until the eggs are cooked then complete the last two steps.
  • If serving in single portions, divide the mixture into 4 portion sizes and put this portion into a small baking dish, then add the egg in the middle and bake in the oven at 180C.
  • Cook the dish in the oven until the egg is set (about 20 minutes).
  • Sprinkle with feta cheese and cook for a further 5-10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven, sprinkle with parsley and add a squeeze of lemon juice to serve.

You can serve with an extra portion of green vegetables (like I did) or with some bread if you prefer.

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Using later in the week

I kept two portions in the fridge and froze another. To cook from the fridge, I came home, put the oven on 180, and put the basic bean mix in the microwave for 3 minutes. I then cracked the egg in the middle and put in the oven for 25 minutes, then added the feta cheese and cooked for another 5 before serving with the parsley and lemon. The frozen one, I just took out of the freezer 12 hours before I wanted to eat it the following week, then followed the above process to cook.

Efficient meal planning

This recipe is a prime example of efficient simple and very healthy cooking. A really geeky part of me loves making healthy cooking fast, easy and simple (but still delicious). I think it’s a freak combination of my process consulting experience combined with my love of healthy eating. This recipe was an absolute winner and when I know I’ve got a busy week ahead, I’ll be repeating it.

If you think you’d find weekly meal plans, shopping lists and full ‘what to do when’ notes helpful then have a look at my (just launched this week!) Mentor Me Off Sugar programmes. Now this is a bit of a plug, but I’ve created 6-weeks worth of very carefully thought-out meal plans & organisation for the programme.

To get everything nutritionally balanced (& of course all sugar-free), make efficient use of all the weekly ingredients, consider cost and make sure the plan keeps one sustained throughout the day was not a straightforward task!

It took time and was in places quite complicated (trust me, it really hurt my head on occasion!). The good thing is though, I’ve done that thinking for you now and I believe by following the meal plans, you’ll not only eat healthy, detox off sugar and the rest of it, you’ll also get loads of ideas on how to save time that will serve you forever (& save you hours).

If you don’t follow things exactly (I’m one of those too) then it will certainly give you a wealth of ideas to piece together your own weekly meal plans that suit your lifestyle. So check out Mentor Me Off Sugar for more details & comment if you’d be interested in getting the meal plans separate to the detox programme (as this is something I’m currently considering).

Anyway, what do you think? Do you find meal planning easy or hard? What do you do? Any good strategies that you use? I am loving your comments at the moment so please share :)

 

sugar-free pancakes

Sugar-free pancake day: Your comprehensive guide

Ok, so it’s nearly pancake day (Shrove Tuesday). One of my health coaching clients has already asked me for some options, so I’d thought I’d present a comprehensive guide around the strategies and options available. This is an area that can be a bit tricky, especially if you fondly remember eating a dozen lemon-sugar pancakes in one night (like I used to!).

This year, I’m actually going to be in New York for pancake day (let’s see how I handle that one!). I’m also having a mini celebration at home with some friends a little earlier before I go. I am likely to of course be in charge of the savoury options…

So the first sugar-free strategy I would recommend is to fill up on delicious savoury options as much as you can. There’s an incredible amount of choice out there on the savoury front and you can hike up the nutrition count with the addition of vegetables.

Here’s a round-up of some of my internet faves that I’ve vetted and collected. All are made with good healthy ingredients, many have some form of vegetable included and there are even gluten-free and egg-free options to suit other dietary needs:

Savoury pancakes

Sweeter pancakes – your sugar-friendly options

Now, if you’re not full from savoury wonders or you’re just still wanting sweet, you have a few ‘better’ options. Whip up a basic unsweetened wholemeal savoury crepe mix and fill with healthier ‘natural’ or lower sugar options:

  • Opt for lower fructose fruit like berries or warm them up in a pan to make a berry compote.
  • Swap a maple syrup for a brown rice syrup (lower fructose alternative).
  • Melt and drizzle a little dark chocolate (at least 85%) instead of the popular Nutella.
  • Make an thicker unsweetened apple sauce-based pancake using your own homemade unsweetened apple sauce (try this recipe).
  • Although a banana is higher fructose, a few slices in your pancake with some full fat natural greek yoghurt and chopped hazelnuts could satisfy the sweet spot in a more natural way than say banana ice cream!
  • Again, make a sweeter ‘base’ pancake using banana. Here’s a gluten-free almond butter based one.

Lemon and sugar

It’s the classic, I used to eat these every year. Not one, but probably about 12 of them. My mum would keep going until me and my brother could eat no more. I estimate about 10-15 teaspoons of sugar were consumed in one of these  pancake evenings…yikes!

If you still really really want your lemon and sugar, start looking at your portion size. Can you stick with just one or two? You could look to try some other more nutritionally charged sugar options like a date sugar or coconut sugar. There are also some more natural brands of stevia out there (like Natvia) that are granulated and can be used 1:1 like sugar if you want to experiment. For my approach on sweeteners in general read why I don’t stand by one single sugar substitute.

My view is that if you’re only having one of these pancakes and you’re not in period of detoxing and feel like you have somewhat got control of sugar, then just try to sprinkle on as little as possible. Half or a quarter teaspoon of refined sugar if you’ve kept things sensible during the rest of the week is a happy moderate amount for an occasion if it’s special to you.

Hopefully there’s an option or recipe for you whatever you’re feeling. As is my general philosophy with annual occasions, if you’re eating less sugar than last year, then you’re making progress. What are you planning on doing this pancake day? Hit me with any other questions in a comment below. Oh and please share it if you think others might find it helpful.

eat less sugar

Poached salmon salad & yoghurt dill dressing

I’ve always loved salmon, however I’ve never actually poached it before. Experimenting in the kitchen is an essential habit to get into and different cooking methods count as much as different ingredients. This salmon salad recipe looks impressive but is surprisingly easy. You can also make it ahead of time and serve later on.

To be frankly honest, I’m really not a super incredible gormet chef or anything. Many of my recipes are simple tasty classics that you can use time and time again once you’ve learnt the basics. Cook this a few times and it’s so easy you should soon learn it off by heart.

I made this last Sunday when it was scorching hot. I kept some of the salmon cold for my salads later in the week. Cook once and eat twice (even thrice); one of the best healthy, time saving tips I can give you!

Poached salmon salad & yoghurt dill dressing

Recipe adapted from www.health.com (pictures my own though!)

eat less sugar

Ingredients

  • 1 celery stalk, cut into 2 inch stalks

  • 5 spring onions, white bulbs left whole and the rest thinly sliced

  • 1 lemon, halved. Half cut into slices and the other half juiced with 1 teaspoon of grated zest

  • ½ tsp salt, divided

  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper, divided

  • 4 salmon fillets

  • ½ cup natural yoghurt

  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill

  • 1 tbls olive oil

  • 1 packet watercress

  • 10 asparagus spears

  • 4-5 radishes, sliced

Method

  • Fill a large skillet or pot with about 6 cups of water. Add the celery, spring onion ends, lemon slices, half of the salt and pepper. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer for 10 minutes to infuse the water with the delicate flavours.

  • Add the salmon where the water just covers all of the fillets (you may need to do two at a time). Gently simmer for 5-8 minutes till the fish is cooked through.

  • Remove the salmon carefully (I did break one!) and let cool

  • Remove the ends of the asparagus and steam for 5-10 minutes until tender

  • Combine the yoghurt, dill, lemon juice, lemon zest, olive oil and remaining salt and pepper in a medium sized bowl.

  • Mix well together

  • Arrange the watercress, asparagus and sliced radishes on the plates

  • Add the salmon and a large tablespoon of the dressing

  • Sprinkle with leftover spring onions and add extra salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste

eat less sugar

Take a picture and be proud of your efforts! You could also add some quinoa to this if you want to add a bit more to the meal. Let me know if you try this recipe, it’s great for hot summer days!

Laura x

 

Versatile Lentil Soup

Versatile lentil and vegetable soup

One thing on the sugar diet that makes life easier is avoiding processed or packaged food where possible. Yes, I mean clean eating. It just means that firstly, you don’t waste too much time analysing food labels and secondly, you know exactly what you’re eating. No horse meat, no odd ingredients and of course, complete control over the added sugar.

Fresh soups from the supermarket are often seen as a healthy quick choice. They are of course better than many other things but they are not entirely ‘clean’ and quite often have added sugar, especially tomato, sweet potato and squash varieties. If you’re going to eat a little sugar, wouldn’t you rather appreciate it than have it hidden in your soup!?

Admittedly, I used to eat these soups quite often. This was another shift in my diet over the last two years where I’ve moved more towards making my own. I promise you, it’s not as much hassle as it seems. With my budget and economical hat on, I will also point out that lentils are cheap and using up all the vegetables in your fridge is doing you bit against food waste.

This is my basic, super simple, super easy lentil soup recipe. I add whatever vegetables I have leftover in the fridge and cook an extremely large batch and I freeze a load of portions for emergency healthy ready meals that I can microwave straight from frozen when I am caught out.

Versatile lentil and vegetable soup

Versatile Lentil Soup

Makes approximately 6 portions of soup

• 1 1/2 cups of red lentils
• 1 3/4 liters of vegetable stock
• 2 diced carrots
• 2 diced onions
• 1 tsp thyme
• 4 bay leaves (I used dried)
• 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
• large knob of butter
• 1 tbsp cottage cheese (optional)
• 1 tbsp grated parmesan (optional)

Optional vegetables

Courgettes, sweet potato, squash, broccoli, spinach and peas. Add these vegetables with the lentils and stock.
Leeks and shallots. Fry these with the onion and carrots

Method

1. Fry the onions and carrots in the butter in a large deep saucepan (or two separate ones). Cook for 3-5 minutes until the onions are translucent
2. Add the lentils, stock, thyme, bay leaves and pepper
3. Cover and simmer on a low heat for 35-40 minutes
4. Blend with a hand blender or you can even skip this step and serve as a ‘rougher’ soup (still tastes   nice!). If blending, add extra hot water to get the consistency you like (I like mine thick)
5. Add the cottage cheese and sprinkle with parmesan and black pepper

Never eat a ready meal again by cooking and freezing your own soup!

almond coated basa

The healthy take on breaded fish: Almond coated basa

When I was younger I used to love breaded fish, including fish fingers and the whole fillets you could bake straight from the freezer. Whilst it’s not the most unhealthy thing on the planet, the bread crumb coating tends to be both processed and refined. Coating fish yourself, you can make this popular favourite a lot healthier with relative ease.

Here’s a recipe below which uses ground almonds instead of refined breadcrumbs and still gives that nice, tasty breaded fish satisfaction (without the need for any breadcrumbs whatsoever). The ground almond coating also make it slightly sweet tasting and supplies that healthy fat element to a meal which will help keep you satisfied.

almond coated basa

 

Almond coated basa fillets (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 2 basa fillets
  • 3/4 cup of ground almonds
  • 3 tbls parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbls dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/8 cayenne pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tbls milk
  • knob of butter for frying

Method

  •  Beat egg with the milk in a wide flat soup bowl
  • Combine ground almonds, parmesan cheese and other seasonings again in a wide flat bowl
  • Coat the fish fillets in the egg mixture and then coat in the almond mixture, gently pressing the mixture all over the fish (this gets messy)
  • Heat the butter on a medium heat and fry the fillets 3-5 minutes on each side until cooked through. Fish should flake easily and be opaque in colour.
  • Try not to turn the fish too frequently as the crumb is quite delicate

almond coated basa

The side: Roasted red onion & shallots

I mix and match my veggie sides depending on what I have lying around. I had steamed broccoli along with roasted red onion and shallots which serve as another source of deliciously natural tasting sweetness. I love the fact my taste buds can really recognise all these sweet-savoury flavours properly now. Certainly another incentive to keep an overload of sugary food out of your life.

Roasted red onion and shallots (serves 2)

  • 3 red onions
  • 4 shallots

Preheat the oven to 180C. Toss vegetables in a roasting tray with either olive oil or preferably a teaspoon of melted coconut oil (which is better to cook with at higher temperatures). Roast for 25-30mins and serve.