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:
- Squash goats cheese and rosemary pancakes
- Creamy chicken, spinach & pancetta
- Cheesy cauliflower pancakes
- Savoury chickpea pancakes with smoky roasted carrots
- Mustard dill pikelets with smoked trout and avocado salad
- Spinach & cheese or cheese & tomato
- Grain-free coconut flour bacon pancakes
- Egg-free 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.
So giving in to the commercial hype, this week I’ve got a few sugar-friendly tips to help with some typical sweet Valentines scenarios….
First up, eating out…
Generally, a Valentines meal is going to be more than one course, so go for a starter and main rather than a main and a dessert. At best, fill up on a starter & main and share a dessert if you have to, even just have one bite? (beware – this can be difficult and dangerous for someone who’s had a former love affair with sugar). If you don’t quite trust yourself with that yet, a cheese plate or sugar-free coffee is always an option.
If you can, look at the menu before you go. You can often get hold of menus online these days, and it gives you time to weigh up your options so you aren’t distracted from your loved one by over-analysing the menu when you’re there.
Look for a decent portion of protein to fill you up and bulk up your meal with as many vegetables as possible. To really fill up and satisfy yourself, look for the fat source. Remember, saturated fat isn’t the complete evil, so a steak, some cheese or some buttered vegetables are all healthy sources that will help you avoid sweet temptation at the end.
Dealing with gifted treats
As you know, Valentines Day also screams chocolates, sickly sugar-coated hearts and all sorts of other red and pink-coloured sweetness. It’s an annual occasion where it’s also hard to refuse things, particularly if someone has bought them for you as a sign of love and you don’t want to be ungrateful.
Focus on the communication of your preferences…
If your loving partner is prone to go all traditional with flowers and chocolates, you need to set and manage expectations in the run up. If you don’t ever say anything, you can’t blame them for buying you chocolates, can you?
Now, of course you don’t want to ruin all of the surprises, but you do need to take responsibility for laying down a few subtle hints if you’d really rather not be shown love in a way that’s going to de-rail your careful fructose recalibration efforts. You could try hinting that you’d prefer flowers, would love a poem, or are more favourable to some other simple gesture that similarly shows thought and appreciation.
Single sorrow drowning
Now this year I happen to be a token singleton, so unfortunately I don’t have the privilege of trying to dissuade someone from buying me chocolates (shame!).
If you know you’re likely to turn to sugar in terms of comfort, which is a common issue, then you need to go in search of some extra nourishing other soul foods.
Look at ways to dial up your human connection, and maybe schedule some more time with friends and family. You could also try some extra endorphin- busting physical activity or just allow yourself a little extra self care where you do something that you really love for a few extra hours this week.
I’m actually heading out with some girlfriends on Friday for a few drinks to celebrate. For me I know, some laughs with good friends is the best soul food I can give myself, so bring it on!
What are your difficulties with Valentines Day? Do you find the sweet stuff in shops completely excessive? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.
I’ve endured tinsel itch all afternoon to make this video! Enjoy….
To save you time here are links to some of the lower end of the scale mince pies and Christmas puddings I found in my research for this video.
Note they still have A LOT of sugar and homemade would be a lot better that anything bought…. however I figured it’s helpful information that’s useful to share….
Waitrose Remy Martin Champange Christmas Pudding (about 32g per portion)
Chosen by you ASDA mince pies (18g per pie)
P.S I’ll also add that if you do reflect over Christmas and you do want some serious change to happen next year in regards to your sugar habits, I’m here to help and support you on your journey….
There’s still a little time (until the 30th Dec) and space left to squeeze onto the 6th Jan Mentor Me Off Sugar Detox programme and I’ve got just 2 spaces left if you want 1-2-1 coaching come the new year. Get in touch (laura@happysugarhabits) and don’t miss out on getting the best support you can with this.
Have a good one!
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.
Trick or treat memories
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.
8 alternatives to sugar at Halloween
- Dress up - If you just had the sugar but couldn’t dress up, Halloween would truly suck. I’d choose dressing up over sugar even when I loved sweet. Getting out the fake blood, trying to look like a sexy(ish) Halloween bride or getting creative with bin liners. It’s massive fun sans sugar
- Party - I love an excuse to party, go out with friends and generally have a good time. Celebrate just because, and enjoy connecting with all the great people you have in your life.
- Watch a scary movie – I’m a bit of a wimp with these but occasionally I do like to watch one to get in the mood. I don’t fancy the SAW movies back to back myself, but if it floats your boat, go for it.
- Carve a pumpkin – Let your creative juices flow and instagram your efforts.
- Eat pumpkin seeds instead of sweets – Your seasonal snack of choice. I can’t stop munching on them at the moment. So tasty and healthy.
- Pumpkin recipes – Pumpkin porridge, pumpkin pie. Roast pumpkin in your dinner, salad or soup. Pumpkin for breakfast? Experiment and have fun.
- Apple bobbing – Big kid like fun.
- Scary practical jokes – Jump out at your flatmate or work colleague. Do something spooky silly and make those around you laugh.
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.
Consider the bigger picture
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 concern with fructose isn’t its high GI, it’s to do with the excess strain it puts on your liver when you eat large quantities of it.
- Glycemic index and impact on blood sugar levels is complicated. You rarely eat single sugars on their own and the GI for different meals can be very different depending on the composition.
- These days many just need to reduce sugar full stop. Replacing one with another is going to make a small difference when really we just need to eat a lot less. It might even encourage some to eat more, thinking it’s ‘healthy’.
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.”
Health claims that aren’t healthy
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?
For those of you who are subscribed, you’ll know from my last newsletter that I was heading to Mykonos for a hen do at the end of July. Ice cream, cold fizzy drinks, fruit juiced based cocktails and the constant ‘I’m on holiday’ excuse for a treat, this could have been a right old sugar-fest that sent me right back to my old ways. So how did I navigate this social sugar-bomb situation?
I ate some sugar, yes, but I avoided it being obscene and certainly didn’t completely go overboard like I used to. Here are some of things I did that might help you if you head off on a similar type of holiday…
I tried to still keep breakfast right
You’ll see in my video below, breakfast had loads of delicious savoury low sugar choices. I filled myself up on a good breakfast everyday and wasn’t even tempted by all the cakes and crossiants that would have been my former choice. In fact, I think I filled myself up with so much greek yoghurt, I was full for the rest of the day and just needed the odd snack to keep going.
Made my own vodka mixer
Ok, this drink isn’t ideal but instead of Coke or Fanta with vodka, I bought some peach juice and fizzy water to make my own diluted cocktail number. It had sugar, yes, but it had a lot less than everything else that was on offer and was tastier and more refreshing in my opinion. I used to drink a lot of diet coke on these types of hot holidays and initially opted for that but I really found I disliked the taste. Maybe it’s because I know I’m drinking chemicals and it’s just too artificially sweet for me these days. When I was out, I ordered either wine, beer, or vodka, soda and fresh lime, staying away from overly sugary cocktails.
Banana smoothie instead of an ice cream
There was one day where I fancied something cold and refreshing so I opted for a banana smoothie. I did ask the nice chap to skip the syrup and made sure he didn’t add any ice cream, but it was still creamy cold delicious and hit the spot perfectly. I didn’t eat ice cream all holiday and I still had an epic time! Missing out really is all in your head.
Didn’t eat sugar just because I could
There were sweets on the plane, One Direction lovehearts flying around the apartments (amusing!), and many opportunities to eat sweet somewhat mindlessly just because you’re on holiday and you can. It was easier to avoid all of these because my cravings have diminished and I was having too much fun, but I was mindful not to eat unhealthy food just because I was in ‘holiday mode’. I committed to eating things only if I really wanted or fancied them.
Drank loads of water
I drank loads of water, it almost got annoying. You should do this anyway in a hot country, but making sure you’re not dehydrated is going to help you avoid craving the sugary fizz by the pool….and obviously help avoid or cure hangovers!
Experimented and dipped my toe in sugary waters
There was one night where I had a banana and Nutella crepe (with added nuts). Yes, I said pure, refined, sugary NUTELLA! (I did ask the lady to go easy with it and spread it thinly!). I just fancied it one night and was curious to see how I would feel. You know what, it tasted pretty good. I didn’t feel guilty afterwards, I didn’t feel sick and I didn’t suddenly start craving sugar again the next few days. I felt completely safe and in control, I knew that it would be a complete one off, but appreciate it’s taken a wee while for me to get to this point and I’ve been very careful over the past year to do so.
So in summary, yes, I ate a lot more sugar (mostly natural where I could) over those few days than I do at home. However I didn’t eat half as much as I would have done a year ago and I really did have the most incredible time.
I was also completely disowned by all the girls when I recorded this video to show you the healthy breakfast options. Enjoy!
How do you handle your holidays? Do you just let it all go or try to be somewhat mindful?
A sunny video for you this week on two big things to be aware of if you’re considering or already drinking almond milk.
The milk I used in the video is Alpro Fresh Almond Drink Unsweetened.
Easter time and the chocolate eggs come out to throw anyone, who managed to stay on their New Year health kick, right off track. Having a healthy easter can be hazardous. If it’s not the Lindt bunny with a bell on, it’s the hot cross bun or the Cadbury Cream Egg.
Sugary temptation is everywhere once again.
So here are my best tips manifested into some kind of survival guide to keep you from sweet overload.
My Healthy Easter Survival Tips
Survival Tip 1: Mentally prepare
- You eat what you want to eat. End of.
- You have complete control (actually believe this).
- Your fear of missing out, being an Easter scrooge or changing things, is mostly in your own head and is not half as bad as you imagine (I reference this point from Christmas)
Just remember those things and equip yourself with some determination.
Survival Tip 2: Monies over chocolate
My Grandma stopped giving me chocolate a long while ago and I get something little and pretty instead. A pair of knickers or a spring bunny shaped soap (OK I’ve never been given that, but it popped into my head and fits nicely). Even better, she gives me a bit of money to go and buy a new top. I much prefer this arrangement, so now Easter is like a mini giving-fest. Ironically this year, I have a three tiered cake platter for my Grandma. It’s pretty enough without the cakes and will exist more as ornamental centrepiece… I hope!
Survival Tip 3: Don’t waste your saliva on cheap chocolate
I liked this quote from Sarah Wilson today…
“You just have to come to regard pre-masticated, additive-addled chocolate confection as a vile non-food and a waste of your salivary glands. Which it is”
OK quite extreme, but with this in mind, if you are going to have a little chocolate at least make it ridiculously expensive, extremely dark and good quality. Banish the day you will chuck a piece of cheap egg from the 99p shop into your mouth. It tastes simply horrible, even if you are desperate.
Survival Tip 4: Arm yourself with alternatives
Remember there are sugar substitutes like Stevia and Xylitol that you can sneak in if you’re baking. My flatmate and I are decided on finally making Sarah Wilson’s Raspberry Ripe tomorrow and you could also try your hand at some chocolate avocado mousse or chia seed pudding. Alternatively stock up on your favorite nuts or fruit so you always have something that is more nutritional to hand. Swap, substitute, swap…whenever you possibly can.
Survival Tip 5: Don’t stress
I don’t want to pain this picture that I am of high sugar virtue all the time, because quite honestly, I’m not. Despite having a very different taste for sweet to a year ago, I still falter like any normal human being, particularly with the social side of it all, which for me is still sometimes tricky.
This is my first Easter sans sugar, so like Christmas, I’m going in a bit unknown. My Grandma will have whipped up a lemon meringue pie before I have the chance to lace it with Stevia and there will be points where I’ll get curious about what a hot cross bun might taste like.
So don’t stress. Take your survival tips, do your best, play it cool and ride on for a very Happy Easter!
p.s Just to let you know, I am an affiliate of Sarah Wilson, mainly because I actually love her quite a bit. If you do fancy buying one of her products and you click click here or through my side banner, I do get a small token that will go towards the all things Happy Sugar Habits.
p.p.s I can’t add a picture to this post but I’m totally going tweet pic the fancy three tiered cake platter once given, so follow me on twitter if you want to see!
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