Challenge_Final_3D

How to use 30 day challenges to beat sugar

There’s no doubt about it, structure and focus help with change and could potentially really help you with healthier sugar habits. When I look back over successful and unsuccessful things I’ve done (health and non health related), doing things in a defined period of time or with some accountability has usually worked the best. Thus, I’m really thrilled today to introduce you to my friend Stuart Ralph and his 30 day challenge philosophy which is a fabulous structure you can use to beat sugar in a number of different ways.

Stuart Ralph

I met Stuart just over 2 years ago at a London ‘Meet Up’ group for people venturing into blogs and online ventures. We stayed in touch and have supported each other along the adventurous ride. He’s a self help junkie like myself, gets frustrated at unethical marketing (where sugary foods are usually a common culprit) and has provided much inspiration to help me grow Happy Sugar Habits into what it is today.

I’ve also just devoured his wicked book Challenge Yourself, I Dare You: A Better You In 30 Days which is a short, but extremely powerful read that will make you want to take action and set yourself a challenge. I’m still deciding what mine is going to be in October…Do comment and commit below if you feel inspired to start a 30 day challenge of your own.

Challenge_Final_3D

Stuart has kindly shared his experience with sugary drinks and offered some fantastic tips….

How a 30 day challenge gave me a healthier respect for sugar

In 2005 I couldn’t help myself, every day I was consuming sugar. Unaware of what it meant to be healthy at that time, I didn’t see anything wrong with it, nor did I know how good I could feel on a more natural diet. That was until I went to the dentist. Laying there on his dentist’s chair, shoes squeaking against the plastic, mouth open, he looked at me and said “if you don’t stop drinking carbonated drinks you’ll need fillings… And you’ll get diabetes”. Wow. I’d always liked my dentist, but now I love him. His candid remakes were the kick up the arse I needed to be healthier.

This happened around the Christian holiday lent. I decided to participate in lent for the first time. My challenge, to give up the consumption of all sugary drinks; both natural and refined sugar. I have since gone on to do more lent like challenges, throughout the last 10 years. These 30 day challenges have made me healthier, happier and a more interesting person – if I don’t say so myself.

The first time I gave up sugary drinks, was unbelievably tough. My unhealthy consumption of refined sugar had spanned across 3 decades. Over the 40 days (and nights) I only consumed water, milk and straight alcohol. At first it was mentally tough, cravings came fast and often. However, slowly over time it became a little easier, eventually I could taste the difference between mineral water brands (let me know in the comments below if you think I’m lying or not).

Because I don’t want you to struggle like I did, here are my top tips for removing sugar from your life for 30 days.

Success tips (in no particular order)

1. Read the Happy Sugar Habits blog

Someone told me it was very good. Joking. Laura knows her stuff. She has written a lot of fabulous articles to inspire and educate. Great for empowering yourself before the challenge and motivating yourself during, especially if you’re having a down day.

2. Remove everything sweet from your house

This was one of the biggest mistakes I made during my first no-sugar challenge. I’ll never forget the pain I felt on day 2, opening up my fridge to see a big bottle of Coke. Reaching for it. Only to realise it was a no go zone. I paused for about 10 seconds, mentally battling that little mischievous voice in my head saying “Who cares just drink it”. You’ll be happy to know I didn’t grab it. Instead I had a nice refreshing water. Learn from my foolishness. You may have world class will power and discipline, but don’t test it during this challenge. Remove all sugary drinks and/or food from your house, work environment etc. Set yourself up to win!

3. Fill your fridge with exciting healthy alternatives

So this may be challenging if you’re giving up sugary drinks. If that is the case, use the money you would have spent on carbonated drinks and fruit juices to buy some mineral water. Go wild, buy some sparkling water. Buy some premium milk. Treat yourself to some Cravendale – you crazy cat (pun intended). Do what you need to keep things exciting. It’s when you hit boredom that your cravings will be the loudest.

If you are quitting the foods rammed with refined sugar, use this 30 days to buy healthier foods that have always intrigued you but you never got round to trying. Fill your shopping trolley with the healthy foods you already love.

4. Visualise yourself succeeding

Seeing the outcome you want it very important. Visualising your outcome i.e. more energetic, happier, will give you a reason to put up with the challenge and see it through. I once heard that the mind can’t tell the difference between a vision and reality. Your brain doesn’t distinguish between what you are seeing in your mind or through your eyes. So think about the outcome, see it in your mind’s eye. Write it down if that helps, keep it to hand. Even if you never call on your vision during the challenge, the fact that you consciously thought about it before you started your brain may be being driven by it, even unconsciously.

5. Reward yourself

This challenge will test your discipline (as well as build it) so make sure you reward yourself each week with something that excites you. That may be a hot bubble path, a trip to the cinema or simply sitting in front of the TV watching your favourite show.

Before you start the challenge decide an extra special treat you will give yourself upon completion. Firstly, because you deserve it. Secondly, because when times get tough, the thought of your reward will push you through.

The results. Upon completion of my 30 day challenge without consuming sugary drinks again, I went from drinking those dubious liquids once a day to once a week. Since my initial challenge I have quit sugary drinks 3 times and sugary foods once. Each time awakening me to their damaging effects, and encouraging me to seek better knowledge around food. I’m somewhat of a health freak now, but I still enjoy a Coke from time to time, as a luxury not a staple.

I have more energy, better skin and hopefully have increased my life span.

The 30 day challenge can be applied to anything in your life whether that’s removing a bad habit or implementing a new skill, give it a go. I dare you! Leave a comment below on what you feel inspired to do.

To your success,
Stuart

About Stuart
Stuart is author of the book ‘Challenge Yourself, I Dare You: A Better You In 30 Days’. Stuart’s focus is on empowering good people to realise the majesty that lies within them. You can find out more about Stuart here.

Total peaches seeds

3 things you probably don’t know about Greek yoghurt (& WIN a month’s supply!)

Yoghurt is a weekly staple in my diet. I put it in smoothies , have it with sugar-free granola and/or fruit; and sometimes simply eat it as a dessert with a few cacao nibs sprinkled over. Yum!

Total yoghurt strawberries

My lifelong love of yoghurt

In my former sugary years I used to eat a ‘Muller Light’ or low fat fruity yoghurt pretty much every day, sometimes 2-3 a day. I did this for years. A fruity yoghurt was often my ‘healthy’ post meal sweet fix – anyone with me on this? At University I would chose the cheapest and – shame-shock-horror – I used to buy those Sainsbury’s basics low fat fruity yoghurts. Yes I did, sins confessed!

When I moved to London I would buy Muller Lights, Shapers, Activia brands or whatever was on special offer. I am still in awe of the entire supermarket aisle that is awash with colourful wide variety of sugar laden yoghurts.

Fair to say, in the last two years of lower sugar living I really haven’t touched fruity sugar-filled yoghurts. Of all the sugary things out there, I really don’t miss these. A mouthful of one every now and then confirms this to me – they are way too sweet and sickly for me now, they taste a bit artificial and I would rather drizzle some brown rice syrup or good quality honey on some plain natural yoghurt to get something a bit sweeter when I do fancy it.

A few weeks ago I went for lunch with the lovely Alison White from Total Greek (also known as FAGE) and my very inspirational friend Philippa Moore (who used to write the popular Skinny Latte Strikes Back blog).

Ali salad lunch

As yoghurt low sugar discussions unravelled, I found out some interesting facts, which led me to dig a bit deeper on the yoghurt front.

Here are some handy Greek yoghurt facts you may not know that will help you make informed decisions without getting lured or misled by marketing or packaging.

  1. A thick yoghurt has either got there in two ways 1) it was either strained a few times to remove the whey or 2) it has had milk protein powder, starch or other additives added to it to get there. The easiest way really to determine this is to look at the ingredients list.
  2. In the UK there is a difference between ‘Greek yoghurt’ and ‘Greek Style Yoghurt’. Greek yoghurt now has to be authentically made in Greece. Greek style is just made to seem like it and can be thickened by either one of the two processes above.
  3. In America, anything can be called ‘Greek’ – basically this whole Greek style thing in the UK is the result of a big court case between Total and Chobani. Total (or FAGE) yoghurt is at present the leading authentic Greek yoghurt brand on the market.

Now this post isn’t sponsored by Total, I’m simply writing it because I think it’s helpful to know as buying yoghurts can often be confusing and I know I get a lot of questions about it.

I do personally think Total Greek are one brand with a very good quality product for lower sugar living. They have some superb healthy (& many sugar-free) yoghurt infused recipes on their website too – this Herb Crusted Rack of Lamb with Baba Ganouche & Roasted Sweet Potato being one of my favourites. They are even bringing out their own cookbook which looks amazing.

You can also watch a video I’ve done on the difference between Greek vs Natural yoghurt.

What’s worth remembering is that when it comes to managing hunger, Greek yoghurt has a higher protein count – 10g per 100g compared to 5-6g in natural yoghurt – thus it will keep you fuller for longer. Also remember that about 4-7g of the sugars listed in yoghurt can be the natural lactose sugar, which is ok on a lower sugar diet. Always check for added sugar in the ingredients list though.

Total peaches seeds

WIN a month’s supply of Total Greek yoghurt

total greekNow this is exciting. FAGE have kindly donated a fantastic prize of a month’s worth of Total Greek yoghurt for one lucky reader. Think of all the Tzatziki you could be making!

To enter, simply comment below on one (or all of the following questions):

  1. Do you prefer Greek or natural yoghurt?
  2. Which brands to buy and what do you use it for? i.e. how do you like to eat it?
  3. What do you find confusing when buying yoghurt?

Then click one of the buttons on the left of the page to share this article on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest or Google Plus. You can get a bonus entry for tweeting the following:

3 things you need to know about Greek yoghurt & WIN months supply with Happy Sugar Habits @TotalGreek @lauraj_thomas http://ow.ly/AYlGt

Competition will close on the 19th September 2014 and the winner will be notified via the comment you leave below.

Teeth

Sugar and your teeth: Expert tips to stop the decay!

I write quite often about the various negatives of consuming too much sugar. The control it can have over you, the dangerous role it can have in dealing with your feelings and of course all the physical dangers that are associated with overconsumption (metabolic diseases, poor sleep, bad skin etc.).

One area I’ve not highlighted as much is the damage to your teeth; which is strange because trust me, I have suffered when it comes to my teeth thanks to my former love of all things sweet. It seems this is the one way sugar can continue to haunt you even after you’ve largely stopped eating it.

Dentist pain

Last time I was at the dentist I told her about my blog and business Happy Sugar Habits. I told her I help people eat less sugar and change their lifelong habits; and that I hardly eat ANY SUGAR now in comparison to what I used to. I was going for angel status. This was all in the desperate hope that somehow good karma was going to make her tell me I didn’t need anymore fillings (which didn’t work because I did – it turned out an old one needed replacing, damn).

Thanks to sugar, I have fillings, lots of them. I’ve had a root canal (I actually had to come home from travelling at 19 to have that one done) and now I’ve got one tooth that still needs something big and ugly doing to it this autumn (which I’m dreading).

I’ve wept in dentists chairs, spent a small fortune, been numb from injections countless times and am likely to be ever anxious when I have to have routine check ups. Yet for years I kept eating too much stick to the teeth style sugar, prioritising low fat and low calories over everything else. Why, I ask my younger self, WHY?!

This week, I’m pleased to introduce James Goolnik, one of the UK’s leading dental experts who has kindly written some hints and tips around sugar to help you minimise the damage and avoid unnecessary dentist drama. I hope it helps you avoid future costs and pain!

James Goolnik

What sugar does to your teeth (by James Goolnik)

What did you last put into your mouth? Not many of us stop and think of the possible effects foods and drinks have on our teeth. The enamel of your teeth is the hardest substance in your body but it can easily be worn away by drinks and foods. You only get one set of adult teeth and with some common sense, you can ensure they last your lifetime.

Everyone has bacteria in the mouth and some of these live off the sugary foods you give them, producing acid as a by product. It’s this acid that burns tiny holes in your teeth leading to cavities (tooth decay). It takes a healthy mouth about 30 minutes to neutralise this acid and during this time they’re having a party in your mouth. These bacteria love to be fed regularly, so if you sip a sugary drink or snack on sweets, the saliva in your mouth does not get a chance to neutralise this acid. It’s effectively the same thing as dipping your teeth in acid; they slowly dissolve.

With sugary or acidic snacks and drinks, it’s the frequency that’s the most important – strangely eating more over a short period is much better for your teeth than regular grazing or drinking. This isn’t an excuse to eat more, but it’s something to consider.

Acidic drinks are also a problem. The acid in these does not even need the bacteria and can cause direct ‘erosion’ of your teeth. Any carbonated drinks are a problem, even fizzy water. They can lead to your teeth getting transparent and becoming sensitive. To minimise the damage, drink them through a straw or have them with food.

How can I prevent tooth decay from sugar?

You need to become more aware of when and where you’re eating sugar, making an effort to reduce the amount and frequency you consume it (Laura’s Mentor Me Off Sugar programme is of course a way to do this!). Eating food and drink high in carbohydrates, particularly snacking between meals, will increase your risk of tooth decay. If you eat or drink something containing sugar, you can neutralise this acid by:

  • Having some sugar-free chewing gum
  • Using a fluoride mouthwash
  • Having a rinse out with water
  • Finishing on a savoury snack to neutralise the acid

If you want to brush your teeth, wait at least 30 minutes so you are not brushing in this acid.

About James

James is the principal dentist at the award winning Bow Lane Dental Group in London. You can download a FREE copy of the oral survival guide to make sure your teeth last a lifetime here. James recommends you see your dentist for an oral health assessment and work with them to help minimise the damage sugar can do.

A final note from me…

Reading James’s article, I recognise something that I used to do that probably didn’t help me. I used to eat a small portion of something sweet then I’d be ‘good’ and stop. However I wanted more and so 30 mins later I’d go back for a little bit more (that’s what sugar does doesn’t it!?). Maybe 2 hours later and I’d just have another few raisins or one more of those chocolates. This is the constant mental battle I often refer to around sugar, but as highlighted it’s also a killer in terms of sugar attacks on your teeth. Can anyone relate to this? Do you pop back for just a bit more? Do you swear everytime you go to the dentist that you’re going to eat less sugar?! Comment below and we can share war stories!

algemeen

4 essential tips for Happy Sugar Habits holidays

With summer holidays now upon us, you might have a sunny break or little trip booked somewhere over the next few months.

Whilst looking forward to your holiday, you may also be somewhat anxious about potentially derailing your low sugar advancements in terms of changing your habits and taste preference to sweet food.

Although the ‘holiday’ can be a sugar social hurdle of sorts, it doesn’t need to be too bad. I thought I’d pitch up some helpful tips that are easy, practical and bring perspective and peace so you can enjoy your holiday to the max.

I write this post because I am in fact on holiday this week (sunning myself as you read!). I’m writing this a few days before I head off to Skiathos with my family (8 of us… siblings, partners and all). I will just mention here that Greek cuisine is one of the bests when it comes to delicious sugar-friendly eating – feta cheese, greek salad, olive oil and of course, some full fat creamy greek yoghurt. Last year I went to Mykonos and I wrote about my attempt a low sugar hen do.

Anyway, here are some sugar-friendly tips to help you this summer holiday:

1. Ask yourself where you’re at?

Changing your relationship with sugar is a ‘journey’. Now, it has come to my attention that this word is horrendously overused at the moment, but you know what I mean. If you’re in a period of actively changing your tastebuds to get control over cravings, you potentially do need to be a little more careful or restrictive on this one holiday, with a view to gaining that control and freedom with sugar you desire. Thus making future holidays more enjoyable and relaxed.

If you’re a bit further along and feeling comfortable, maybe you can test the water a little.

I feel lucky now that I am very very comfortable with sugar and totally call the shots. I know a bit of ice cream isn’t going to take me back down that craving road, but this is evident because I’m not as bothered about having it anymore in the first place. If I really fancy something, I’ll probably have it, but I will forever be a little mindful of sugar. If you’re still in a sensitive zone where loss of craving control might happen, you do need to be more considered with your choices.

Take stock of where you’re at, your long term goals and priorities. Ok you may have to eat lower sugar this holiday but if that means you’re more controlled and indifferent to sugary food on future holidays, surely it’s worth it?

2. Swap ice creams & fizzy drinks for fruity things where possible

If ice cream is a big deal on your holidays which it can be for many, can you look to swap for a cool banana shake instead, thus opting for a more natural sugar source. Likewise I know in Bali I used to have these fresh watermelon shakes instead of an ice cream. Fresh fruit as a snack or as a pudding. Basically on holiday, especially in hot countries, can you swap refined sugary drinks or snacks for more natural ones at any point?

3. Embrace the continental breakfast

We live in this traditional sweet fruity-granola-muesli based breakfast culture. Use a holiday and (& potentially the hot climate) to embrace savoury continental breakfasts. Hams, cheese, tomato, cucumber and even salad leaves could all be a viable option. In Spain I know you can get this amazing tomato olive oil puree to go on your toast which is a perfect alternative to jam. You could even drink Gazpacho (a vegetable based tomato soup) for breakfast – my mum actually does this! Hunt out those savoury options and push your experimental boundaries. You can have real fun with it, experiencing the culture at the same time.

4. Indulge in fructose free food

You can still indulge and enjoy local food but maybe choose to ‘indulge’ in savoury items instead of the sweet, with the goal in mind that you’re still getting control over sugar. White refined carbs aren’t healthy no, but they aren’t that massive fructose hit like a full on dessert is. If treating yourself to some Italian pizza and then skipping on dessert works, you’re kind of still winning on increasing your sensitivity to fructose without feeling too deprived.

In summary…

I know these tips are a bit random, but they’re kind of practical and they work when it comes to this whole sugar thing.

What I do want you to do is have an amazing holiday. If there’s anything to ‘over-indulge on’  then instead of sugar make it the connection with your loved ones, the quality time you spend on you and a serious amount of fun.

With much love from Skiathos!!

P.S Make sure you follow me on Instagram if you want to see a few sugar-friendly foodie holiday snaps.

What do you think of being ‘healthy’ on holiday? What challenges have you got this summer and will you be eating ice cream? I would LOVE to know so please share and I’ll reply as soon as I’m back :)

xx

Hotel dinner

The 5 sugar-friendly hotel tips I live by

Eating at home and being in control of the ingredients in your food makes keeping an eye on sugar relatively easy when you get used to it. However, when you’re out staying in hotels things can get a little trickier. If you find yourself in a hotel for either work or for pleasure then here are my best tips to keep healthy habits in check with a suitable amount of perspective.

100’s of nights in hotels

I can write this post from sheer experience. I have stayed in A LOT of hotels over the past few years. As a management consultant for the best part of 4 years I found myself practically living in them at times. From the Holiday Inn to a Marriott to the old serviced apartments; I had loyalty cards falling out of my wallet, reception staff knew me by first name and I developed my own weird little routines to keep as healthy as possible.

In fact it was my time on a project in Aberdeen living in serviced apartments that was a pivotal part of my own sugar journey. This was the year in my life when I really started to cut back on sugar with the depressing reality that most of the food I liked (& loved) had sugar in it. Ah, the memories…

Living in hotels I have a few key tips to help you navigate healthy eating. It actually isn’t that hard if you stick to some basic principles:

1) Navigate the hotel breakfast buffet

The breakfast buffet is not your enemy, you just need to navigate it with precision. I went from a fruit, yoghurt, granola/muesli and toast girl to an eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes girl. The latter is now my default healthy breakfast and fruit/yoghurt is now my ‘treat’ one. It actually seems backwards to most people i.e. hitting the fry up section first but it’s the protein & vegetable rich part of the buffet that is going to really set you up for the day rather than drive cravings. Note: Hash browns and fried bread are still a pretty unhealthy no no. Likewise processed meats like bacon I keep to occasionally rather than standard.

buffet breakfast

This was a rather large delicious feast of a buffet breakfast!

2) Hide biscuits as soon as you enter the room

I don’t have to do this anymore because I know I don’t want them. However, when I was still craving this favourite food of mine intensely, I used to walk in my hotel room, grab them, and put them straight in the safe. Yes, I still knew they were in there, and occasionally I would break in and eat them anyway. However, for the majority of the time the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ really did work. Repeat it a few times and you develop the habit. Ever found biscuits in your safe? Yeah that was probably me!

3) Minimise hidden sugar but don’t stress

In terms of hidden sugar, it’s sauces, soups and dressings that will hide the most. A honey glazed chicken dish is pretty obvious so avoid obviously sweetened sauces to start. Order dressings and sauces on the side and then taste them to see how much you really want or if you want it at all. Request plainly cooked food then order extra butter to add flavour, taste and good fat to a dish. Quite often they get this wrong or forget. I know the other day there was a bit of sugary dressing on something, so accept that sometimes either you or the hotel will slip up. Learn from it rather than stress about it..

Hotel dinner

4) Try not to get caught out really hungry.

Healthy snacks are hard to come by in hotels so it’s important not to let yourself get so starving that you’re forced to eat biscuits and mini-bar chocolate to stop from fainting. If you can grab an extra apple or a small cheese portion from the breakfast buffet just in case then you’ve got something healthier to tide you over. Likewise at lunch, if you spot some nuts, grab an extra bag to keep in your hotel room. I know when you’ve had a very long day you can forget how hungry you are until those shortbread fingers are suddenly staring you in the face.

5) Cement a healthy routine to start

This is super important, especially if you’re a hotel regular like I was. Your ‘first’ everything sets the standard so get it the way you want it. Create your healthy ‘norms’ the first few times you’re in a new hotel or location. This means not ordering a dessert, resisting the biscuits or mini bar and eating savoury breakfasts as your standard. It sets this mental benchmark in your head and cements initial healthy habits that will feel effortless after a while. Whoah benchmark?! I’m still a consultant at heart aren’t I…

There are more random tips up my sleeve but I think these are the most worthy to focus on initially and this post could get very long. Now you can go live it up in a hotel and have some sugar-friendly tactics to boot!

Do you travel or work a lot in hotels? What do you do to keep sugar intake under control or just to keep healthy in general? Any other tips you’ve got?

Laura xx

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.

heart-1431222-m

Sugar friendly Valentines day tips

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.

Healthy christmas tips video.16.39

Christmas tips: 7 easy and fun ways to eat a little less sugar (video)

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!

Laura x

halloween pumpkins

8 alternative (sans sugar) ways to celebrate halloween

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.

halloween pumpkins

8 alternatives to sugar at Halloween

  1. 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
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Carve a pumpkin – Let your creative juices flow and instagram your efforts.
  5. 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.
  6. Pumpkin recipesPumpkin porridge, pumpkin pie. Roast pumpkin in your dinner, salad or soup. Pumpkin for breakfast? Experiment and have fun.
  7. Apple bobbing – Big kid like fun.
  8. 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?