‘Cut down on the sugar’ is the latest media cry. Is this another fad or should we be paying attention? I took little notice until March last year when I signed up to do the Cancer Research ‘Sugar Free March’ challenge to support a friend who had been treated for breast cancer. I didn’t think I ate much sugar or that it made much difference if I did and was doing it to support other people. My goodness was I wrong!
It took over a week to break my sugar addiction. I was tired, grumpy (even angry) and I was miserable. I obsessed about Hot chocolate with cream and marshmallows and I whined. Awful as it was, I did stick at it and by day 4 I started to feel different. Others suffered extreme hunger and varying degrees of exhaustion. I was shocked that sugar could have such an effect on me when other than the odd bar of chocolate and occasional glass of wine I am careful about what I eat. My big learning point was all the other places that sugar was lurking that I hadn’t really thought about. If you regularly eat white bread, bagels, ready meals, low fat fruit yoghurts, granola then you may be having more than you thought!
Cutting out added sugar and processed food might sound drastic but the benefits are huge. You effectively reset your body and take back control. You say goodbye to hunger and cravings. You feel brighter, calmer and are generally nicer to be around. I have slept better and have clearer skin. We all lost weight and inches around the middle by changing what we ate without reducing the quantity at all. If we were hungry we ate, we were just careful what we had. Interestingly a year later we all have our own version of ‘sugar free’. I felt so passionately about the benefits that I launched my own plan and helped others to transform their health and energy too. For many changing their diet is vital to reduce the risk or to manage metabolic disease such as Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.
So today I am sharing 6 simple steps you can take to get started. It is easier than you think and you will be surprised at the difference you feel.
· Plan your week
Sit down on Friday night and work out what your commitments are for the next week and who needs to be where and when. Then plan what your breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner will be each day taking into account your schedule. Use this to write your shopping list and then order your shopping on line. You now have a plan and won’t find yourself standing in the supermarket wondering what to have and grabbing a sugar laden ready meal.
· Structure your plate
We load our plates with pasta, rice and potatoes and portions are growing. Your plate should be 50% vegetable or salad, 25% protein which could be lean meat, fish or pulses, 25% carbohydrate such as brown rice, pasta or potato.
· Cook from Scratch
Use passata or coconut milk as the base for sauces and add flavour with chilli, garlic and ginger. Dried herbs and spices are easy to use and cheaper than fresh. Shop bought sauces are sugar laden, full of preservatives and best avoided.
· Take the vegetable challenge
Your goal is to eat 20 different vegetables each week. This is a great way to boost your intake and get you to try new things.
· Prepare in advance
I do as much of my preparation on a Sunday to make it easier at mealtimes during the week. You can pre-roast vegetables, make soup, chilli, Bolognese and bake snacks. This helps you to stick to your plan and the week to run smoothly. I am enjoying cooking and trying new recipes.
· Eat good fats
Stop looking at the fat content on food labels and seeing fat as bad. Include oily fish such as salmon and mackerel as well as nuts and avocado. If you have dieted in the past this may be a tough one for you but stick with it. Eating these foods will fill you up!
Good luck and don’t forget to add your comments and let me know how you get on.