Time to get back on the wagon

Confession time – I have been eating sugar.

I’ve eaten ‘sugar free’ Rennie, biscuits, chocolate, cake, ice cream, jam, BBQ sauce…

As I recently announced, I’m pregnant. Feeling sick and tired and just eating plain foods all the time to ease the nausea made me quite grumpy, particularly one night as hubby tucked into an Easter egg, so I had a bit of dark chocolate. I thought it’d be ok but oh was that a slippery slope! I was soon back on cake, milk chocolate, biscuits… Particularly ice creams from about 10 weeks as I felt hot and wanted to eat ice cold things. Keen-eyed readers might have noticed that I ate gelato and cake on holiday.

Yes I could have been more organised. Yes I could have made things to prevent this from happening. But I wasn’t feeling up to any additional baking or time in the kitchen than was absolutely necessary. Kitchen smells and even the smell of our home sometimes made me feel sick! I went right off eating nut butters on their own on toast or in porridge (I’m not eating peanut butter anyway due to my brother-in-law’s allergy, and ironically that’s the one I really wanted to eat!) and just eating a piece of fruit on its own took a fair deal of effort.

Of course, all of this has in some ways been wonderful as I’ve tasted amazing chocolate and lovely cakes. But it has been to my own detriment. I’m bigger than I was when I was pregnant with our son at the same stage. Now this is probably partly because my tummy muscles have evaporated from being pregnant before, but I’m convinced that eating sugar has encouraged weight-gain, especially as I haven’t been running since soon after we found out I was pregnant.

So I’m trying to get back on the wagon. I can handle most kitchen smells again and I love eating fruit and veg again so I can prepare some healthier snacks. I’m finding it harder to turn down sugar this time around and I don’t think I’ll be completely sugar free but I’m at least trying to cut down. I’ve actually been trying to do this for the last two weeks but I realised that I hadn’t told anyone what I was doing, so it was easy to just say to myself, ‘oh, a little bit of cake…’ Yesterday I said to hubby that I’m back on the (almost) sugar-free wagon as of today, so I know he won’t offer me anything. Thankfully there’s lots of scrummy fruit like juicy nectarines about so I’m planning on enjoying those instead of sugary snacks.

Why ‘almost’? Several reasons really. I haven’t made any bread for a while so we’re having shop-bought wholemeal bread which inevitably will contain sugar. I’m loving mayonnaise at the moment, particularly in a cheese and tomato sandwich, and I can’t make my own – firstly, well I’ve never tried, but secondly, I’m not supposed to eat raw egg. I don’t want to do a blanket ban because I don’t think it’s realistic at the moment – I’m carrying healthy snacks but if I suddenly feel hungry or sick or faint and I’m without snacks, I’m not going to say ‘no’ to sugar if that’s what’s available.

But also because my birthday is coming up and hubby isn’t up for making me a sugar-free birthday cake, which is fair enough, and I’ll definitely be having a slice of whatever cake he makes for me!

4 months sugar free

Today marks 4 months since I went sugar free. It feels like much longer, not because I miss sugar but because I’m so used to living sugar free.

It sounds weird but I love being sugar free. I love the ‘freedom’ I now have – I can easily turn down cake and biscuits, and most people know I don’t eat them anyway so won’t bother offering them to me. I don’t have cravings or feel I ‘need’ to eat chocolate in the evening if I’m feeling low. I love all the new exciting recipes I can try out. I can eat whatever I want (obviously not sugar, though).

That may sound bizarre. In the olden days when I ate sugar, the idea of eating whatever I wanted would mean chocolate, cakes and doughnuts. But now I look forward to eating exciting snacks I’ve made like these really yummy cashew, coconut and chocolate crispy squares (we had run out of coconut so I chopped up some pecans and I put some cacao nibs in the mix instead of using chocolate).

I don’t count calories. I’m not afraid of carbs but I make sure my bread and pasta are wholemeal and rice is brown. I’m not afraid of fats either. I mostly stop eating when I’m full, unless it’s something delicious that I just want to eat more of. That’s partly because I’m eating lots more whole grains and veg which keeps you full. But also, because I’m eating a much more healthy diet than before, aside from the odd packet of crisps, a tiny bit more won’t make a huge difference to my waistline.

I’ve fallen in love with new food. I love almond butter and crunchy hazelnut butter. I am absolutely in love with porridge. I’ve gone back to cooking it on the hob with milk and I eat it with a banana or blueberries and a spoon of nut butter. No, it’s not new, but I will happily eat it every morning and when I’m going to sleep I even think, ‘ooh, porridge for breakfast tomorrow!’

Better still, the weight I lost when I initially stopped eating sugar has not returned. Admittedly I have been running a lot recently too but that means there will probably be an increase in weight as hopefully some fat will turn to muscle. I’m not actively trying to lose weight any more, just being healthy and trying to keep fit.

I don’t usually stick to diets or exercise plans for very long, but being sugar free has definitely stuck. The books say it’s because I’m no longer addicted to fructose, the bad part of sugar. And I guess once you’ve kicked a habit and found life without it is better, that’s that.

Even four months in I still sometimes forget to read the ingredients list though. For example, we often have eggs on Saturday morning which is especially nice after a longer run (I ran 5.5miles/8.9km on Saturday. Did I mention that?!), so thought it would be nice to have scrambled eggs and smoked salmon which we don’t have very often. After eating said smoked salmon I was reading the back of the packet and spotted sugar. We live and learn.

After yesterday’s post about dextrose I was massively encouraged to hear from two friends who are trying to go sugar free – one was even inspired to do it after reading my blog! It is incredible that I no longer feel like the only ‘normal’ person doing this and I am learning from ‘newbies’ to the no-sugar scene. One has recently bought Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar books and told me how she’s ordered rice malt syrup from Amazon, so I’ve been looking into getting some for myself as a maple syrup and honey substitute. Another has previously lent me one of Sarah Wilson’s recipe books. And another has said they’re trying xylitol and stevia as alternatives to sugar.

It’s a fascinating, if sometimes quite frustrating, world without sugar. Have you thought about giving it a go?

The discovery of dextrose

In a recent post I wrote that I’ve read several books about sugar. I’m becoming something of a geek about it and poor hubby is sick of hearing about it.

I have read Sweet Poison by David Gillespie twice now and made notes so that I could return it to the library. During my second reading, I realised I had overlooked the fact that maple syrup and honey both contain a lot fructose with no fibre and was happily continuing to eat them because they are both ‘natural’. Hmm. I’m currently working out what to do about that.

The other thing to keep an eye on is the sugar in breakfast cereal. I love porridge at the moment but our active toddler likes his ‘pops, puffs and wheels’ (rice pops, sugar-free puffed wheat and multigrain hoops) for breakfast. David Gillespie suggests choosing cereal which contains less than 10g sugar per 100g and more than 2.5g fibre per 100g. That really limits your breakfast choice because even the ‘healthy’ ones contain a surprising amount of sugar. I am changing our son’s breakfast bowl to a bowl of puffed wheat without sugar (some supermarkets sell their own brand) and corn flakes for. I’ve also switched our son from sugary kiddy yoghurts to full fat Greek yoghurt in a bowl with some berries on top!

I have been feeling guilty about buying and making sugary cakes and biscuits for hubby. He eats them regularly so it’s not really a ‘treat’ (although he would say it is). Our son is allowed a piece of cake or a chocolate on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and inevitably if we see family. That’s a treat because it’s less frequent. Hubby is happy for me to be sugar free but he still likes his cakes.

In Sweet Poison, David Gillespie notes that dextrose is pure glucose which means it is fine to eat, as fructose is the bad bit of sugar. A small victory for frozen chips! I therefore decided to try making cakes and biscuits with dextrose in them instead of table sugar. Hubby was looking for dextrose anyway to make a Giorgio Locatelli blood orange sorbet and ended up ordering some from Boots, where it has the advantage of containing added Vitamin C. We haven’t found it anywhere else yet, aside from those dextrose tablets you can buy for a rush of energy.

After a little look around I found some dextrose baking recipes and have linked to some below. I don’t think hubby will ever give cakes and biscuits up even after me harking on about how bad it is, but at least these will be a bit healthier.

Hot cross buns made with dextrose
Hot cross buns made with dextrose

Easter is just around the corner. Obviously no chocolate eggs for me this year, but I’d forgotten about yummy toasted and buttered hot cross buns. So when I saw this hot cross bun recipe using dextrose I decided I would definitely try baking them! Here they are, hot from the oven and freshly glazed on Saturday afternoon.

No, they’re not uniform in size. No, the crosses aren’t particularly obvious. But YES they taste AMAZING! I’d never made hot cross buns before. They were really easy to make though. I used half white and half wholemeal plain flour, added a handful of raisins and found the glaze was really sweet. It was just so nice to eat hot cross buns when I thought that would just be another thing I wouldn’t eat any more. I love them, as do the boys. Next time (yes, there will definitely be a next time) I might make 16 instead of 12 because some of them are whoppers. They have to be toasted under the grill rather than in the toaster because they’re so big.

Dextrose choc cake
Dextrose chocolate cake

Last week I made dextrose chocolate cake based on a recipe for dextrose cupcakes. I added some cocoa to the cake mixture and baked it in a bigger tin. It came out pretty flat as the tin was probably too big but hubby was happy to eat it! If I made a sandwich cake I don’t know what I’d put in the middle as obviously jam or buttercream icing would be out. I like that, at the end of the recipe, it says you can keep any leftover icing, spread on a baking sheet and chill. It’s almost like chocolate!

A few recipes I am yet to try:

Dextrose advice

Chocolate mousse

Eve Schaub – brownies recipe

David Gillespie – chocolate caramel sandwich biscuits 

The Sugar Breakup – various recipes

Sweet reading

A few weeks ago we cancelled our TV licence. I was a bit apprehensive when hubby suggested it but I have to say I am far more productive without it!

For a start, I’ve been reading more. I’ve made the most of our library by borrowing books on potty training, Menorca for an upcoming holiday, and three (yes, three!) books on sugar. But I’ve also started re-reading Disciplines of a Godly Woman by Barbara Hughes and dug out my copy of Running Made Easy by Susie Whalley & Lisa Jackson for a few tips.

Books on the go

As a child I loved reading and made the most of the little library in our town, but since leaving university I haven’t been registered at one. We registered our son at our local library to help encourage a love of reading so I also signed up. Cutting the TV licence has given me much more time, especially when our son is napping, so I am trying to get my brain in gear by reading.

It hadn’t really occurred to me to read books on sugar. I’m just doing the sugar free thing really, but actually it’s nice to have scientific evidence to back me up if people ask why I’m doing it and, often, how long for. If you read the research, you’ll probably stick to it long-term, too.

The first book about sugar that I read was The Sugar Solution by Sari Harrar (I was looking for The Blood Sugar Solution by Mark Hyman and got confused). I read it in a couple of days and it’s more about diabetes and adjusting diet and lifestyle than why sugar is bad for us. Some of the recipes include sugar!

The other two books were Sweet Poison by David Gillespie and Fat Chance: The bitter truth about sugar by Dr. Robert Lustig. I first heard about these two books on Eve Schaub’s blog which I read last year and so I was delighted when I found them on the shelf in our library. I have even bought my own copy of Fat Chance because I want to highlight it and devour it again.

Sweet Poison is written by a normal Australian guy trying to work out why he wasn’t losing weight. He found a whole load of research into the actual effects of sugar to our bodies and he lost 40kg by ditching sugar.

Fat Chance is written by a doctor who confirms everything the other books say! It’s the hardest one to read in many ways because there’s more biochemistry in it, but because I’d read the other two first I had gradually started to understand it all so by the time I got to this one, it had all started to make sense. Dr. Lustig is American so most of what he says refers to the American lifestyle but we’re not that different here in the UK.

There are already reviews and summaries of the books online, for example The Telegraph reviews Sweet Poison here and Fat Chance here, so I won’t bother going into all of the science here. For a more thorough understanding you really need to read the research and the books, but the gist of it is that fructose is a toxin. It is found naturally in fruit where it is accompanied by fibre, but table sugar (half glucose, half fructose and found in most processed food) and even fruit juice come without the fibre which makes it bad for us. The research shows how it leads to diabetes, obesity, heart disease, etc.

David Gillespie advocates ditching sugar altogether, whereas Dr. Lustig suggests limiting it. They both argue that we need to eat more fibre. Processed food lacks fibre and fibre is essential for our digestion. Dr. Lustig explains in his book why we need to eat more fibre, and how exercise can also help. It was so interesting to read why we need fibre and why exercise helps, rather than being told ‘eat whole grains’ or ‘exercise three times a week.’

So, all in all, I am a big fan of the local library again. I am now almost knowledgeable about the effects of sugar! I stopped eating sugar because setting boundaries like having one piece of cake a week didn’t work for me – once I’d tasted it, I wanted more of it. I don’t plan to return to eating sugar any time soon. I’m enjoying sugar free life! I’m no longer tempted by cake or chocolate and, of course, I now know the science behind why sugar is bad for us.

There’s a wealth of information available on a whole lot of topics in your local library. Make the most of it! I find it much more rewarding to read a book than read an article on the internet, however convenient that might be. Although I like to own a book if I like it so that I can go back to it.

Hubby’s Challenge!

Last week I started to feel rather guilty of being on a sugar free diet.

As I do pretty much all of the cooking, hubby likes to take over on special occasions, including Valentine’s Day. He makes breakfast and dinner, including a lovely chocolatey dessert. Which is why I had started feeling guilty.

How was he going to find something yummy for breakfast? Well it turned out not to be too difficult. He had two options ready: the full English (he even found some more expensive back bacon which was sugar free!) or coconut crepes. I had been unwell at the end of last week and thought the fatty bacon and sausages would be a bad move for my tummy, so I chose crepes. We didn’t have the raspberry sauce, we just sprinkled raspberries on top of the crepes. And since hubby found blood oranges from Etna in Sicily in Sainsbury’s last week, we had some of those too (he’s so excited about finding these – he’s going to make blood orange sorbet from Giorgio Locatelli’s Made in Sicily).

I didn’t think he would bother making a dessert because it would be a lot more effort than normal to find something that a) was sugar free, b) sounded nice enough for him to eat, too, and c) find all the ingredients for. So I made him one that was full to the brim with sugar – Hummingbird Bakery raspberry cheesecake brownie which I had seen over at lick + spoon. She had made it in a loaf tin which I thought would be perfect to make for hubby as otherwise he’d have to eat a lot of cake.

It was a bit of a challenge for little me, though. I don’t bother getting out the food processor unless it’s really really necessary, so there I was whipping everything by hand. That might explain why the cheesecake layer was a bit runny! I’ve also never baked a cheesecake before. It took longer than the recipe stated to cook so I put foil over the top to stop it burning. But hubby was very impressed. There are no photos as the cheesecake layer cracked and it doesn’t look appetising without the cream layer, which I only put on the piece hubby had on Valentine’s Day – it’ll take him a few days to eat so I didn’t want it to go off!

Anyway, I needn’t have worried. Hubby had planned to make Goan fish which he’s made before and is very nice, and then he searched for a sugar free dessert and found a panna cotta recipe. I don’t think I’d ever had panna cotta before, so it was quite exciting! Unfortunately, Saturday’s attempt didn’t set. It was something to do with him combining two recipes and the gelatine having different instructions to the recipes. We still ate, or drank, it.

Panna cotta

But he was not content with that. Yesterday he went out to buy more double cream so that he could have another go. And, although he felt it needed more flavour, it was a success!

It was a real show of love to me that he made such an effort to find something ‘sweet’ that didn’t contain sugar. Present-wise, we have a £5 budget for Valentine’s Day and anniversaries. It makes us more creative! Well, it should do. In the days leading up to Valentine’s Day there was a brief moment when we thought we’d bought each other Spy series 1… I had bought hubby Spy series 1 on DVD and Mug Cakes (a book of recipes for making cakes in mugs), and he bought me The Hobbit Part 1 and Sherlock series 1 on DVD. It’s pretty amazing how much you can get for £5.

Lent challenge

Do you give anything up, or take something up, for Lent?

Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, which is the day after Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day, and falls next Wednesday (18th February) this year. It is traditionally the 6-week Christian preparation period leading up to Easter.

All sorts of people give things up – chocolate, cake, biscuits, even facebook – or take things up – like doing this 40 acts challenge – for Lent. Some years I would give up chocolate. It was worth giving it up because at the end of Lent I’d have a mountain of Easter eggs to gorge on.

You could try giving up sugar for Lent

I’ve been thinking long and hard about giving you this challenge. I had a photo taken and everything in order to challenge my readers to give up sugar for Lent. I had a draft post listing the advantages of doing so. I had links to my favourite sugar free recipes.

And then I decided that actually, whilst it might be interesting and potentially life-changing to give up sugar, it would be even more interesting and potentially life-changing if you read about Jesus’ life and works leading up to the first Easter.

So, by all means give the no sugar thing a whirl, but my real challenge to you is to read one of the accounts of Jesus’ life this Lent and find out why Easter is so important to Christians. Maybe you have a Bible lying around at home, or one of those red Gideon New Testament & Psalms. Pick it up and have a read of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John’s account of Jesus’ life. Or read them all! You can read Mark’s gospel online here. Find out what Easter is really about. It might just change your life.

Davina goes sugar free

One year ago, Davina McCall was my friend. She got up with me in the mornings, laughed and grimaced at the exercises on her DVD, danced to the same music. Ok, she wasn’t actually my friend, she was on the TV screen.

After having our son, I bought Davina’s pregnancy and post-natal DVD to ease me back into exercise. Then a friend told me she had been using the Davina Fit DVD which would be a bit harder. I bought it and used it about four times a week for a few months. Then I got bored of it and started swimming. I’m one of those people who needs a bit of variation to keep me going, like not eating the same thing for breakfast every day.

So I found it interesting to randomly come across this article where Davina has gone sugar free and written a book, 5 Weeks to Sugar Free! As soon as I found out she had written a book I thought about buying it even though I’m nearly two months into sugar-free life. There’s a follow up in this article where Davina gives some tips and a few recipes to tempt the reader to buy her book. I tried out the granola recipe which was a good ‘un, and thought the bagels recipe sounded fun too, if I can find sugar-free bagels.

She also features in the ‘My cup of tea’ article in the January Waitrose Kitchen magazine where she mentions going sugar free. Oddly at the end of the article it advertises her new fitness DVD and not her book.

I am encouraged to see a celebrity in the UK publicly giving the no sugar thing a whirl and sharing their experience. Yes the book will bring in a few pennies for her, but hopefully she has really made the change and the recipes are realistic. Maybe some of the many who have bought her fitness DVDs will buy the book too and there’ll be a few more of us crazy no sugar people.

And maybe some of those people will be in Bromley! Earlier in the week I was in our local WHSmith and I saw this:

Davina’s coming to Bromley

Davina is coming to Bromley next Saturday. After seeing this poster I thought more seriously about buying the book so that I could get it signed, and before I mentioned to him that she was coming to Bromley, hubby said there is a promotion at work where he can get the book cheaper. This means I can’t actually get it signed (you have to buy it from WHSmith to get it signed), but I will have the book.

Whilst I’m sad that I won’t be able to meet Davina and get it signed, I am excited about reading the book and, of course, writing my first book review on here! People look at me like I’m crazy when they find out I’ve given up sugar. I hope there are lots of crazy people like me in Bromley who go to the signing and they all get on board the sugar free train (sorry, I spend a lot of time playing trains with our son).