November 17, 2017 4:52 pm Leave your thoughts
Are you trying to cut down on sugar? Or thinking of removing added sugar from your diet altogether? If so, then you’ll know that it’s really not easy. Luckily, at Naturally Good Food we’ve got some great ideas for simple sugar swaps – and some tips to make the sugar-free journey more enjoyable.
What’s the problem with sugar?
Sugar, in large quantities, is a serious problem. It contributes to excessive weight gain, increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes. It also causes tooth decay.
You’ll find naturally occurring sugar in most food, in the form of energy-giving carbohydrate. Quinoa, for instance, contains sugar. So do porridge oats and walnuts. But none of these are the issue, of course: the problem lies with added sugar. Sugar is added to all sorts of processed food, from the obvious (sweets, biscuits, cakes and fizzy drinks) to the much less evident (crisps, condiments, bread and savoury snacks).
NHS guidelines state that adults with a normal lifestyle should consume no more than 30g of added sugar a day (around 7 tsp). It’s thought that most people currently have difficulty achieving this. If you’re one of them, it’s time to think about some really easy sugar swaps!
Sugar swaps: the first stages
When you’re new to the sugar-free journey, you need to take it easy to start with. Sugar is acknowledged to be an addictive substance, and trying to cut it out of your diet all in one go can be unpleasant and difficult. So let’s start off by looking at sugar swaps that are so subtle you might not even notice them…
First of all, substitute unrefined sugar or syrup for refined white sugar. Naturally Good Food specialises in providing unrefined sugars and natural sugar alternatives – things such as date syrup, agave nectar, honeys, maple syrup, rice syrup and jaggery. These products are still sweet – and they are still ‘sugar’, but being unrefined, they contain a much higher proportion of beneficial minerals, and affect your body in different ways to refined sugar. Some are lower GI and provide less of a ‘sugar rush’. For others, the more natural taste gradually accustoms your body to a less intensely sugary intake. Along the same lines, you might like to substitute natural sweeteners, such as xylitol and stevia, for some sugar too.
Take a look at what you’re eating at the end of a meal or as a snack. Instead of a sweet, cake or biscuit, try some dried fruit. Dates are wonderfully sweet, as are figs, raisins and sultanas, but their sugars are entirely natural, and they bring a wealth of vitamins and minerals to your diet too.
Chocolate needs some consideration. It has all sorts of things in it that can be good for you, but also often contains a lot of sugar. Dark chocolate, thankfully, is much lower in sugar than milk chocolate.
At this early stage, it’s a good idea to get rid of the sugar surges caused by refined carbohydrates. Replace white bread flour, pasta and rice with complex, wholegrain carbohydrates, such as those found in our Wholefoods section.
One final easy swap is simply to remove fizzy and other high-sugar drinks from your diet. The best alternative, really, is simple water – but if you’re in the mood, a herbal tea is good too. Fresh fruit juice is high in sugar, so if you’re drinking one portion a day, make sure it’s with a meal, so that the sugar released during the juicing process is more easily absorbed.
Sugar swaps: moving on
As you move along your sugar-free journey, you can think about some more significant swaps, and also about cutting back a bit. One less spoonful of sugar in your hot drink, perhaps? A smaller afternoon snack?
Start at the start of the day – and as you mean to go on! It’s sometimes a surprise to people how many healthy-looking cereals are actually packed with added sugar (even when they’re not chocolatey). You could make your own muesli instead, relying on fruit for sweetness and giving interest with textures – different grains, seeds and nuts. Or, of course, there’s the Scottish way with porridge: not sweetened at all, but salted.
If you’re a pudding fan, get your apron on and keep your sugar intake under control by baking treats yourself. That way you know exactly how much sugar has gone into what you’ve made, and how big a portion you can realistically have.
Or, if you’re ready for it, cut out the cakes altogether: a square of cheese, a scraping of nut butter on a cracker, or a handful of nuts and seeds can all satisfy a sudden craving for something sweet.
Watch out around ‘savoury’ processed food. Shop-bought pasta sauces, and condiments like mayonnaise, ketchup and marinades often contain a lot of added sugar. Many of these can be easily made yourself at home.
Go one step further with bread. If you’ve followed our advice above, you’ll already be eating wholemeal bread. However, there can be as much as 3g added sugar per slice in shop-bought wholemeal bread, put in, as the manufacturers readily admit, to ‘mask the bitter taste’ of wholemeal flour. If you’d rather enjoy all the benefits without the sugar, then see our selection of flours here, to make your own (or find a really good bakery)!
Sugar swaps: some general tips
It’s vital to follow a sensible diet and important not to go hungry. If you do, the biscuit tin will seem ever more alluring! Eat meals rich in protein, and based on wholegrains, to keep yourself feeling full and to release energy slowly. Don’t be afraid of full-fat foods.
Drink plenty of water: it can be hard to distinguish sometimes between thirst and hunger.
When you get a sugar craving, try exercising instead of nibbling. This not only distracts you, but cheers you up, by oxygenating the body.
And finally, a quirky but effective tip: brush your teeth after the savoury part of a meal – it signals to your body that you’ve finished eating and stops you from reaching for something sweet.
Tags: added sugar, agave nectar, agave syrup, cinnamon, crackers, dark chocolate, date syrup, dates, dried fruit, figs, flour, grains, Herb Tea, Herbal Tea, honey, jaggery, low sugar, maple syrup, muesli, natural sugar alternatives, natural sugar substitutes, nut butter, nutmeg, Nuts, porridge oats, quinoa, raisins, refined sugar, rice syrup, Seeds, Stevia, sugar free, sugar swaps, sugar withdrawal, sultanas, syrup, unrefined sugar, walnuts, Wholefoods, wholegrains, xylitol
This post was written by Yzanne