Processed sugar is highly detrimental to our health, but it can be tricky to avoid seeing as it's included in almost every product we find at the supermarket from cereal and salad dressings to soup and tomato sauce.
So where do you start?
Here are my top practical steps to take right now to reduce processed sugar.
They will leave you feeling energised and vibrant not hungry or deprived, and as a bonus will save you tonnes of money!
1. Drink water rather than sweetened drinks (that includes fruit juice, fizzy drinks and sweetened hot beverages).
[I have put this as number one because it is so vital. If you don't do anything else, please do this for yourself and especially for the children in your life!]
2. Replace store bought cereals with your own natural muesli mixture. I recommend a combination of wholemeal oats*, quick oats, bran sticks (if you tolerate wheat well), LSA (ground linseed, sunflower and almond) and other raw nuts/seeds if desired. (The LSA, and other nuts and seeds give you protein and healthy fats which have a positive effect on blood sugars, as explained below.)
3. Replace muesli bars / biscuits / muffins with wholesome homemade baking, which can be sweetened naturally with dates, fruit, honey or pure maple syrup. (You can easily make a bulk batch once or twice a month and then freeze them. They can be put in everyone's lunch bags straight from the freezer and will de-frost in time for morning tea.)
4. Opt for natural Greek Yoghurt rather than sweetened yoghurts (which are often labelled 'low fat').
5. Use canned tomatoes with some fried onion and garlic and a few herbs to make your own pasta and pizza sauces.
6. Make your own condiments, such as nut butters, pesto, chilli sauce, tomato sauce, guacamole, salsa and hummus.
7. Mix up homemade salad dressing in a jar, or simply drizzle extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar or lemon juice, rather than using store bought dressings.
8. Pre-chop vege sticks (carrot, celery, cucumber, capsicum) to have on hand as snacks either on their own or dipped in guacamole, hummus, Greek yoghurt or ricotta cheese.
9. Opt for Greek yoghurt with berries rather than ice cream or other desserts.
10. Combine together protein and healthy fats with all of your meals and snacks to keep you feeling satisfied for longer. These work to reduce the speed at which sugar is dumped into your blood stream which leads to a high spike and then rapid descent which leaves you feeling tired, hungry and craving sugar.
Some examples include;
• Sliced cheese with sliced apple
• Nut butter on celery sticks
• Raw almonds, cashews or brazil nuts with fresh fruit
• Boiled egg with leftover cooked kumara
• Avocado on wholemeal crackers
• Homemade baking that includes nuts and seeds
Ultimately, we are a sum of our habits.
Many of these suggestions will sound familiar I'm sure.
The key is of course putting them into practise one step at a time.
I invite you to initiate healthy habits for yourself and your family by clearing your pantry, fridge and freezer of things that rob your life and vitality and re-stock your home with nutritious real food!
With a little dedicated time once or twice a month to prepare some homemade staples you really can avoid the majority of processed foods.
Imagine how much money you can save by cutting out all of the following from your shopping trolley;
Cereal, salad dressing, dips, sauces, muesli bars, chips, biscuits, cake, lollies, ice cream, desserts, juice, other sweetened beverages, and any other processed 'food like substances.'
You can then reinvest that spend on more fresh fruit and vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, quality meat, eggs and dairy.
*There seems to be some confusion as to whether rolled oats are gluten free or not. In actual fact oats are gluten free, but most oats that we buy have potentially had a small amount of wheat mixed in with them in the processing plant so they are not always completely gluten free. This won't generally be an issue unless you have coeliac disease. (i.e. if you a somewhat gluten intolerant the minimal amount included with oats will likely have no effect – I would recommend trying them out to see.) You may prefer a bircher muesli where the oats soak overnight to ease digestion. Alternatively you can source certified gluten free oats.
What tips do you have for easily cutting down on processed sugar?
Please share your ideas below.