This February I decided to take part in Sugar Free Feb for Cancer Research. I like to challenge myself regularly by changing my diet slightly to discover ways of keeping a healthy and balanced lifestyle, and learning more about food. So Sugar Free Feb seemed like a good choice, raising money for charity in the mean time.
What is Sugar Free February all about?
Sugar Free February is all about cutting down your sugar intake and enjoying benefits such as feeling great, improving your health, and proving that you have willpower. Cutting out such foods as; Fizzy drinks, hot drinks with syrups/sugar added, sugary cereals, chocolate and sweets (a tough one for me!), cakes, biscuits, condiments (sauces are sneaky offenders of being high in sugar!)
Replacing the above with things like; Water, herbal teas, hot drinks without added dairy and sugar (I drank a lot of black tea and really enjoy it!), sugar-free breakfasts such as eggs, wholegrain toast, porridge (watch out for added sugar in some snack pots!), fresh fruit, nuts, plain yoghurts etc.
Some foods are naturally high in sugar (such as fruit) but these foods are also a good source of fibre and vitamins. Other foods that have sugar added to them (like chocolate) do not provide the other nutrients. Look at the food labels when shopping! Sugar is often hidden in food including ready meals, reduced fat foods, dressings and sauces.
Sugar Free February takes all of the above into account so it’s really up to you if you just want to cut out the foods that have added sugar but no nutrients, as opposed to cutting out the foods high in natural sugar as well.. Whatever suits you!
Benefits of a low sugar/sugar-free diet
- Cutting down on refined and processed foods really does make you feel better, and look younger!
- Easier to build a strong body and maintain health
- Helps you deal with stress and prevents energy dips
- Can help you sleep properly and perform well the next day. If you don’t sleep well, you’re more likely to crave junk food and become overweight.
How to avoid refined sugar
- Check labels – watch out for foods that claim they are “sugar-free” as they contain artifical sweeteners which aren’t good for you either! “Low fat” foods also tend to contain lots of sugar.
- Avoid savoury foods that contain sugar such as ready made sauces, canned soup and condiments. It’s easy to make your own with fresh ingredients!
- Check the content of “healthy snacks” for example energy bars. These are actually high in sugar. Make your own instead?
- When you crave something sweet, try drinking some water or a herbel tea first. Often when you think you’re hungry for a snack, you’re actually dehydrated.
Some great recepies I made for Sugar Free Feb
Classic Fish Pie; I love fish pie, however until recently I bought them ready made. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make from scratch, and how fresh and healthy as well as comforting it was. Although this recipe is high in carbs, it is low in sugar. As long as you have an active lifestyle, the carbs will give you energy to burn off during exercise! Click here for the recipe.
Davina’s Chicken Stir Fry; A little different to my usual stiry fry, this recipe is super easy, really tasty and a great low calorie meal packed full of protein.
Ingredients (serves 3):
- 300g sprouting broccoli cut into lengths.
- 500g chicken breast strips
- 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
- 100ml chicken stock
- 2 tbsp soy sauce (low sugar option)
- Juice of 2 lemons
- Juice of 1 orange
- 2 garlic cloves, grated
- Brown rice to serve.
- Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wok. When it’s hot add the sprouting broccoli and cook, stirring constantly, until it is just al dente. Remove the broccoli from the wok and set aside.
- Make sure the wok is till very hot and add a little more oil if necessary. Add the chicken and chilli flakes and cook for about 3 – 5 minutes, until the chicken is coloured on all sides.
- Mix together the chicken stock, soy sauce, lemon and orange juice and garlic, then pour over the chicken. Return the broccoli to the wok and simmer for around 5 minutes, stirring until the sauce thickens slightly.
- Serve with brown rice and enjoy!
Pasta & Chickpeas; this dish is a fabulous source of fibre and tastes great. You can leave out the bacon and use a vegetarian cheese for a good veggie version too! Click here for the recipe.
The Body Coach’s Chicken Sausage Risotto; I had never tried chicken sausages before, and they are super tasty. They are also a lot healthier than your standard pork sausages, containing less ingredients, and a lot less sugar! Just look at the difference below! This was also the first risotto that I have made where it is baked in the oven, minimal effort, maximum taste!! Click here for the recipe.
How I benefited from Sugar Free February
I tend to cook a lot of meals from scratch regularly, however being conscious of checking the labels of what food I was buying, really helped me in discovering new healthy recipes. It’s actually really easy to use fresh foods, and make your own meals from scratch, even if you have a busy working week or home life! Cookbooks from The Body Coach, Davina and even local supermarkets really help me. So I have a bigger list of meals that I enjoy to make and eat now than before!
What I struggled most with was the cutting out of snacks like chocolate, being a massive chocoholic myself. But I did it! Ok it’s 2nd March and I’ve treat myself to quite a bit of chocolate today, but I am ready to cut down! I found the longer I went without sweet snacks, the less I craved them, and now that I can finally have them I don’t fancy them as much! I had alternative snacks such as peanut butter on rice cakes, fruit and nuts, or salted popcorn, and enjoyed these just a much.
I have lost a few pounds in weight over the month and got back into my fitness, feeling fresher and more awake! As well as that, I haven’t felt bloated, which is something I regularly felt and thought it was down to carbs like bread & potatoes, but actually cutting out sugar has stopped the bloating!
Going forward I aim to maintain a low sugar diet, only having treats once a week if I feel I need to, and cooking from scratch as much as I can! I raised £110 for Cancer Research, and will continue to challenge myself nd raise awareness and funds for various campaings where I can.
I hope you enjoyed reading this blog and I hope it inspires you to try new things and be more aware of the sugar content in your food!