5 Steps To Cut Out Sugar And Why You’ll Be Happier for it!

Diet & Weight Loss

Following on from my previous article, I am now going to offer some advice on how to reduce your sugar intake…without being the bearer of bad news! You may be currently worried about your health, or have been influenced by the media or even your best friend, but there have been some logical points made as to why we should monitor and reduce our sugar intakes.

Here are simple and realistic ways to improve your diet and the quality of your life without relying on a ‘sugar crutch’.

 

5 Small Steps To Reduce Your Sugar Intake:

 

1. Analyse Your Cravings & Retrain Your Taste Buds
Photo By: Angela Jin Flickr

Photo By: Angela Jin Flickr

Analyse and reflect on your cravings before you reach for your next sugary fix.

As a previous ‘Condiment Queen’ myself, I had to reflect on my usage; I was quite a fussy eater as a child and they made foods more pleasant.

Adjust your sugar intake over time and your palate will adjust with you; as a child I loved triple chocolate everything, now I prefer savoury foods.

 

 

 

2. Find Fruit & Vegetable Substitutions
Photo By: Lucky Lebepe Flickr

Photo By: Lucky Lebepe Flickr

Eating fresh produce will help fight sugar cravings through its natural sweetness and high fibre contents.  High fibre= fuller for longer and no sugar crashes.

Try naturally sweet vegetables, e.g.  carrots, sweet potatoes, bell peppers, squash and sugar peas. Instead of jam try whole or pureed berries on porridge or multi-seeded toast. Add whole fruit to plain yoghurt. Eat a multigrain wrap with grapes and peanut butter or sliced apple with almond butter. Be inventive and substitute sugar in baking with, e.g. pureed sweet potato, squash, carrot, apple or ripe bananas instead.

Take it easy on the dried or tinned fruit in syrups, as these have higher sugar contents; eat whole fruits instead of fruit smoothies/ juices as they offer more fibre and less sugar.

 

 

 

3. Don’t Use Sweeteners?
Photo by: Gianna Ferretti Flickr

Photo by: Gianna Ferretti Flickr

‘Natural sweeteners’ like honey and other unrefined sugars (i.e. coconut sugar) are slightly higher in nutrients but it is still sugar. Sweeteners, depending on the variety, can be hundreds or thousands’ of times sweeter than actual sugar; both sweeteners and natural sugars and can still enable your sweet tooth.

Information regarding artificial sweeteners is inconsistent. The EFSA has deemed them safe but studies still explore their possible side-effects.

Some studies suggest using artificial sweeteners could leave you craving more sugar, making it harder to cut it out, lose weight and fight chronic disease. While others suggest they might cause cancer or type 2 diabetes …but the jury is still out!

Don’t fall into media promotion, e.g. ‘Coca Cola Life’; there’s nothing natural about drinking chemicals sweetened by plants!

 

Photo by: FoodBev Photos Flickr

Photo by: FoodBev Photos Flickr

 

 

 

4. Read Food Labels
Photo By: Health Gauge Flickr

Photo By: Health Gauge Flickr

Refer to my previous sugar article for the ‘56 names of sugar’ when you go shopping; check for high and hidden sugar contents.

Check foods and beverages, e.g. some herbal teas have sugar.

Refer to the FSA guidance regarding healthy dietary sugar intakes.

 

 

 

 

 

5. Eat Balanced Meals & Exercise
Photo By: Steffen Egly Flickr

Photo By: Steffen Egly Flickr

Eat lean protein, complex carbohydrates and vegetables. Protein doesn’t have any effect on your blood sugar levels, therefore you will not get a ‘sugar rush and crash’, unlike refined carbohydrates and sugars.

Regular exercise will make you feel healthier and reduce sugary cravings. As mentioned in my previous article Diet and exercise, exercising is beneficial for both your physical and mental health.

 

 

 

Why You’ll Be Happier Weaning Yourself Off The ‘Sugar Train’!

 

Physical Motives

Having a high sugar intake can be a prerequisite for unpleasant health conditions. Check out some possible consequences.

 

 

Mental Motives
  • To control your moods and concentration levels

To operate at your best, your blood sugar levels should not be too low or too high. Consuming regular and ‘healthy sugar sources’ will enable sustained concentration and moods; mental focus and activity use a lot of energy.

  • To Increase your energy levels

A healthy diet will allow you to enjoy ‘active’ activities, as your waistlines decrease and mental and physical power increases.

  • To gain back control

Any sort of change requires motivation and willpower. Take pride in the fact you’re making healthier choices and reaping the benefits of a healthier lifestyle!

 

 

I know that people generally like to hear good news about their bad habits, but I’m afraid that’s not going to happen today.

Hopefully I have empowered you to try to cut down or even eliminate sugar from your diet over the next week or month, it can’t hurt?

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: Libby Babet Yahoo!7 Flickr

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Is Sugar Souring Our Lives?

Diet & Weight Loss

Are you currently reading this article and eating a sneaky bit of chocolate at your desk? It must be that inescapable afternoon slump or perhaps it’s your annoying ‘sweet tooth’ wreaking havoc again? Let’s not dismiss the obvious- you might have an underlying ‘sugar addiction’.

 

This is not sugar discrimination, with me suggesting you empty the entire contents of your kitchen to rid yourself of sugar, nor am I not getting paid to promote fruit and vegetables (Farmers don’t have the budget!)

The biological fact is we all need sugar, just not the stuff in the little sachets. Every time you eat carbohydrates they’re broken down by your body into glucose molecules. Our body takes glucose from our bloodstream and moves it into our body’s cells for energy via the hormone insulin. Glucose is the number one fuel used to power our brain and our bodies. Unlike our liver, our brain neurons cannot store an energy source and requires a regular and healthy source of it from our diet. …But let’s be honest, cake and chocolate have never been healthy (although they might be regular). We have all probably consumed too much sugar at one point in time, causing our blood sugar levels to spike and then crash; leaving us tired and looking for our next ‘sugar fix’.

 

It can be hard to undo habitual behaviours though, especially ones learnt from a very young age; allowing your brain to see sugar as a reward stimulates this on-going ‘sugar wars’. You might say that you’re not addicted to sugar… but let’s look at and consider some possible signs.

Sugar Addiction: Signs & Symptoms:
  • Constantly craving sugary things, even when you’re not hungry?
  • A cycle of feeling low in mood/ tired and then perked up by a sugary snack?
  • Regular ‘binges’ on sweet things? Or do have a constant supply in your cupboards?
  • Do you regularly eat white breads, crackers, pasta, long grain rice, sugary cereals or cereal bars?
  • Maybe you have a specific health problem related to eating sugar, but you keep eating it anyways?
  • How many days can you go without sugar? Only a day? Be honest…
Photo by: Daireth Winehouse Flickr

Photo by: Daireth Winehouse Flickr

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then this could be wake-up call to the way you view or select your next meal, at least in regards to sugar.  If not, maybe the media can persuade you about the pitfalls of sugar.

 

Some current articles from this year that you might find worth reading include:

 

Additionally a U.S. programme ‘FED UP’ which started out as a film is gaining increased interest; it tackles the problems of the food industry and proactively gets people think about reducing their sugar intakes, highlighting the ‘56 names of sugar’ that lurk in our foods and drinks!

Photo courtesy of: the FED UP film & challenge

Photo courtesy of: the FED UP film & challenge

 

It’s obvious that the sugar industry isn’t making it easy for us, with ample ways of enabling our love affair with sugar. Not only is it widely and readily available, they insist on giving us ‘options’, yes options, ( i.e.) ten flavours or new and improved flavours of every product.

But let’s face it, sugar doesn’t improve our lives or give us a reason to live- it just makes us fat, tired, highly-strung and perhaps sour-faced from the spiralling reality that it can’t sustain our happiness long term!

So why do we do it? We all know the horrible cliché, ‘a moment on the lips and a lifetime on the hips’, but this topic resonates deeper for us than those tongue in cheek rationalisations of why we should be monitoring our sugar intake.

 

Sugar is sometimes compared to as a ‘drug’; it’s not surprising as a great deal of us share physical, emotional and mental dependencies on it.

Photo by: Sammy face :) Flickr

Photo by: Sammy face 🙂 Flickr

 

Could this be make or break? What are we going to do to make realistic changes to turn this situation around? I’ll be filling you in on’ 5 simple steps to cut sugar out of your Diet and why you’ll be happier for it’ in an upcoming article. So watch this space!

Please leave your thoughts in the comment box below if you have recently made positive dietary changes in fighting your sugar war or have any thoughts on this topic.

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: Denis Vrublevski on Flickr

Portion Sizes: Getting It Right For Our Waistlines!

Diet & Weight Loss

Food: our friend or foe? Yes, I’m sure quite a few of us would divulge that we have a love-hate relationship with food; it’s not a secret that we have seasonal, emotional or even social tendencies to over eat! Overeating, whether its biscuits, cheese, turkey, or quinoa, can all lead to increased weight gain. Rising waistlines and obesity levels can be indicative of our portion sizes and/or general diet; as studies in many western countries have highlighted (UK , America, Canada and Australia). Hands up if you have overheard or maybe even quoted yourself expressing this phrase “I can’t seem to lose weight, even while eating healthy foods- what’s going on?”  Well I think the answer to that question is ‘how well do we know our portion sizes’?

 

Portion sizes can be very hard to visualise and the ‘portion distortion’ effect makes it even more difficult, for example, studies have shown that the size of bowls or plates used can influence the quantity of food we consume.  Public interest has also focused on how food portion sizes have increased over the last few decades, such as an increase to packaging sizes of 30-50%; we have also become the kings and queens of ‘supersizing’ and ‘BOGOF’ deals, this is very evident within fast-food chains. These bigger portion sizes are resulting in the rise of obesity, type 2 diabetes and associated chronic diseases.

As well as companies increasing portion sizes they use widely different terms, e.g. portion size, serving size, recommended amount, snack size, fun size, sharing size etc, it’s no wonder we’re getting confused.  What is the difference?

  • A ‘portion’: is based on our daily recommended calorie intake (our DRVs).
  • A ‘serving’: until recently it could be whatever size companies wanted it to be, now thanks to pressure from health organizations and the government; it is linked to portion sizes, but can vary between companies and products and is usually hidden away on the back of the package.

 

Not only is this information hidden away, the way it’s presented will vary greatly and even if the portion sizes are communicated clearly, it can be unclear what they mean in real terms. For example, a 200g crisp packet states there is 85kcal in one 45g serving …so what does 45 grams look like?!

Photo by_Maryvery1 Flickr

The reality is that we’re not going to pack a kitchen scale or measuring cup into our purse and whisk them out at dinner party; social death anyone?

These tangible instruments are a great starting point and give us an increased aptitude to visualise quantities, but this can be easily forgotten; before we know it, we’re eating ‘our normal portions’ again and purchasing larger dress sizes. After all, it’s not necessarily what we eat, but the quantity (and frequency) of which we consume it.

Subjectively speaking, the quickest way to gauge portion size is from a healthy eating regime or perhaps how we feel after finishing a meal; we can quickly distinguish the difference between volumes of rice, or what a portion of cereal looks like. I think it’s fair to say that ‘dieting’ or not, we understand that devouring an entire family-sized bar of chocolate will carry long-term consequences to our health.

 

Support is at hand though. The BDA has The eatwell plate; a food plate that addresses the quantities of the five food groups.

Photo by: Lee Baker Flickr

Photo by: Lee Baker Flickr

 

The 5 A DAY scheme similarly highlights fruit and vegetable portion sizes.  Frustratingly, some companies like to extort our indolence and time constraints by pushing their expensive 5 A DAY pots of fruit & vegetables; don’t buy them, make your own!

These guidelines supplied by healthcare professionals are all great, but are difficult to apply to individual foods, e.g. eating one 80g portion of fruit cannot be applied when eating calorific chocolate, peanut butter or cheese- well we can dream!

 

Let’s start from scratch. Here are some strategies to correct our portion size mind-set.

 

Some Simple Ways To Express Portion Sizes:

Photo courtesy of: Topsy Tasty

 

Obviously this is not an exhaustive food list, but it will help get us started. Check out my additional information below on ways to help make portion sizes relative and manageable.

 

A Handy Solution!

Photo courtesy of: Topsy Tasty

 

Recommend Reading:

So it looks like we’re going to eat a lot less with our eyes and more with our hands- bon appétit!

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image by: a james Flickr

Diet And Exercise- Not Just Seasonal? Plus 8 Lifestyle Changes

Diet & Weight Loss

So you notice the changing leaves, cooler air, earlier sunsets, following by the torrential downpours on your journey into work? This all points to one thing here in the U.K… yes winter is coming but so are the dreaded changes to your diet and exercise regime. You know what I mean, keeping high-calorie carbohydrate cravings at bay, followed by the excuses that stop you from exercising now that its dark and cold outside…it’s inevitable, or is it?

 

It’s time to get real, be consistent with our health, in what we’re doing year round, not just season to season. There are too many reasons to diet and exercise sporadically… birthdays, anniversaries, weddings and I don’t know about you, but I dislike diets, especially as they don’t work and are a waste of energy! Wouldn’t it just be easier to maintain a healthy and ‘you-friendly’ shape all year? Yes, undoubtedly yes!

So how do we go about it? A personal trainer once told me that in order to achieve a beach body (or a celebrity’s body as I prefer to think of it) you would have to spend a year in the gym eating a ‘clean diet‘. Beach body- who has the time for that?! I’m way past keeping a diary of how many lunges and push-ups I’ve completed or the amount of couscous I’ve eaten; if this is you, I applaud it. It takes a strong drive to maintain this military-like regime and still keep you sanity intact!

For the non- G.I Jane’s out there, a more practical solution is needed. As a food lover and a nutritionist, I would never recommend anyone to follow a very low calorie diet (VLCD) or ‘fad diet’. Why put yourself through the misery? So it’s a new chapter, not a new diet; burn the diet books! By following the changes below you’ll develop a healthier lifestyle.

 

The 8 Lifestyle Changes You Should Make Year Round Include:
  • Mindfulness. Ask yourself if you are truly hungry? Maybe it’s just thirst? Think about what you are eating, the portion sizes and enjoy every mouthful; make time to enjoy meals with friends or family.
  • Sleep. Studies have shown getting less than 7 hours of beauty sleep a night can lead to weight gain.
  • Meal plan & eat in moderation. It’s possible to eat healthy meals on a budget all year; it just takes some planning and a little research. The My Supermarket app compares food prices and can reduce your bills. Your weight loss doesn’t occur on a daily basis, but over weeks & months, so avoid your daily, or weekly snacks or ‘treats’; your waistline will thank you!
  • Reducing alcohol. Remember, alcohol=calories, whether it’s champagne, a martini or whatever your drink of choice.
  • Experiment. Your old ‘diets’ or usual meals might have made you bored of food; seek a colourful dinner plate to make sure we eat as many nutrients as possible.

I encourage you try these healthy, alternative, stodgy winter recipes:

These versions slice the calories you would normally consume in their ‘standard’ recipes but do not fail to satisfy!

  • Eat to stabilise your blood sugar levels. Try legumes, yoghurt, wholemeal pastas and rice, porridge, nuts, seeds and whole fruits. Protein and fibre will help keep you going for longer and reduce your appetite, whilst cupcakes and doughnuts, courtesy of the ‘office feeder’ won’t.
  • Buy a measuring tape. Your weight can fluctuate daily, so ditch the scale; take measurements every 2-4 weeks to see your progress.
  • Exercise! Get your heart racing for 30 minutes, 3-5 times a week. Studies show that even exercising for three 10 minute intervals/bursts per day is beneficial for your overall health. Keep motivated by involving your friends and family! Just keep your goals SMART, as you want to be able to keep up this new regime.

Be kind to yourself and maybe have a crack at some of these new workouts:

Always get a health professional’s opinion if you are new to exercise. I don’t want anyone injuring themselves.

Making these changes will allow your body to adjust to a healthy, comfortable weight. Just keep it realistic, interesting and remember, its ‘lifestyle changes’ so keep it up as the seasons change!

Check future articles for more great ways to exercise throughout the winter!

 

Article written by: Lynn Risby BSc Nutritionist
Feature image: Running By: fatfeet_Flickr
Sources:
NHS Choices
Web MD
BDA Weight Wise
My SuperMarket.co.uk
Mayo Clinic
Department of Health (DOH)