Friday, May 22, 2015

Oh that sweet sugar!

Well, a few evenings ago, I thought I was at an AA meeting for sugar addicts. Seriously, my guests and I were introducing ourselves like this:

"Hi, I'm Sarah*, and I am so addicted to sugar. I can't stop eating the stuff."
"Hi, I'm Lynn*, and I like sweet things so much. I find it hard to have any self control when it comes to sweet things".
"Hi, I'm Carol*, and my kids eat way too much sugar. I'd love to know how to cut that down".

I was hosting a Sugar Workshop with Angela Humphrey who is the master-head behind The Sugar Trade blog. A couple of weeks ago, I told you how I was eating myself skinny, and how cutting out sugar had been a huge part of that. I think these days, there is a lot of talk about how sugar is bad for you and how you should stop eating the stuff, but no one is really talking about practical tips on how to do it. I thought Angela was a great person to introduce some ideas to friends interested in making a change.

But here I'd like to tell you about my journey and my family's journey. I'm a baker. I love baking, I love making people feel warm and welcomed with my baking, and it's hard to let one day go by without baking something. But, I have two young children and not much time to fluff around. So I had to find an achievable solution. I did! Hopefully you can see that this is not a hard thing and that baby steps in the right direction are totally ok!

We were sugar addicts:
We were all addicted to sugar. My kids were eating a lot of chocolate and all my home baking contained sugar. My husband was putting 2 to 3 tsp of sugar in his tea or coffee, I was putting 1. We were adding sugar to our natural yoghurt, cereals, other hot drinks, sauces, and the list goes on.

Something had to change!

I did a lot of reading and research and realized that the bad stuff that was making us addicted, sick and fat was the fructose part of sugar (which is made of fructose and glucose in equal parts). If you'd like to know more about how sugar is bad for you, head over this way to "21 reasons to eat less sugar". The glucose however, our body needs, uses and burns to give us energy!

Fructose was the meanie and fructose had to go!

Changes I made on the family level:
Two years ago, I ditched all my sugar and bought a 25kg bag of powdered glucose. You can easily find smaller quantities in supermarkets. Glucose was an easy swap because in all my recipes I simply put the same quantity of glucose as what is required of sugar. So 1 cup sugar = 1 cup glucose. EASY. Glucose is a little less sweet, which is a good thing too. A few weeks after this change, my hubby had lost 5kgs! I also use Rice malt syrup, honey and glucose syrup. You can read more on alternatives to sugar on Angela's blog post on sugar alternatives.

One big thing I'm aware of now is food labels. I check the grams of sugar, divide it by 4, and that tells me how many teaspoons of sugar are in one serving. This is very eye-opening, and a helpful guide when I'm shopping. I can make much more informed choices of what I put in my trolley.

That's it! So EASY! Two years on, my kids eat a lot less chocolate (like, a month down the track their Easter baskets were almost untouched) and lollies, my husband puts 2 tsp glucose in his hot drinks and finds cafe baking way too sweet. The 5 kgs he lost was just a silver lining for him, as he's a pretty fit guy anyway.

Changes I made on a personal level:
At the same time as ditching the sugar and switching to glucose, I wanted to lose 20 kgs. I wanted to go hard out, so I ditched sugar, and all its high GI and glucose alternatives. I basically went cold turkey from one day to the next.

I won't lie to you. I suffered from headaches, bad moods, tiredness, grumpiness and bad sugar cravings for about two weeks. But, after that, my energy levels were amazing, I felt amazing, and there was no looking back. I had no baking for about 5 months, while I rapidly lost weight. I knew, however, that this was not sustainable long term because as I've said before, I LOVE BAKING, and I love eating my baking. 

So I did more research and trialled different things, and this is what I now use for myself: whole fruit (not dried), erythritol and stevia. They work for me, and I'm happy to give you some advice on making the switch if you're interested.

Yes, we do make exceptions! When we go to parties, or to see friends, or to a cafe or restaurant, we have sugar. There's no way around it, really, if you want some dessert or baking. But I'm ok with that, because it's not all the time. To be honest with you, my latest sugar loaded exception was at Louis Sergeant Sweet Couture on Featherston St in Wellington. Oh my, oh my... 
(A small note of caution though: when I do make exceptions, I know that I will very likely feel ill for a few hours afterwards - usually nausea and headaches. This does not happen to the rest of the family who eat glucose).

"Mon Tiramisu", Louis Sergeant Sweet Couture

Now before I finish off on this topic, I really want to share with you a recent decadent, delicious and surprising addition to my sugar free sweet treats! The original recipe is on Angela's blog, but here I give you my variation to make it low GI (it's already sugar free):

Green Chocolate Bliss Balls



1 large avocado
1 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 cup powdered erythritol (I use my coffee grinder)
2 tbsp melted coconut oil
1 cup ground nuts (I use almonds)
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder


Mash the avocado. Stir in vanilla and coconut oil. 
Mix in all the other ingredients, stirring well as you go.
Scoop up approximately teaspoon size portions, and roll into balls.
Roll in coconut, cocoa powder, ground almonds, etc.



That's it. I guess the biggest change we made was in our heads. Once we knew the facts, we decided what was ok and what wasn't for our family, then we forged ahead. I'd love to hear where you're at on your sugar journey or if you have some questions.

Kia Kaha! Be Strong!

*All names in this post are fictional :-).