How to go Sugar Free.

No sugar – the only rule?

I started my sugar free journey at the suggestion of a very inspirational school friend. The genesis of most of my “alternative” tendencies, Kirsty has inspired and encouraged me to make changes for the better in many areas of my life – from barefoot shoes to meditation, so when mid January she mentioned she was looking for friends to join her for Sugar Free February, I didn’t immediately say no. Neither did I immediately say yes. I had given up alcohol at New Year for a one year “hand that rocks the cradle” exercise, but really, self denial has never been one of my strengths. Hence the 17 stone weigh in when pregnant with my first born….only 6lb 8oz of it was him.

A group of her friends (some mutual – most not, but all kind, supportive and happy to try) gathered in a Facebook group to support each other for the month. It became apparent almost immediately that everyone had their own take on what going “Sugar Free” meant. Some (but not all) excluded alcohol, some used a variety of sugar substitutes, and some were more “hard core”, restricting all things sweet. One or two had been sugar free for longer, voices of reason and expertise – others (cough) were complete novices….having to really start from scratch. We all tried though…and we helped each other through the occasional lapses – quite often motivated by the desire not to hurt peoples feelings if goodies were offered, children’s baking that had to be sampled, visitors arriving with delicious treats.

At the grand old age of 51, I’ve learned a few things about myself and what motivates me and what scuppers my best laid plans. What works for me is complete abstinence – but I also know that doesn’t work for everyone. I have friends that say they want something EVEN more if they are denied it – and have better chance of success if they can ration the occasional treat. I, on the other hand, regularly seemed to have no “off” switch, a seeming inability to resist more sugar once I got the taste….so nothing sweet on the menu for me. I don’t use sugar substitutes, no honey, agave or maple syrup, no stevia or aspartame…and actually, once you have re-set your taste buds, anything that does have them added tastes ridiculously sweet…to me at least.

Fruit was slightly less straight forward – and actually was one of the things that led me to do more research and reading. (I’m sure I will post more on this) – but from the outset I decided that dried fruit should be eliminated as much as possible (the sugar is more concentrated) and while most whole fruit was allowed, one or two were removed completely (grapes – just “wee bags of sugar” and mangos) and some restricted – notably bananas.
(Dates & bananas are often used as sugar substitutes – and I did try and make a chocolate brownie recipe that used both….it wasn’t a great success….while it looked like a chocolate brownie…it tasted more like banana bread….probably thanks to the degree of ripeness of the banana….it would have run away if it had legs.)

So – for me – puddings were out. I took to carrying a packet of oatcakes in my handbag – so at least if we went out for something to eat – I could take the cheese & biscuit option and not have to questions the sugar content of the cracker choices! Other than desserts – the easiest way to go Sugar Free was to go back to basics and cook from scratch. No jars of sauces, no ready meals, no takeaways. We already did a fair bit of cooking from scratch – so it wasn’t as daunting as it may be for some. Takes a wee bit more planning….but there are great resources available – loads of recipes on-line and the slow cooker is a godsend if you are working full days. We do eat out occasionally – and I have made peace with the fact that, as long as I don’t get a dessert and I stay away from obviously sugar laden main courses (no sweet & sour for me), I may well be getting a small amount of sugar – but it will be minimal compared to a family bag of chocolate buttons…..

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