The Highs and Lows of a Sugar Detox

 

 

A World Without Sugar

Imagine a world without sugar or sweeteners. Doesn’t sound like much fun does it. Yet we’d all suffer from significantly fewer health problems if we reduced our sugar intake. These days, the average Brit consumes 238 teaspoons of sugar a week without knowing it – that’s 34 a day! Just to put this into context, back in 1900, our great grandparents were eating just 3 tsp of sugar a day.  These days, the World Health Organisation recommends 6 tsp. (women) and 9 tsp. (men) of sugar a day.

Now, I’m no saint. I have a huge sweet tooth but what I’ve learnt recently is that eating too much sugar can lead to external and internal health issues and a number of other things including: Weight gain, skin problems, depression and poor mental health, premature ageing, dental problems, hyperactivity, poor sleep and feeling sluggish, poor concentration, type 2 diabetes and poor heart health.

We have ‘good’ bacteria in our gut which helps process our food and with bowel movements and too much sugar affects this balance too. Yep, and hidden sugars are everywhere: Pasta sauces, baked beans, fruit juice, condiments, soft drinks (even the ‘healthy’ ones), you name it.

Consuming both obvious and hidden sugars has become a habit for many of us. So where do you begin to change the pattern?

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Sugar-free banana muffins, if using wholewheat flour, would be fine to eat on the 30 Day Detox. Find out how to make them in my ‘recipe’ section of the blog.

30 Day Sugar Detox

Recently I took part in a 30-Day Sugar Detox. I didn’t just give up refined sugars either. As part of the detox, which I did with Nutritionist Catherine Jeans, I limited my intake to 1-2 portions of fruit a day (with zero fruit intake for the first 7 days). I also cut out white carbohydrates (for most of the time) and had only one portion of whole grains three times a day.

The detox didn’t exclude all naturally-occurring sugars such as those found in carbohydrates, milk and fruit but these were kept to a minimum. I even avoided sugars considered healthier than refined ones, including agave syrup, coconut sugar and maple syrup and foods sweetened with date syrup. I didn’t even eat anything containing artificial sweeteners! (There’s no sugar in these ‘diet’ options but you’re still likely to crave sweet things after enjoying the sweet taste from sugar-free alternatives.)

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My all-time favourite detox breakfast: Beetroot, kale, celery & pear juice with avocado on toast with sprouting beans and half a clove of grated garlic (great as long as you don’t have any meetings that day!)

The Highs

It wasn’t easy but what made it achievable was having meal plans, helpful hints and tips to support my routine. The first week was easier than I’d envisaged. I felt lighter and more energised too, but more about some of the other highs later.

The Lows

Despite what I read online, I didn’t get the headaches, nausea, cravings or mood swings during my first week. I did have a very slight head ache for a few days but nothing paracetamol didn’t fix. The other difficult part was the time it took to prepare and shop for the detox but it’s worth the effort – as a result, nearly two months later, many of these new habits and brands have stuck around.

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Montezumas dark chocolate melted down with warm almond milk made an awesome bedtime treat!

Top Tip

Make sure you stock your cupboard and fridge with as many sugar-free foods and hacks as possible and do a menu plan for the week ahead, including a list of things you can snack on. Stick this to your fridge!

Eat with your ears: Make your meal plan descriptions sound delectable. (I referred to my fridge list every time I was peckish or wanted something to look forward to – it meant I didn’t feel deprived and I knew what I could reach for.)

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Although, don’t eat too many beetroots during a sugar detox, like many root vegetables, they’re a sweet starchy vegetable with naturally-occurring sugars. Catherine’s Top Tip – avoid vegetables that grow below the ground during detox

Foods to avoid: alcohol, refined white grains, crisps, sweet treats and pastries, most breakfast cereals, very sweet fruit, dried fruit, very starchy veg, cordials and fizzy drinks, ready meals and processed foods, cereal bars and flapjacks.

Foods to eat in moderation: dark chocolate, cashews, fruit (2 portions a day), raw honey, beans and pulses, starchy grains and occasional alcohol (red wine, gin/vodka).

Foods to fill up on: Lean protein, low starchy vegetables, healthy fats, temperate fruit and oily fish.

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Eating out wasn’t too challenging – just don’t be afraid to ask a few questions! (restaurants are used to it these days)

Sample Menu Plan

Here’s an idea of the things you can eat on a sugar detox. If you eat meat and fish you’ll have more options than below:

Breakfasts:

Chocolate chia seed and vanilla puds (see previous post)

Super green and ginger breakfast smoothie

Avocado and sprouting beans on toasted brown sourdough

Scrambled eggs and kale

Asparagus and blue hens’ poached eggs (these eggs have a rich, bright orange yolk)

Yoghurt with fresh berries and chopped nuts

Mixed mushroom and thyme omelette, with roasted veg side salad

Lunches:

Courgetti pasta with homemade basil pesto and feta (or salmon)

Vegetarian crustless quiche with salad

Salad nicoise with soft boiled eggs and homemade vinegerette

Garlic portobello mushroom with kale

Dinners:

Homemade salmon (potato-less) fish cakes with spirilized stir-fry veg

Stir fry with tofu, brown udon noodles

Veggie cottage pie topped with cauliflower and celeriac

Veggie sausages, lots of greens a small dollop of sweet potato mash

Snacks:

Sugar-free cacao and avocado pie

Homemade harissa hummus and veg sticks

Oatcakes with cream cheese

Hard boiled egg

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Chocolate Chia Seed Puddings (recipe on my blog – see previous post)

The Curve Balls

I’ll cut to the chase – I did slip up a handful of times which is easily done, if like me, you fall unwell a couple of times during the detox (it’s hard to be healthy when you’re poorly!) and especially if you have weddings, parties or birthdays – it’s not always possible to take your own pack up. My biggest faux pas is pictured below – Churros, during this year’s Latitude – uh huh! (I was good as gold for the rest of the festival, promise).

Of course, it’s much easier to stick to the detox when you’re home or if you plan your meals fastidiously. When I wasn’t as prepared as I’d hoped, that’s when I became unstuck.

So go easy on yourself. It doesn’t matter if you trip up, get back up again and keep going. I did and I was glad I stuck to it.

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How I felt afterwards

I did feel much lighter and brighter. I actually felt fuller than I usually do because I was eating more protein. Yes, there were times I was hungry but actually knowing the foods I could eat, meant that I didn’t want to overeat. I lost some weight too which was a bonus!

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Chocolate and avocado pie. Crust has a small amounts of dates, otherwise sugar-free

Benefits of the Detox

• I realised that my mainly vegetarian diet doesn’t usually contain enough protein (and I’ve since found out I’m actually anaemic). So I’ve now started to incorporate more healthy proteins into my diet

• Doing the detox has changed my habits! Not all of them (I do still love white carbohydrates) but the positive impacts include:

o I’m having proper healthy breakfasts again and as a result snacking less or grabbing unhealthy foods before lunch

o Snacking less in the evening

o I’m eating around 40% more whole grains than I was

o I’m eating fewer carbohydrates than I was (I was eating a lot before!)

o Drinking around 70% less alcohol in the evenings

o I’ve reduced the amount of chocolate and vegan ice cream I eat (this was almost every night, now it’s twice a week)

o I’ve now keep slices of sugar-free tortes in my freezer (ooh, get me!)

o I’m not drinking as much caffeine and actually enjoy a good quality decaf coffee now and then (make sure you find a good quality bean form your favourite local independent coffee house)

It’s £69 to take part in Catherine Jeans’ online detox course. I’d really recommend going through a nutritionist like Catherine because you’re more likely to stick to it and you’ll fully understand the facts – you’ll be armed with a really informative presentation on sugar, a selection of meal plans and recipes to try and a host of tips and hints to help keep on track. For more about how you can take part in the 30 Day Detox.

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Post-detox: I’ve graduated to unrefined sugar nut-based vegan cheesecakes!

 

3 thoughts on “The Highs and Lows of a Sugar Detox

  1. Kim

    I actually am more conscious of my sugar intake now and really try to eat less but it’s impossible to restrict ALL sugar

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