November 29, 2011

8 sugar-free weeks (and still going!)

Hi friends!

As promised, here is a little recap of my sugar-free challenge (so far) - how it all started, how it went and how I am feeling now. These past eight weeks have really been just the beginning. I have no urge to go back to having sugar in my life, and as you're about to see I am doing quite well without it!

So, eight weeks a go I came across this book (Click here for the book). I bought it, and started reading it. As I was reading along, I realised how similar my situation was to that described by Sarah in her book. I didn't think I ate that much sugar, I hadn't been using refined sugars for a while, never ate any shop-bought cookies, cakes, sweets or other sugary treats. But I was eating a lot of fruit, a piece or two of dark (85%-99%) chocolate a few nights a week and I was baking with raw sugar, raw honey or maple syrup. Although this was probably still less than the average amount of sugar most people consume daily, I felt I could do better. I was eager to see how I would feel after eliminating all sugar out of my diet, including fruit.

A little background might help you to understand how easy it was for me to embark on this challenge. I am all or nothing kind of a girl and once I make a decision I tend to stick to it. I have also been told I can be (very) headstrong and I must admit this is probably true. On this occasion, however, I think it was actually helpful to have that determinative nature. After I read the book, I decided to quit sugar. There and then, and I didn't look back.

I felt the change already within the first two weeks of the challenge: I had more energy, I was full after a meal and I didn't crave sweet things to end a meal, I was less sluggish and less bloated and all in all felt much better. After the first two weeks I had got so used to my new eating habits that I didn't even think I was missing out on anything. I was eating a lot of fresh vegetables, drinking freshly made vegetable juices and herbal teas and supporting my daily energy intake with nuts and nut milk.

I had also started cutting down grains, but kept having quinoa a couple of times a week and also had a couple of lentil dishes here and there. Quinoa is a perfect protein for vegetarians and as it is more like a seed than a grain, it was an ideal inclusion in my diet. Cutting down grains whilst on sugar-free diet will certainly help, and will give you even a better result.

Towards the end of the challenge, I decided to cut off dairy as well. Now this may seem a little extreme to some people, but I can promise you it really made a huge difference. One week into dairy-freeness and my energy levels have gone through the roof. Perfect timing, as I will certainly need all the extra energy ahead of this week's move.  

Now what can I eat? Well, I have a glass of home-made almond milk in the morning (see below for the recipe) before my exercise. After my exercise I have a big brekkie that includes more protein, usually tofu or tempeh. I have a snack before lunch - Brazil nuts are my latest addiction, and I sip on fresh vegetable juice (celery, cucumber and ginger has been my recent favourite). There are endless vegetarian choices available for lunch, this cauliflower curry, black bean salad and these tartlets are just a few of my recent favourites. I tend to have a big breakfast and lunch and go lighter towards the evening. I often just have a salad for dinner and have another small snack of nuts or a glass of nut milk later in the evening. As for fats, I prefer to use virgin coconut oil for cooking, flaxseed oil in salads and in addition I eat 1/2 avocado and nuts daily.

Home-made almond milk is superbly easy to make:

1. Soak 1 cup (170g) of raw almonds (or you could use Brazil nuts) in plenty of water overnight. 

2. Drain the nuts, rinse and peel them, and add in a blender with 3 1/2 cups (750ml) of fresh water.

3. Blend until smooth, then strain the milk through a sieve lined with muslin to get rid of all the pulp. Store in an air-tight glass jar/bottle in the refrigerator for up to 3 days (it will probably last longer, but I am always careful).

As for tips how to get started on the sugar-free path, I have to say it much depends on each person's situation. For me, going cold turkey worked just fine and I had no withdrawals or cravings. I suggest you first analyse your daily sugar intake and then decide what method is best for you. I've listed a few sugar-free recipes below to get you started.

Needless to say I have nothing negative to say about this experiment, and although I am not saying I'll never eat fruit or use raw honey again, I have no urge to go back just yet. I am also interested to see how dairy-freeness will support this diet even further, and restricting these elements from my diet is certainly making me come up with more creative recipes.

I hope I've been able to inspire some of you at least to consider going sugar-free. You may think you can't do it, but trust me, it's not that difficult! Once you stop feeding your sweet cravings, your taste buds will adjust and you won't miss a thing!

Here are a few sweet recipes you could try for a soft landing to sugar-free life. 

Grain-free, sugar-free breakfast muffins

Sugar-free coconut granola

Sugar-free rhubarb macaroon slice

Activated, spiced nuts

Grain-free, sugar-free zucchini mini cakes

Grain-free, sugar-free sweet parsnip bread

I would love to hear your feedback! Have you gone sugar-free? How are you feeling?