Quitting refined sugar for lent? Read this first

Are you thinking about going all out on lent this year and giving sugar the kick?

Here are some key considerations and different options for quitting sugar for lent.

1. It’s a big commitment & will need time

Quitting refined sugar for lent is bigger than just giving up chocolate, quite bigger. Refined sugar is in a lot of things. You need to factor in time to learn where it’s lurking, check all your labels, find a lot of substitutes (depending on how much you’re eating it before) and clear out your cupboards.

Do this: Factor in time and effort. Give this challenge a decent chunk of your focus over the next few weeks because you’re likely to need it. If you’ve got loads else going on, consider just quitting one sugary food you eat a lot e.g. chocolate or biscuits.

2. The cravings may still be strong

Probably the most important point I’m going to make in this article – giving up refined sugar does not guarantee you’re cravings will completely go.

If you’re not careful you could easily overdo it with dried fruit, maple syrup, artificial sweeteners, brown rice syrup, fruit and anything else that comes under ‘natural’ sugars category.

There is still a lot of fructose you can eat which is what makes you crave sweetness.

If so, sugar cravings are likely to remain and you could find yourself constantly fighting them, ever tempted by all the sweet stuff surrounding you.

Do this: Eliminate refined sugar but be aware and moderate natural sugar, preferably opting for whole fresh fruit over everything else.

Try to avoid using one single substitution e.g. stevia on a daily basis to satisfy your sweet tooth and use more occasionally and strategically. Opt for savoury alternatives wherever you can.


3. Don’t let accidents throw you off track

Small traces of refined sugar sneak in all over the place.

Avoiding every morsel, especially if you eating out a lot, is going to be particularly tricky and probably a right headache at times.

I noticed my M&S yoghurt & mint dip had sugar in it a while back – a yoghurt and mint dip!!

Restaurants may have used sugar in marinades, dressings, and sauces that you might not imagine.

Even the wise low sugar pros (me included) gets caught out from time to time, so don’t expect to survive without a single grain passing your lips at some point.

Do this: Don’t chuck the towel in if you get caught out on a small amount of refined sugar that you didn’t realise. I’d say if it was accidental and relatively small, it doesn’t count. You’re just a bit wiser from next time.

4. Avoid going too extreme & understand your motivation

As mentioned above, obviously you want to avoid things where refined sugar has been added like sweet salad dressings, ‘glaze’ type sauces, sweet chilli marinades etc.

However, don’t get so caught up on tiny amounts that you lose perspective. Stressing to avoid 0.01g of refined sugar in something but then gorging half a dozen ‘natural’ stevia brownies afterwards kind of defeats the whole object of the challenge (assuming it’s health related as much as for lent).

If it is more for the personal challenge, then again just be aware that going too extreme to avoid refined sugar in its entirety could result in other unhealthy behaviours e.g. overeating on something else.

Do this: Be clear and honest with yourself. Are doing this more for the personal challenge or for the health/weight loss benefits?

If the latter is the case, don’t lose perspective by going too extreme to avoid refined sugar at every expense. If you are more in it for the sheer challenge, make sure you read Stuart Ralph’s guest post on quitting sugar as a ’30 day challenge’.

5. Find substitutions you really like

There are some great ideas and suggestions for low fructose snacking when you download my free ebook with 30 sugar-free snack ideas in it.

Even with all these ideas and suggestions, I always say to people to find things they really like.

Don’t force cottage cheese if it makes you want to gag or carry around almonds just because you feel like you should.

Embrace the savoury things you really love and low sugar substituting will become a lot easier when times get tough.


6. Consider a fuller detox experience

If you’re going to make the effort to shun refined sugar this lent, you may want to embrace doing a fuller sugar detox (seeing as your halfway there).

You’re going to be educating yourself heavily on sugar and your habits, so a programme would give you some structure and step by step guidance to do this.

Good luck!!

Hopefully these tips and considerations will really help you if you’re considering kicking sugar as a lent initiative.

Good luck however you decide to do it and let me know how you go!

I failed giving up biscuits for lent…twice!

If it doesn’t go as well as planned, rest assured giving up sugar when you have a serious sweet tooth or heavily engrained habits is no easy feat.

At University I tried giving up biscuits two years running when I was super hooked on sugar and failed miserably both times (I’ll never forget my ‘friend’ Stuart wafting a freshly baked gingerbread cookie in my face – thanks Stu!).

Now biscuits wouldn’t be too hard but back then they were my student fuel of choice and it felt like cutting off an arm giving them up!

What are you giving up for lent? Have you succeeded or failed previously with sugary challenges? Let me know in a comment below or any questions that you have about going refined sugar-free if this is what you’re doing.

Sugar-free February: A quick starter guide

Cancer Research have launched a Sugar-Free February campaign to encourage people to go sugar-free for the month and raise money for the charity.

I’m keen to support, encourage and help everyone taking part in this initiative, so here’s a quick fire guide of tips & resources to help you make a go of sugar-free February with maximum ease!

1. Use the accountability

Not only is the Cancer Research sugar-free February raising money for charity but it’s also doing its part to reduce the nation’s sugar intake and get some new habits in play.

This combination provides some powerful accountability for you if you’ve previously found yourself struggling to make notable lower sugar changes by yourself.

After just successfully completing dry January myself and telling as many people I possibly could, I’ve witnessed the power of social accountability first hand – it works!

I’ve also witnessed accountability working through my experience coaching others around sugar. In many cases they’d sign up with me they’d immediately stop eating sugar before our first session…and that’s after years and years of not being able to stop eating it.

Social pressure, being accountable to people, having peer support REALLY works.

Make your sugar-free goals public via the Cancer Research sugar-free month and there’s more at stake there to help you through the inevitable challenges (which are even more satisfying to come out the other smug side of!).

If you want even more tips and ideas to keep you on the straight and narrow, read Stick to it: Handy strategies for sugar-free accountability

2. Download & geek up on the knowledge to help you

You don’t want to be let down by accidentally eating something you thought was sugar-free but in fact isn’t right? Super annoying. 

There are heaps of resources on the internet to get you up to speed quickly to ensure a plain sailing sugar-free February.

The Cancer Research themselves have published a printable guide and a wall-chart

I’ve also got a free 4-part video starter course and purchasable ebook with my best 101 sugar-free and eating out strategies (essential if you have a very social month ahead!).

I’d also recommend the resources section with my recommended products and these very popular posts:

3. Make an adapted version of ‘sugar-free’ goals that works best for you

When someone says ‘sugar-free’, it can mean a couple of different things.

Do you mean refined sugar-free?

Or completely sweetness-free?

Or just chocolate-free?

Natural sugars?

Sweeteners & sugar substitutes?

The confusion begins!!

If going sugar-free feels like climbing mount everest (which it’s ok if it does!), why not make a more sensible goal that fits you, your lifestyle and your knowledge level now.

You can still piggyback on the motivation and inspiration of the sugar-free February month but in your own style and way. 

For example:

  • Free yourself of sweet drinks sugar-free feb?
  • A month of only sugar-free biscuits and cakes? (make them with alternatives instead)
  • Half the sugar in your favourite hot drink for the month?

Here are 10 sugar-friendly goals to inspire you.

It’s totally OK if you make this more suitable to you rather that being completely sugar-free.

4. Plan your month in advance

If February is rife with sugar-filled social occasions, think ahead and PLAN – new habits, new foods, new activities. 

Plan what you will have instead, what you might say and how you’re not going to make a big fuss.

Tell all your valentines admirers now that you would prefer declarations of love in a none sweet form! (I’ve told all mine.. ha ha). 

This video I recorded might be helpful: How to say no to sugar (without feeling bad).


There’s plenty there to get you started.

I hope you feel proud of  your efforts, raise some money for charity and find it a worthwhile challenge.

Are you planning on doing sugar-free Feb and what do you feel is going to be your biggest challenge in doing so? Comment below and I can try and help!


Sugarfree success story: Claudia Petrilli

Today I’m sharing someone else’s success story with sugar.

Claudia Petrilli lists out the exact steps and things she did to change her relationship with sweet.

Even if you’re familiar with what you need to do to change to lower sugar living, read each one and ask yourself if you’ve actually tried to action it.

This is a great overall summary of some of the most basic things you can do to make a difference in lower sugar life seeking.

Claudia Petrilli’s sugar-free story


I used to consider myself a former sugar junkie. There was a time when I had a “candy bucket” that I would re-fill weekly with every kind of sweets you could possibly imagine.

Each night, I’d sit on the couch after a long day of work and find something to snack on from my bucket. It brought me comfort and made me happy—at least while I was eating it.

During that time in my life, I was commuting almost three hours a day, didn’t feel fulfilled in my career and was in a new relationship.

Sleepless nights and dragging myself to work each day became the norm. I had no energy; acne; irregular menstrual cycles; and I was completely stressed out.

I didn’t know how to feel better about myself, so I turned to sugar for comfort.

Sound familiar? Do you find yourself reaching for sweets, cookies, ice cream or chocolate after a long, stressful day?

Little did I know that sugar was causing many of the issues and it was a vicious cycle.

I felt terrible, would binge on sugar, but had no idea sugar was the culprit. I started reading about the negative effects it has on your body, your mood, your sleep, and even your hormones.

I realised I needed to reduce my sugar intake in order to start feeling (and looking) better.

Here are the practical things I did to go sugar-free that might help you in your efforts:

I turned my candy bucket into a healthier snack bucket and stopped keeping sweet treats in the house.

Instead, I opted for snacks like nuts, unsweetened dried fruit, trail mix, popcorn, granola and good quality dark chocolate.

I stopped adding sweeteners to my morning coffee.

In order to avoid withdrawal symptoms, I gradually decreased the amount, until I no longer craved the sweetness.

I started drinking more water and added fresh lemon juice to it.

Many of my cravings stemmed from not drinking enough water. When I was craving something sweet, I would drink a tall glass of lemon water and that often satisfied my craving.

I swapped simple carbs for complex ones 

Things like pasta, crackers, and whole wheat bread were replaced by sweet potatoes, fruit, lentils and quinoa.


I increased my protein and healthy fat intake to make sure I felt more satiated at meals.

My go-to fats are olive oil, almond butter, avocados, olives and coconut oil. And my go-to proteins are wild-caught salmon or tuna, organic chicken and grass-fed beef.


I started eating healthy snacks throughout the day.

That way, I wasn’t starving at each meal and reaching for sugar or simple carbs, because I had already satisfied my hunger.

I incorporated self-care activities to deal with my daily stress.

Instead of comforting myself with sugar, I comforted myself with yoga, long walks, breathing exercises, epsom salt baths and journaling.

I created a nightly ritual to ensure I slept well.

Lack of sleep often leads to unhealthy cravings, so I made sure to get seven to nine hours of sleep per night. I started to power down an hour before bedtime, dim all the lights play soothing sounds and read a book or magazine.

I took a look at my life and career path and asked myself what I really wanted.

I used to think there was something wrong with me for hating my commute and not being fulfilled by my job. I stopped being ashamed to admit that I was unhappy and found a job closer to home. Being closer to home gave me more time to myself. But most importantly, it enabled me to further examine my career path and enroll in nutrition school. I’m now a health coach, showing others how to reduce sugar in their life.

So in summary…

Going sugar free has lots of benefits. By changing around sugar, my skin cleared up, I started sleeping better, my overall mood improved and I maintained a healthy weight. It gave me the confidence to not only wear clothes that fit, but also to change my career and ultimately, my life.



Claudia Petrilli is a holistic health coach who works with women on how to find food and exercise they love so they feel confident in themselves again. Get her free snack guide here and follow her on Facebook or Instagram for daily tips and inspiration.

Would you like to share any part of your low sugar story or what you did? Comment below and let us know!


An unconventional approach to emotional eating

Let’s face it.

We rarely eat sugar because we’re hungry for it.

Yes, a physical craving can occur and yes it might be the odd energy pick up.

But on the whole, sugar enters the picture as an emotional crux.

Usually due to one of the following:

  • Stress relief
  • Boredom
  • The need to be distracted
  • Frustration with feeling fat
  • Disappointment in yourself for not being something you want to be (strict with your diet, super productive, the perfect mum as prime examples)


Most quick guides or articles (with some of my own included) tell you the usual stuff:

  • Try to distract yourself with something that’s not food
  • Eat some carrots or nuts instead
  • Take a 10minute meditation break

All good advice which under certain circumstances can work.

So you set the intention to meditate and only eat carrots when stressed.

But you go about your daily activities, and you forget to do those things. Maybe you meditate once, eat a few nuts instead. Then go to the cupboard or canteen 20 mins later and find your hand grabbing the sweet fix of choice.

Oh failed again.

The dependence continues. The chocolate, cake, biscuits or sugar of choice continue to sabotage the spinning class and healthy salad.

food-eating-candy-chocolate (1)

You kind of forget about it for a few days whilst you’re busy and then it annoys you again – I really need to stop this emotional eating malarkey.

But you know these habits are deep, potentially lifelong. There could be a lot more to them than meets the eye.

What if I told you not all emotional eating is bad and thinking that way causes emotional eating to potentially get worse?

What if I told you emotional eating generic advice is fundamentally flawed and you need to get more intimate with yourself before you decide to follow any of it?

What if I didn’t make some internet hyped headline that promises to banish emotional eating forever and was totally real in helping you understand your behaviour in a kinder way that allows progressive change and development?

What if I shared honestly my own struggles and lessons that I’ve gained from overeating almond butter myself and working with a fair few sugary emotional eaters?


I’ve decided I’d love write a guide to emotional eating that’s way more in-depth, incredibly practical in things you wouldn’t expect, more real and more centred around how you can use your emotional eating as a huge emotional growth opportunity and affordable life coach (because you can!).

I’m going to call it The Unconventional Guide to Emotional Eating.

Really, it’s a guide on how to build your emotional intelligence, resilience and self-awareness as an aid to weaken your behavioural ties to sugar.

It will cover modern day emotional eating issues like social media, comparison and busyness.

If this sounds like something you’d like to get your hands on, you can support and pre-order a copy for the special price of £6.50 until Monday 22nd August. The price will increase to the standard £9.99 price after this date.

The guide will be with you by the end of the month – I’m going to be working super hard to get something amazing into your hands before #SugarfreeSeptember starts!

<<Pre-Order and support The Unconventional Guide to Emotional Eating for £6.50 HERE>>

That link will take you to a Paypal payment page for the £6.50.

savoury muffin recipe

Savoury muffin recipe: Red pepper, spinach & feta

Who’s starting to see more savoury muffin options around? Have you been temped to try a savoury muffin recipe?

I know I was always very partial to muffins – particularly blueberry and chocolate chips ones. It was the cake texture as much as the sweetness. So I’ve since fallen in love with savoury muffins as my cake-like fix without the sugar hit. 

The fabulous Tom and Lisa at Eat Wise are today sharing a savoury muffin recipe that you could use for a snack, a quick breakfast or even a little side to your salad. 

Give it a go and see if you can swap that blueberry muffin love for a bit of feta…Enjoy!

Savoury muffin recipe: Red pepper, spinach & feta

by Lisa at Eat Wise



Makes 8 muffins


  • 2 whole eggs
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup spelt flour
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 cup green veg, cooked (or fresh spinach leaves)
  • 1/3 cup cooked peppers, diced
  • 1/3 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/3 cup fresh cherry tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/3 cup organic sweetcorn
  • Handful coriander, chopped
  • Heaped tsp chipotle paste (or 1 fresh chilli, finely chopped)


  1. Heat oven to 180°C/350°F/gas 4 and grease an 8-hole muffin tray.
  2. Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl, season well with sea salt and black pepper, and whisk until well incorporated.
  3. Spoon the mixture evenly into the muffin tray then bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.
  4. Allow to cool in the tray a little to firm, before removing.

Extra bits

  • Make these transportable by lining each hole of the muffin tray with a square of baking paper before cooking.
  • Serve hot or cold with fresh avocado or guacamole.

EatWiseUK are a brother and sister team with a passion for creating and eating good, whole, REAL, nutrient-rich food. Check out their latest 5 Avocado Recipes ebook or follow them on Instagram for some other great savoury recipe spotting! 

Have you tried savoury muffins before or are you still a fan of the sweet ones?


Greek style yoghurt vs greek yoghurt

So the question is do you know the difference between greek and greek style yoghurt?

I’ve used yoghurt as a sugar busting staple for years now. I put it in low sugar smoothies; mix it up with sugar-free granola and/or fruit; and quite often eat it as a dessert with a few cacao nibs sprinkled over the top.

So one day I figured I wanted to know the difference between greek style yoghurt and greek yoghurt and understand the differences.  So here’s the lowdown and a few other greek style yoghurt facts to keep you in the know.

greek style yoghurt

Greek style yoghurt vs. greek yoghurt

A while back I went for a super healthy lunch with yoghurt pro Alison White from Total Greek (also known as FAGE).

We chatted all things yoghurt, life and sugar-free foods whilst drinking a glass of sparking wine ha!

greek style yoghurt vs. greek yoghurt

Here are some handy Greek yoghurt facts you may not know that will help you make informed decisions without getting lured or misled by marketing or packaging.

  • A really thick yoghurt has either got there in two ways:

1) it was either strained a few times to remove the whey or

2) it has had milk protein powder, starch or other additives added to it to get there. The easiest way really to determine this is to look at the ingredients list.

  • In the UK there is a difference between ‘Greek yoghurt’ and ‘Greek Style Yoghurt’. Greek yoghurt now has to be authentically made in Greece. Greek style yoghurt is just made to seem like it and can be thickened by either one of the two processes above.
  • In America, anything can be called ‘Greek’ – basically this whole Greek style yoghurt thing in the UK is the result of a big court case between Total and Chobani. Total (or FAGE) yoghurt is at present the leading authentic Greek yoghurt brand on the market.

This post isn’t sponsored FAGE UK, I simply wanted to share this because I think it’s quite useful to know and found it personally interesting. Buying sugar-free yoghurts can often be utterly confusing and I know I get a lot of questions about it via e-mail.

I do personally think Total Greek are one brand with a very good quality product for lower sugar living. They also have some superb healthy (& many sugar-free) yoghurt infused recipes on their website too – these sweet potato fries with rosemary garlic yoghurt dip being one of my favourites.

However there are other cheaper Greek yoghurt style yoghurts made by the supermarket brands that are still sugar-free and healthy.

I’ll also mention that have the Total Greek Cookbook which generally has a great selection of yoghurt infused recipes. There are some that use sugar though too so you have to filter through a little.

The difference between Greek yoghurt vs. natural yoghurt

Now you’ve got Greek style yoghurt vs. greek yoghurt sorted, here’s a video I made explaining the difference between Greek yoghurt and natural. Yes let’s go yoghurt crazy today!

What’s worth remembering is that when it comes to managing hunger, Greek yoghurt has a higher protein count – 10g per 100g compared to 5-6g in natural yoghurt – thus it will keep you fuller for longer.

Also remember that about 4-7g of the sugars listed in yoghurt are the natural lactose sugar, which doesn’t count as sugar (of the fructose kind) on a sugar-free or lower sugar diet.

Always check for added sugar in the ingredients list though.

greek style yoghurt protein

My transition off sugary yoghurts

In my former sugary years I used to eat a ‘Muller Light’ or low fat fruity yoghurt pretty much every day, sometimes 2-3 a day.

I did this for literally years.

A fruity yoghurt was often my ‘healthy’ post meal sweet fix – anyone used it the same?

At University I would chose the cheapest and – shame-shock-horror – I even used to buy those Sainsbury’s basics low fat fruity yoghurts at one point. Yes I did, sins confessed!

When I moved to London I would buy Muller Lights, Shapers, Activia brands or whatever was on special offer. I am still in awe of the entire supermarket aisle that is awash with colourful wide variety of sugar laden yoghurts.

When people today ask me why I started Happy Sugar Habits, I often say it’s because I was simply mortified at discovering some of the yoghurts I loved had a shocking 15g of sugar in them and no-one back then was talking about this.


So I wrote a blog post on the lower sugar yoghurts and things went from there.

These days I don’t touch fruity sugar-filled yoghurts – they just don’t appeal. Of all the sugary things out there, I really don’t miss these. A mouthful of one every now and then confirms this to me – they are way too sweet, sickly and taste a bit artificial. I would rather drizzle some brown rice syrup or good quality honey on some full fat natural yoghurt to get something a bit sweeter when I do fancy it.

Do you eat yoghurt and what with? Breakfast? Dessert? Any more questions just hit me up with a comment below.

low fructose fruits

Low fructose fruits: Know which are the best

When it comes to going sugar-free or embracing a lower sugar lifestyle, the topic of fruit (& low fructose fruits) usually confuses many and can cause a many domestic arguments (I’ve seen it happen!).

Should you eat it on a detox? Isn’t all natural sugar ok for you? How much per day is recommended? Which fruits are lower in fructose? Are dates a sugar bomb?

Diebetes Lie

As an overall ine, fruit is absolutely healthy but it’s worth knowing what your low fructose fruits are and understanding a healthy approach.

This will help you avoid overeating fructose in fruit form which can drive more sweetness cravings and have negative health impacts.

Read: To fruit or not to fruit

low fructose fruits

Can you eat fruit whilst living sugar-free?

  1. Yes you can. Plenty of people happily and healthily live mostly without refined sugar but with a little natural fruit in their diet. I eat all fruit here and there but nothing regularly as a habit and opt for low fructose fruits where I can, trying to eat seasonally and location based (e.g. what is native to that area).
  1. Fruit does contain sugar in the form of fructose, but the fibre that comes with fruit (think skins etc.) and nutrients help your body slow down the fructose release on your body (& liver) and process it more effectively.
  1. Fruit can impact your cravings (subjectively!). I’ve had some say a few berries bring on sugar cravings and others who can eat a banana first thing and be fine for the rest of the day. This is not so simple and depends on many other factors (habits, diet history etc.). However, in general a higher intake of fruit can correlate to an increased presence of cravings.

To put it simply: A banana, a smoothie and a dried fruit bar might make you want cake and chocolate more than if you were eating mostly veg during a day.

Thus for tastebud recalibration purposes and general sweet tooth reduction, it does pay off to know your low fructose fruits (especially if you’re currently eating a fair few portions a day) so you can make a few less sweet swaps and really trust that fruit isn’t going to put back on some sugar train.

What are the low fructose fruits?

Starting with the lowest and getting higher, here are some common low fructose fruits:

  • Tomatoes and avocados (yes technically fruits!)
  • Lemons and limes
  • Cantaloupe melon
  • Raspberries, blackberries & strawberries
  • Clementine
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Grapefruit

low fructose fruits

What are the higher fructose fruits?

Starting with the highest and most sweet natural eats:

  • Dried fruits (Dates, raisins, figs etc.)
  • Mango
  • Grapes
  • Watermelon
  • Banana

low fructose fruits

My recommendations for eating high or low fructose fruits

1. Make some appealing swaps (appealing to you that is!). For example:

  • Try berries on your porridge instead of banana
  • Snack on a clementine instead of dried fruit or grapes
  • Make your own fructose-free muesli and then add some fresh berries
  • Try Kiwi fruit instead of mango if you’re feeling tropical!
  • Try green mango instead of yellow (it’s crazily lower in sugar!)

2. Reduce your portion or use of higher fructose fruits (to reduce total fructose):

  • Use half a banana in a smoothie or try half a banana with some berries
  • Slash the use of dates or any dried fruit in recipes (sometimes I’ve sweetened a whole recipe with one date!)
  • Be conscious of your portions of grapes & watermelon which are both very easy to eat a lot of
  • Avoid dried fruits in savoury dishes on a regular basis e.g coronation chicken
  • Use higher fructose fruits more as special treats or as dessert substitutes e.g. this nutty banana fudge is a good one.
  • Eat higher fructose fruits more when in season or native to that environment (e.g. somewhere tropical)

3. Slow down the sugar release by eating fruit with some protein & fat. For example:

  • Add some nut butter to apple (total yum!)
  • Have with some full fat natural yoghurt
  • Eat with a main meal rather than as a stand alone snack

Should you eat fruit on a sugar-detox?

There’s no doubt about it, when you really limit or remove fructose from your diet, the physical sugar cravings (note not emotional!) tend to die down.

Even just 3-5 days can have an impact and force you to investigate non-fruit based snacks if they’ve become your default. Thus it’s great for just finding new things and experimenting.

However, this isn’t necessary and can be of the restrictive nature which can backfire. I suggest you review this sugar addiction quiz on your sugar habits and then read about gradual vs. cold turkey approaches to decide how effective a lower fructose fruits strategy will be to you.

And of course, comment below if any specific questions – I would love to help!

Please share if someone you know is confused by fruit!

6 essential ways to crowd sugar out of your diet

Are you familiar with the term ‘crowding out’?

It’s a great healthy eating and mindset strategy that employs eating more instead of eating less and restricting.

Crowding out means adding more to your diet.

By adding more healthy whole foods to your diet, you fill up on these and reduce the room available for less nutrient dense foods like sugar, refined carbohydrates and the rest of it.

So as a simple example, you pile your plate high with salad and thus have two slices of pizza instead of three – quite simply because you’re packed out with salad.

But can you ever completely crowd sugar out?

What about those times when you are stuffed – when you’ve crowded out with vegetables for flipping England, but you still want ‘something sweet’?

I know this feeling, and often this comes down to your habits rather than sugar, but rest assured you can still use crowding out strategies to curb these sweet habits so you can meet your health goals.

Here’s my sugar busting guide to crowding out…

1. Crowd more protein into breakfast

When you steady out your fluctuating blood sugar levels, you physically reduce the chance of having sugar cravings.

Mid-morning can be a killer for cravings where you can find yourself fancying sugar and carbohydrates at 11am if you’ve eaten a meal that hasn’t balanced you as well.

If you do have cereal or a muesli for example, crowd out with nuts, seeds, and yoghurt to reduce the cereal portion and bulk up with filling protein. Maybe a little lower fructose fruit like berries or chopped kiwi fruit to increase the nutrition density without overloading on sugar.

You can do exactly the same with porridge (read here for how to lower sugar in your porridge toppings).


Also don’t be afraid to add extra ‘breakfast sides’ to crowd out further e.g. a handful of cherry tomatoes, half an avocado and some nuts for extra protein. Sometimes I’ve added a boiled egg on the side of a low sugar smoothie and more recently I’ve started adding salad to my scrambled eggs.

Whatever you do, decide to have fun with it and experiment!

2. Crowd in leafy greens…everywhere

Most people don’t eat enough leafy greens, it’s as simple as that.

I get upset when I don’t. It’s almost like my ultimate daily health non-negotiable.



They are nutritionally supercharged wonders that help your body function efficiently and help you process sugar better if you do happen to eat it.

So crowding in dark leafy green wherever you can is a seriously good health habit to develop. 

Try some of these:

  • Add a side of broccoli or green beans to any meal
  • Wilt spinach and add to eggs in the morning
  • Add spinach or courgettes to pasta sauces
  • Try courgetti (spiralized courgette) instead of pasta
  • Whip up a rocket salad to accompany a bowl of soup
  • Add watercress, broccoli or kale to smoothies
  • And my favourite….eat SALAD FOR BREAKFAST!! 🙂


 3. Crowd tempting situations with healthy fat

This goes against the grain of traditional healthy eating advice but recently is has become more widely known that not all fat is equal.

Because it can be tasty and satisfying, in the case of reducing sugar cravings, it can work a treat.

If there’s an event or situation on the horizon where you know you might fall partial to some tempting sugar that you’d rather avoid, be sure to add some healthy but seemingly indulgent fat to your food instead.

Make it something that you really like and this works even better.

This will do two things – it will fill you up and satiate you but it will also stop you feeling deprived.

For example, a creamy or buttery sauce will add a rich satisfying element to your meal that will likely fill you up too much for dessert.

Some extra nuts or cheese on your salad will again add an indulgent satisfying element and if you’re going out starving, try a little avocado on a cracker to stop you gorging on the first unhealthy foods in sight.

You can even try having a few almonds after a meal to replace the post meal sweet fix (read here for 50 other post-meal craving ideas)


4. Crowd out your sweet activity

Coffee with the girls? Popcorn at the cinema? Ice cream night in?

We’re not just talking food and nutrition crowding out today.

Take a look at your diary and start to crowd out pastimes that involve sweet with those that don’t.

Suggest to your friend you catch up with a walk round the park or exercise class and be proactive in organising activities where you know sweet isn’t such a big part of the picture.

5. Crowd out sugary thoughts

I know when you’re slightly sugar controlled, it can be on your mind…a lot.

However, when you’ve a stressful situation at hand, it’s surprising how quickly something else can dominate your thoughts. Often we think about sugar too much when we are quite simply bored!

Add new projects to your focus. Fill thinking space with interior ideas for your new lounge or some planning for your upcoming holiday.

Create deadlines for yourself around these and you’ll have new goals to focus your thinking on.

6. Crowd out but balance

I used to make the mistake of crowding my plate with loads of vegetables or salad and not really much else because I thought this was the healthiest way to go.

However having just a giant barely dressed salad left me still a bit hungry and thus insanely tempted by the dessert menu.

So it wasn’t uncommon for me to eat a big old healthy salad and then stuff my face with apple crumble. In fact, it was standard for a while!

You can avoid this scenario by crowding your meal with appropriate portions of protein, vegetables and fat. Don’t forget you need all of these to properly fill yourself up when you are truly hungry and fuel your body’s functioning.


So get crowding out!

Forget eating less. Forget depriving yourself. Crowd out to ease out the sugar habits gradually and it will get easier and easier I promise.

Fill yourself up with colourful whole foods and nourish yourself with healthy activity that feeds your soul so you simply don’t leave enough room in your stomach or life for the sugary stuff!

Any other crowding out strategies that you know and love? Comment below with your ideas! 


Sarah Wilson I Quit Sugar online program review: Is it right for you?

Are you thinking about enrolling on the IQS8W Program?

Curious to know what’s included, what works and if the program is a good fit for you?

Here I lay out a comprehensive I Quit Sugar review, specifically the 8 week online programme.

I'll share my own experience from when I did it; what the benefits are of this particular sugar detox programme and outline what considerations you need to make before signing up.

I quit sugar for life

The rise of the sugar detox

So I think it’s fair to say sugar detox programmes are on the up!

Now that sugar is well known for being dietary culprit No. 1 and it's ill effects are understood, understandably many people are wanting to significantly reduce the amount they’re eating - quickly and with some sort of guidance. 

Once you have that penny drop realisation that you’re eating a heck of a lot more sugar that you thought and you know your sweet tooth is playing on you in less desirable ways, you start looking at your options.

Should you go cold turkey or reduce gradually? Should you consider natural sugars like fruit? Should you use other sugar substitutes?


About the I Quit Sugar 8W Programme

The I Quit Sugar online programme provides an answer to these and came off the back of Sarah Wilson’s hugely successful I Quit Sugar & I Quit Sugar Cookbooks.

I have followed Sarah and I Quit Sugar for nearly 4 years now and their work is fantastic. It educates, inspires and champions lower sugar living in a non dogmatic approach. I’m a huge, huge fan having most of the books and cooking many of the recipes regularly.

The online programme gives you full meal plans, recipes, e-mail support and community via a forum and social media.

What are my loves?

  • Practical recipes & meal plans
  • Organisational tips
  • E-mail information
  • Social media community
  • Enough time to change habits

Recipes & meal plans

Quite frankly, the simple, delicious IQS recipes are everyday easy and busy-fitting. You get exclusive access to 93 recipes that aren’t on the free blog website and each week your recipes are cleverly organised into a food waste optimised meal plan and shopping list. If you value your time and want the hassle taken out of healthy meal planning or want a new injection of recipe ideas, this is a huge benefit.

Organisational Tips

The programme encourages you to have a Sunday cook up preparation session where you make things like pureed pumpkin mash or prepare your eggs so that you save food prep time in the week.

I learnt a ton of new things via this part of the programme that I still do today. ​

Even if you don’t follow the meal plans exactly (I tend not to do this), but you use the programme to learn and test out all the new healthy organisation tips, this is of great value to someone who is quite new into cooking lots of sugar-free meals at home and just needs to get a bit more organised.


E-mail information

The weekly e-mails keep you engaged with much wider information on tips to reduce cravings, theories on changing habits and some great background reading to get you nicely up to sugar speed.

Social media community

Whilst they have a very active forum, I actually think the social media community is the most valuable whilst on the programme. It’s super easy to search the #IQS8WP hashtag and engage with everyone else who is preparing and eating the same dinner as you. It incentivises you to make an effort with food presentation which makes you enjoy the food more and it’s super fun to have a programme so interactive.

Enough time to change habits

I really love that the IQS8WP is a full 8 weeks long. This is super important where it moves away from a quick fix diet and really helps you transition into a low sugar lifestyle. The programme takes you through a few weeks where fruit is limited but then re-introduces this in the last few weeks as it does with rice malt syrup (the sugar substitute of choice).


As far as it exists as a ‘sugar detox’ programme (I will explain my views on this later), I really do feel like the IQS team have it covered.

Only slight improvements that could be made that I have come across reading other reviews could be the fact it’s not as couple or family friendly or low income adapted where it requires you to cook in bulk and have access to a lot of freezer space. But I think if anything learning the techniques will actually help you save money in the long run.

Obviously the programme doesn't deep dive as much into mindset, emotional eating and binge eating which can all be ​important factors in a successful transition. I don't think they can include everything though and I think IQS is wise just sticking to doing the programme as well as they do.  


My experience on the programme

I actually did the programme when it first came out back in 2013 and each round they improve so I know it's way more advanced for these current rounds. 

I wasn’t coming into it a huge sugar fiend as I had already lowered the sugar in my diet and previously had completed the same format through Sarah’s original I Quit Sugar book.

However, I was keen to get the extra recipes, learn new organisational tips and inject some new inspiration for planning out my meals. I saw it as a bit of a refresher and obviously I was curious too!

Things to consider before signing up

This is IMPORTANT! 🙂

Before deciding to enrol on the IQS8WP it’s worth you really understanding the nature of your own relationship with sugar and exactly where you are.

I say this because I’ve seen first hand that a programme like this can work absolute wonders for some and do the opposite to others. The IQS programme delivers amazing value but only if you’re at the right place for it.

Things to note are:

  • It is a diet
  • It will make you think about food more (and assign attention bandwidth to it)
  • It somewhat removes your inclination to intuitively eat for yourself
  • It can excaberate all or nothing mindset patterns or binge eating behaviour

Although touted as a lifestyle, the actual 8 weeks are putting restrictions and eliciting a form of control over what you eat - so it is a diet. 

However that doesn't mean to say you can't transition what you learn into a lifestyle afterwards - and many do. It's just accepting initially that this is a diet and understanding the implications of that. 

Like with any diet, you will on a day to day basis become more conscious of what you eat. You are likely to think about food more, even think about sugar more (very likely at the start) and naturally assign your attention to eating according to the plan and rules rather than what feels more intuitively right for you and your body/hunger that day. 

This can be a good thing if you were previously unaware of sugar; your bad habits or sweet cravings were getting the better of you; and you know a bit of structure will get you into a healthy gear and teach you loads about yourself.

I personally embrace a intuitive eating and a long term no-diet approach, but for sugar with it's certain 'addictive' qualities, I fully appreciate the value in a structured programme (or sugar detox) to help someone tame down their cravings and recalibrate their sweet tastebuds for a period of time.

If I didn't believe this, I wouldn't be reviewing this programme!

HOWEVER, a sugar detox is not so good if you’ve been on loads of diets before (especially sugar related ones); you have strong all or nothing mindset patterns; and you judge yourself heavily if you don’t stick to things.

If you recognise any form of binge pattern behaviour in yourself, I ask you take some serious consideration on your motivations before enrolling.

A great idea would be to take my Sugar Addiction Quiz and Test to help you get a handle of what’s really going on and if you’re still not sure about the IQS8WP and if it’s right for you right now then just drop me an e-mail.

Is it worth the £80 (or $150)?

This is down to you, your income level, your current ‘improvement’ priorities and what you value e.g. accountability, creative meal plans etc. 

The IQS8WP is pricer than a standard sugar detox programme - you can of course always get the book to DIY it, or find another cheaper programme (although most are a lot shorter).

But if you know you will find significant value in the fact it’s 8 weeks, the community aspect, the organisation-optimised meal plans and the weekly structure, it’s probably is worth the money (relative income level depending).

It’s great if you can look at what you spend elsewhere and make a budget reallocation e.g. cut one night of drinking wine, stop the PM cake run and give up a clothes shopping trip for a month or two. Calculate how much you spend on chocolate in 8 weeks and it might even cover it!

I’ve recently decided I want to do more yoga in London (read EXPENSIVE!) so I’m trying to work out a wine-yoga trade off that I’m happy with so that I can make this happen a bit more (note, I’m by no means trading all the wine...just cutting out a little excess!).

I’ve also just had an ex-client e-mail me to say his blood tests have all dramatically in the past year since his sugar change and he’s reduced his risk of serious liver disease and gout significantly.

An investment in your health like this can pay off more than you even anticipate and help you be a healthier happier Mum, friend, employee etc. for years to come.

IQS 8-Week Program

In summary

So there you have it, my review of the queen of all sugar detoxes - the I Quit Sugar 8 Week Program.

To round up, really understand the unique value points of the the IQS8WP - the community, the organisational element and the length of support - and weigh this up with what you’re looking for.

Make sure you consider your current relationship with food and sugar before you enrol. The programme and quality of material in my opinion is nothing short of excellent and it will only be ineffective if you’re not in the right place for it.

Please do my quiz and test and if you're still not sure comment below. 

The next round starts on the 9th June 2016 and registrations close on the 7th June.

You can sign up here.

If you do enrol, GOOD LUCK - I’d love you to keep in touch and let me know how you go!

Laura xx

Note: I am a proud IQS affiliate and do get a kickback if you enrol via one of my links (thanks if you do!). I only share stuff of great value and share my honest opinion to help you make the best choices for YOU. As I said, feel free to e-mail me if you’re feeling super stuck on if to go for it!


Sugar addiction quiz and test: Am I really hooked?

You know what, most people have experience of overeating or overindulging in sugar – the one too many chocolates from the box; that extra slice of cake that blatantly wasn’t necessary or the emotional break up ice cream incident.

But where’s the point when it comes to asking ‘Am I addicted to sugar?’

What determines if someone is eating too much or just has a bit of a sweet tooth?

How do you know if it’s the actual sugar that’s the issue, your habits around food or something to do with your environment (e.g. you work in an office environment that could be mistaken for a cake warzone!)?

So you can start to work this out for yourself, here’s a sugar addiction quiz and test I’ve laid out based on my experience researching and intuitively coaching sugar lovers over the years. 

Just the process of doing this test will help you understand your relationship with the sweet stuff and identify where you are on this slippery (and very elusive) sugar addiction scale.


How to use this test?

I’ve kept this quite simple so just answer the questions yes or no in each section and then count them up and divide your YES answers by the total questions in the section and multiply this by 100 to get a %.

E.g. 6 questions in Section 1 would mean (6/13) x 100 which equals about 46%.

Section 1: Am I eating too much sugar?

  1. Do you have sugary treats every day or at least every other day? (sweets, chocolate, dried fruits, cakes/pastries etc.)
  2. Do you drink soft drinks more than once a week?
  3. Are you eating more than 4-5 portions of fruit (including dried fruit) everyday?
  4. Do you eat a lot of packaged foods e.g. stir fry sauces etc.
  5. When a craving comes, is it distinctly for sweetness and you can satisfy with a range of food even if it’s not your favourite as long as it’s sweet (e.g dried fruit, cheaper chocolate etc.)
  6. Do you get anxious if there is no dessert or sweet thing available at a friends house or dinner party (or you urge for it to be served sooner!)?
  7. Do you notice distinct energy differences throughout your day e.g. mid afternoon slump, grogginess in the morning.
  8. Are you tired a lot?
  9. Do you also crave bread or starchy carbohydrates often in addition to sugar?
  10. Do you often think you will feel better eating something sugary but then afterwards you feel worse?
  11. Have you in the last year been oblivious to how much sugar you’ve been eating?
  12. Do pictures of sweet food instantly make you feel a craving?
  13. Do you have a hard time resisting any sugar that is offered to you e.g. dessert, biscuits etc.


Section 2: Am I suffering emotionally because of sugar?

  1. Do you know you’re not going to feel great about yourself emotionally after eating the sugar but you still do it?
  2. Do you feel you need to have something sweet everyday?
  3. Do you overeat or indulge in sugar alone where no-one knows about it?
  4. Are you fearful of sharing how much sugar you eat to close loved ones?
  5. Have you ever eaten sugar and hidden or done something so someone doesn’t find out?
  6. Has the guilt of eating sugar in a situation then led you on to eat more later on?
  7. Can you identify patterns (e.g. regular tendencies) where you use sugar to alleviate negative emotions e.g.  stress, boredom and frustration?
  8. Do you feel thinking about sugar takes up a lot of your headspace?
  9. Would you struggle describing any times when you’ve felt good about some sugar you’ve eaten?
  10. Do you eat straight from the packet or fridge very quickly without thinking?
  11. Do you feel right now sugar causes you more emotional pain over emotional pleasure?


Section 3: How significant are your habits?

  1. Can you pinpoint the regular instances where you’re eating too much sugar e.g. in the evening after work, after a meal each day
  2. Do you have strong sugar habits around very specific foods e.g. Haribo sweets, a certain chocolate or type of biscuit etc.
  3. Can you remember a time when these sugar habits or food preferences didn’t exist?
  4. Is a large amount of your sugar intake from adding to tea or coffee or eating something sweet with tea or coffee?
  5. Do you feel the sweet after the meal habit is  your most significant area of sugar intake that you’d like to change?
  6. Are there days when the sugar habits just don’t happen because a situation is different e.g you’re not home alone so it’s different
  7. Have you noticed your sugar habits change when your routine changes?
  8. Have you tried to change lots of sugar (& health) habits all at once but they’ve all slipped back?


Section 4: Is your wider relationship with food playing significantly into your sugar issues?

  1. Have you dieted or restricted your diet for an extended period of time (over 3 months)?
  2. Do you sometimes overeat on other food other than sweet things e.g. crisps, carbs, junk food etc.
  3. Do you often tell yourself this is the “last time” I am doing this and tend to over eat because you “thought” it was the last time?
  4. Do food buffets and social situations make you feel slightly anxious?
  5. Do you have strong rules you try to stick to everyday e.g. eat no sugar, limit carbohydrates etc.?
  6. Do you overeat excessively when you feel you’ve fallen ‘off the rails’?
  7. Have you ever, or do you eat too much sugar to the point of feeling very sick?
  8. Have you ever suffered a large sugar binge? (eating over 1000 calories of sugary foods and feeling particularly bad about it)
  9. Have you got a history of any disordered eating?

Section 5: Are there bigger things going on?

  1. Are you feeling very desperate to lose weight rather than it just be ‘nice’ to lose a few pounds?
  2. Has your sugar intake increased in line with a recent increase of stress, pressure or challenging life situations?
  3. Would you rate your body confidence lower than usual?
  4. Have you suffered from any other conditions such as anxiety or depression?
  5. Do you feel you have no time for yourself or your own interests/hobbies?

How to analyse your answers

The sections are your indicator here. If you have a high % (generally over 50%) for the section, then the answer to the title of that section is very likely a ‘YES’ and will indicate which of the following strategies to take note of.  

If you have a high % for Section 1 and not so much the others:

In this case, it is more likely that you may have a stronger physical sugar (fructose) preference or ‘addiction’ (although I don’t actually like this phrase to describe it – read why here).  

Your best strategy could be to spend some time learning about the different types of sugar, look for ways to substitute in lower sugar alternatives and work on recalibrating your tastebuds to become more sugar sensitive.


If you have a high % for Section 1 and you are above 50% in Sections 2, 4 or 5:

You will need to do the above re-calibration strategy but simultaneously address the emotional and food relationship issues with other mindset work. You will likely need quite a personalised approach based on your answers to different questions.

If you have a high % for section 2:

You are potentially damaging your health more with the internal stress your relationship with sugar is causing than you are with the physical impact of the sugar. It will be helpful for you to look into sugar shame, specific emotional eating strategies for boredom and stress. If Section 1 is below 30% , focus a little less on the sugar and more on your habits around emotional processing and resilience.

If you have a high % in section 3:

It’s likely habits are playing more strongly into your relationship with sugar. Potentially habits that are deeply embedded over years e.g. family dessert or hot drink rituals. You are best to put in place a steady singular habit change initiative and prioritise each habit so you avoid doing too much at once. You could also seek some accountability and do some work on your motivation to help keep you consistent enough to change.

If you have a high % in section 4:

It’s potentially likely that sugar is just the manifestation for deeper relationship with food issues. I’d advise away from any more detoxes or diets to reduce your cravings. Refocus your efforts on re-learning to intuitively eat in a lower sugar managed way over time.

If you have a high % in section 5:

It’s likely that the sugar challenges are more significantly the symptom of other bigger issues at hand. Don’t be afraid of seeking extra support in some form (close family or friends, counselling, a therapist or a coach). Make sure you feel safe and do not feel judged on your feelings, your life situation or sugar related behaviour.


If you score high in all sections and you’re still quite not sure what to make of your test result, then feel free to comment below with your questions or give it a few days for your subconscious to work it’s magic (you might be in the shower and something else comes to you!) .

If you do feel you want to go further, I can provide that safe space to work through any of these sections or any individual questions and answers and help start forming an appropriate plan of action . Either e-mail me with your realisations (I will reply to all) or book in for a Clarity & Planning session where we’ll have a whole hour together.  

As you can see, being ‘addicted to sugar’ can be much more complex than just eating too many grams of the stuff. However all of this has a way forward that can get you to a less ‘sugar addicted’ or emotionally sugar dependent place so essentially you can get on with living a very healthy and happy lower sugar life that let’s you do all you want to.  

Know someone else that could find use in this sugar addiction test?

Share the love and help others. I’ll be forever grateful if this article finds it’s way in front of those who really need it.

Laura xx