Review: David Gillespie’s Sugar-free Shopper’s Guide

Things as close to their natural state as possible. Meals that are home cooked and of course with minimal (ideally no sugar).

However, I fully appreciate that this isn’t always possible or desirable sometimes.

Yoghurts for example are something you likely have to still buy and work out which are the lowest sugar ones. Maybe you’re weaning off the fruity flavoured ones like I had to and want to make this a progressive change.

low-sugar-yoghurt

 

Or maybe you have a crazy busy day and fancy grabbing a quick stir-fry sauce to help you out or want to grab a makeshift dinner from a popular food outlet (Pret is usually my favourite when in the UK!).

Perhaps the kids are pestering you insanely to have cereal and you want to give them something to quieten the cries but make a ‘better’ choice around one that’s not laden with sugar.

And you know what, all of this is ok. It’s just a case of hunting down the lower sugar products that best fit the bill for you and your lifestyle compared to where you’re currently at.

However, to work this out it can take a while…

Trust me, when I first started lower sugar endeavours back in 2012 (before sugar-free was mainstream) I spent hours analysing and comparing the sugar content in products.

Luckily for me it’s all being used now in doing this work, but you may well have other things you’d prefer to do with your time than standing in the freezing cold yoghurt aisle doing % calculations (I am secretly a math geek!).

Luckily someone’s done all the hard work for you

David Gillespie has created these super helpful Sugar-free Shopper’s Guides for the UK, US and Australia.

They really help those first starting out to understand what has sugar, how much is in what and which products in the same category are notably better than others.

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Literally you can just switch a brand, barely taste the difference and cut your sugar intake with this information.

The partner, your aunty and the kids won’t even know that this bread they’re eating contains half the sugar of the one you used to buy. You can upgrade your biscuits slowly to better options (my Uncle could benefit from this!).

On top of this, there’s extra helpful info on sugar substitutes, vegetable oils and some nice general reminders about sugar in general.  

And it’s like only £3.95 or $6.95 AUD!! Total bargain!!

Grab your instantly downloadable copy below and spread the word to family and friends!

The 2016 British Sugar-Free Shopper’s Guide

The 2014 Australian Sugar-Free Shopper’s Guide

The 2014 North-American Sugar-Free Shopper’s Guide

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A few notes…

Keep perspective

This information is super helpful to people just starting out but once you’ve found your favourite low sugar products and got into your groove, you shouldn’t have to worry too much.

Remember don’t get too bogged down in the detail – just use the info a tool.

Don’t get overwhelmed

Vegetable oils are mentioned and this is something to consider but don’t get disheartened trying to eliminate these completely at the same time as sugar. I advise focus on sugar first and reducing vegetable oils can come as a next step healthier upgrade if you wish.

Have you found or bought any other digital sugar helping resources you’d like me to review or have you already got one of these guides that you’ve used?

Note: I am a proud affiliate for these products because I honestly think they’re a great resource for many people at the start of sugar change. I get a kickback thank you if you purchase via my links. 

How much sugar: Pimms, cereal, yoghurt & Nakd bars (not together!)

So this week instead of churning out something new, I decided to refresh and update a couple of old articles that are my most popular and most read.

If you fancy getting some quick sugar knowledge and a practical approach around yoghurts, cereal, Nakd bars and Pimms then click on one of the links below to take you to the updated article:

Reading and re-writing these articles was quite eye opening to me in that it made me realise there was a time where I was possibly a little fixated on sugar more that I like to advocate these days. However, it was a necessary step I needed to go through on my health changes and being an analytical numbers person, I quite enjoyed getting into the detail.

What I will say is get your head quickly around where there’s more sugar and become aware, but avoid becoming overly fixated for an extended period of time. I don’t advocate counting calories and I also think to have a healthy relationship and food long term, you shouldn’t be counting sugar grams either.

Read: The 5 ways counting calories is working against you

Respect the stage that you’re at and if you want to be guided through the process then don’t forget the free video training you can get here that walks you through my approach to this.

Are there any other foods you’d like me to apply my analytical number crunching too? Comment below and I’ll look into it 🙂

Laura x

 

sugar-free-muesli

Fructose-free muesli base recipe

Muesli was one of my favourite sugar-filled foods but even when labelled sugar-free, it can still be packed to the nines with dried fruit.

Make this basic muesli base and you can call the shots on the sugar in your muesli bowl by either having it plain or by adding a little fruit sweetness to your own taste depending on where you are with your sweet cravings.

Fructose-free muesli base

sugar-free-muesli

Makes 8-10 portions

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups mixed nuts (I use hazelnuts, almonds and walnuts but any mix will do)
  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup flaxseed powder
  • ½ cup unsweetened dessicated coconut
  • ½ cup chia seeds (optional)
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup pumpkin seeds

Method

  • Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well
  • Pour into an airtight container
  • Serve with your choice of cold milk, yoghurt or extras

sugarfree-muesli

Try this

  • If you’re in a super low fructose period, try mixing with some full fat yoghurt and topping with coconut flakes and raw cacao nibs.
  • For a low fructose twist add either some fresh raspberries, a chopped kiwi fruit or some blueberries.
  • Ultimately as you grow more confident with sweet, add whichever fruit you like best – I personally love either chopped apple, peach or goji berries with cacao nibs
  • Activating or soaking your nuts will make them easier to digest

Do you make your own muesli? Have you found any that are particularly low sugar that you would be willing to share?

Time to change around sugar?

Love this recipe but feel like you are not sure where to start with recalibrating your tastebuds, dealing with emotional eating, changing habits etc? Then check out my free 4-video training course which describes my four pillars to embrace a low sugar lifestyle and sends you LOADS of other helpful resources to get started.

 

Get sugar perspective on your dark chocolate %

You can read my other blog posts on how to buy dark chocolate and a review of a number of different brands.

I know there were a lot of numbers in that video there so here they are below:

99% cacao, 2% sugar, 1g per 50g bar, 0.1g or something ridiculously small per very small square

90% cacao, 7% sugar, 7g per 100g bar, 0.9g per square

85% cacao, 14% sugar, 14g per 100g bar, 1.75g per square

70% cacao, 29% sugar, 29g per 100g bar, 3.6g per square

Make sure you know about these supermarket sugar shockers

Do you get confused by the sugar in different products? Maybe you just don’t know what you’re looking for half the time or become baffled with all the hidden sugar that’s suddenly around you. Not sure if you’re aware of all the sugar shockers out there?

Today I’ve picked a motley selection of food products from the supermarket shelves and picked their sugar content apart, giving you an expert view and insight to help you get up to speed pronto (You = sugar whiz after reading this!).

Can you guess the total amount of sugar in these products?

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On the weekend I was exhibiting at The Fit Festival in Edinburgh (with the help of my lovely mum!). As my first exhibition experience I decided to run a ‘guess the total sugar’ competition of the following products. Below is the lowdown on each with some shocking numbers and stats. Before you read on, grab a bit of a paper and have a guess yourself (total grams in all of these products together). Let me know if you got it right or were close. We had guesses from ranging 6g to 1975g – mental!

IMG_5603

M&S Mojito Juice Drink 750ml

10.3% sugar, 25.8g per 250ml serving, 77.4g total

This is pretty shocking considering it’s a ‘refreshing non alcoholic drink’. Seriously, I’d almost prefer you to have a small alcoholic one! When it comes to drinks, always calculate the amount per the entire bottle. Everybody drinks different servings, quite often they polish the lot. Slash your sugar intake dramatically and crave less by removing all sweet drinks from your diet. If out & cocktails are on the cards, ask a charming barman or barwoman to half the sugar they put in your freshly made alcoholic mojito.

M&S Lemon & Lime Sparkling Water

0.04% sugar, 2g per 500ml bottle total

I stuck this in there as a contrast to highlight a few things. Although seemingly low in sugar, this drink is chemical cocktail. Three E-numbers, a number of acids and sucralose (a commonly used artificial sweetener). Consuming these chemicals you are taking a gamble on your own health as we don’t really know what they are doing to us. Studies have shown they are likely to make you overcompensate calorie-wise (& likely sugar-wise) later down the line which isn’t great for both control and weight management.

Oat So Simple Original Instant Porridge Pot

11g total

My mum wanted this for breakfast and was shocked to discover that the plain variety had so much added sugar. You’d expect the Golden Syrup flavour of course to be sweet, but 11g in the plain one? Yep, because this is essentially just oats and water, they have to add sugar or else it would taste like cardboard. Remember that these pots didn’t even exist a few years ago, you just got up 10 mins earlier to eat breakfast. If you are caught out, a Pret A Manger plain porridge pot is a better bet because it’s made with milk and can (by some) be eaten without a shed load of sugar or topping.

Sainsbury’s Sweet & Sour Stir Fry Sauce 120g

27.4% sugar, 16.4g per serving, 32.8g total

Although I wouldn’t class this as completely ‘invisible sugar’ because it’s called ‘sweet & sour’, this is still pretty shocking. With a 4g per teaspoon, you’re talking 4 teaspoons in your stir fry main meal. Extremely processed with a very long list of ingredients. I would warn anyone off a sauce like this and encourage them to look for a lower sugar one if they must. Even better make your own stir fry sauce with ingredients like sesame oil, fresh ginger, soy sauce, lime juice and chilli.

Sainsbury’s Be Good to Yourself Honey Mustard Dressing 250ml

1.7g sugar per serving, 26.75g total

OK only an ‘orange’ traffic light when it comes to sugar but completely unnecessary. I don’t even think these dressings taste very nice (I used to eat them in my low fat days). Salad dressings can be full fat amazing – think quality ingredients like virgin olive oil, fresh lemon & lime juice, apple cider vinegar, tahini, creamy yoghurt, good seasoning. The ‘Be Good to Yourself – less than 3% fat’ is just a low fat marketing ploy. Don’t fall for it. Fat is not bad for you, end of.

Activia Fig Yoghurts 4x125g

18% sugar, 16.6g per pot, 66.4g total

Even I was shocked at these. Normally the bigger snack size pots or Muller Lights come out about 16g per pot, but these smaller ones really packed in the sugar for their size. Fruity yoghurts are a killer. Full fat or low fat, if they’re fruity flavoured they’re very likely sugar laden. Opt for natural or greek yoghurts (video blog here for the difference between these two) and make sure you know the difference between ‘Greek’ and Greek Style (recent blog article on this here).

Real Lancashire Eccles Cakes 200g

55.8% sugar, 27.9g per cake, 111.6g total

These used to be a real favourite of mine. My mum said she didn’t want to know how much sugar was in them (sorry mum). They are a sugar shocker because essentially they are like a whole bunch of grapes dried and squashed up, then coated in a thin layer of butter pastry. Two kind of good things with these 1) they are a very obvious treat (not something you’d be eating often like the yoghurts) and 2) at least most of the sugar is natural (but it’s still very high in fructose and will lead to serious sweet cravings). Lots of other oils and ingredients in these I’m not keen on putting into ones body too often. These were also sneaky because they had no weight on the packet so it was hard to work out. I actually got the clerk to weigh them and tell me!

Tower Gale Scottish Oatcakes 300g (from Lidl)

2% sugar, 0.3g per oatcake, 6g total

This is an example of hidden sugar as it’s listed on the ingredients probably without you thinking that these would contain any sugar. However there really isn’t too much per oatcake so although it’s not ideal, it’s also not worth worrying about in terms of it bringing on cravings. I’d also say that if you replace your daily digestive with one of these then that’s a great lower sugar substitution. Again, these have a longer list of ingredients and some oils that I don’t favour so have a look for oatcake brands with the lowest number of ingredients e.g. Narins or ones in a specialist health food shop.

If you liked this, there are videos more guidance around shopping as part of the Mentor Me Off Sugar 6-week sugar detox. This programme will save you serious time and effort!

Anyway….drumroll….

Total sugar in EVERYTHING 334g!!

Surprised by the total? Leave a comment below on which ones of these shocked you the most or if you used to (or still do) eat any of these regularly?

 

The one dried fruit I still keep in my cupboards

Here’s the video I mentioned on 5 easy ways to use cacao nibs.

What are your thoughts on dried fruit? Were you a big sweet fan of them like me?

 

lindts-excellence-chilli-dark-chocolate

How to buy low sugar dark chocolate

Recently, one of my lovely subscribers Noreen e-mailed me a question about dark chocolate…

“Have you found any chocolate that does not contain sugar or has a lesser amount? All the dark chocolate I have found still lists sugar as one of the top three ingredients.”

Great question Noreen – thank you! Let’s look at this….

Generally, there aren’t a significant amount of ingredients that constitute dark chocolate, so there’s a high chance that sugar will be in the top three. Bars that are lower in cocoa solids tend to have sugar as the 1st or 2nd ingredient, and for those which are darker, you may find it goes down to 2nd or 3rd, simply because the cocoa makes up more of the bar substance.

chocolate-gratings-pieces

What to look for

When you’re looking at dark chocolate, it’s better to look at the sugar per 100g so you can work out the % e.g. 10g sugar per 100g equals 10%.

Bear in mind, those with the same cacao % can still have differences in sugar amount. Here’s just a selection of chocolate that shows you the comparison (Highest in sugar first).

lindts-excellence-chilli-dark-chocolatedark-chocolate-70percent-green-and-blacks-organic

Lindt Excellence chilli

  • 46.4g sugar per 100g

  • 49% cocoa solids

Green & Blacks 70%

  • 28.9g sugar per 100g

  • 70% cocoa solids

Nero & Bianco (the brand that is stocked in my office canteen!) 

  • 27g sugar per 100g

  • 70% cocoa solids

Green & Blacks 85%

  • 13.8g sugar per 100g

  • 85% cocoa solids

Lovechock 100% Raw Pure Nibs

  • 12g sugar per 100g

  • 80% cocoa solids

Lindt Excellence 90%

  • 7g sugar per 100g

  • 90% cocoa solids

(I am going to do a full review of some of these in a separate post but I’m still in testing phase!)

lovechock-dark-chocolate-raw-100percent-pure-nibsdark-chocolate-nero-and-bianco-fairtrade-and-organic

More buying dark chocolate tips

Generally, what I first look for in a dark chocolate is sugar per 100g, and then it’s cocoa % because this is the powerful antioxidant element that has the health benefit. I think 12-13g is a reasonable amount, but I do also like the 90% which is only 7g. I appreciate you need to work up to these as your taste buds adjust their sugar sensitivity. Lots of people can find dark chocolate bitter, especially if they are accustomed to a sugary diet.

Think about the quality when you pick dark chocolate. Expensive good quality chocolate is usually associated with a nicer texture and deeper taste. It means you really savour each square and are more inclined to make it last rather than gobble it down.

Note: A year ago I used to love the Lindt Chilli chocolate but notice how that is top of the list and nearly 50% sugar, despite still being labelled as a ‘dark’ chocolate. Unfortunately I do find this one a bit sickly now but I love the flavour combination. (Hi Lindt, please can you make a Chilli 85% one just for me? Great, thanks!)

Some brands might advertise that it’s been sweetened with coconut sugar/nectar, xylitol or stevia which are all healthy-ish alternatives in their own way to raw cane sugar. I’ve posted on all three of these, so just make sure you’re clued up so you know what you’re ingesting when you eat them. At the end of the day, if it’s a square of dark chocolate eaten every once in a while, I’m happy to let this very small amount of raw cane sugar pass my lips.

To let you know, I now eat dark chocolate once or twice a week, if that. I used to eat it everyday. Consider that if you’re eating it everyday, you’re having refined sugar everyday and your cementing it as a habit, which with time will only get stronger. Try and break the routine if you can and do a good few days without it.

I hope that was helpful. What are your thoughts on dark chocolate? Do you love it or hate it? Find it so bitter it’s not worth having? Favourite brands?

P.S. I was delighted when Noreen e-mailed me with her great question so if you’ve a burning query, please let me know! (laura@happysugarhabits.com)

 

how-to-make-pimms-and-lemonade-low-sugar

Pimms & lemonade: How much sugar?

Are you a fan of Pimms? Yeah me too. Happy memories with friends at BBQs, Tennis themed celebrations and general British summer fun.

As you can imagine, Pimms poses a slight dilemma when living a low sugar lifestyle, so here’s an article to share some practical tips in addition to some mindset shifting so you can enjoy Pimms (if you want) in a healthy way.

The sugar in Pimms

First up, is there is sugar in the actual Pimms drink? Well, as I found, the recipe is top secret  – apparently only six people actually know it.

Therefore there is a lack of ingredients and nutritional information on the label. A little bit of research and I determined that ingredients generally include dry gin, liqueur, fruit juices and spices.

So the actual Pimms has sugar (the fruit juice bit), but this is small really. Where the sugar really comes into play is what you mix and dilute it with (assuming you don’t drink it straight!).

Traditionally you mix Pimms with lemonade in a 1:3 ratio. So of course the lemonade is the killer on the sugar front – for example a 330ml can of Sprite has 22g of sugar (5 ½ teaspoons).

how-to-make-pimms-and-lemonade-low-sugar

Note: It’s come to my attention that in the UK we refer to lemonade differently to America & Canada. When I talk about lemonade I mean fizzy lemon flavoured water like Sprite rather than the cloudy flat variety.

Low sugar lemonade options

Now of course, lemonade is sweet. There is no getting around that. Therefore it’s going to have some sugar or artificial sweeteners in some form. There are a few strategies you can use to lessen the sugar in your Pimms mixer – something I have to do these days when I just don’t like things too sweet.

Tip 1: Find the lower sugar brands

I recommend this with any products you use. Often there is a sugar difference between brands so by just spending a little time upfront you can find the lower sugar and healthier ones.

I checked out the amount of sugar in some lemonade brands and was at first quite surprised at the differences between brands. With the highest sugar culprits at the top of the following list, here are the sugar contents of varying lemonade brands (based on 100ml, which is roughly what you might add to make a single glass of Pimms).

  • 7up and Sprite (both 10.6g)
  • Schwepps (4.2g)
  • Asda Chosen by You (3.5g)
  • R Whites (2.4g)

So as a result of this research, you can do yourself a favour by moving away from 7up and Sprite which appear to be the most sugary fizzy lemon water or lemonade. It’s got nearly 4 times as much sugar as the R Whites brand.

Tip 2: Opt for artificially sweetened lemonade (your call)

This is an option to consider. Diet lemonades will usually have less than 1g sugar per 100ml. You can read my take on sweeteners here and there’s an interesting article in the New York Times here that’s discusses the evidence to support artificial sweeteners.  

The diet lemonades I researched generally contained both Aspartame and Saccharin, two of the most debated sweeteners on the block. I’d say this is your call.

At the end of the day, these are chemicals – they are far from ‘clean’ but I do believe it’s the frequency and habitual nature of their use which makes the difference.

If you drink Pimms a few times a year and choose a diet Lemonade for the occasion, I don’t see there’s going to be potential long term damage. In terms of your sweet cravings, full sugar and diet both put the sweetness in your mouth, so they’re likely to have the same impact.

I would strongly recommend avoid using artificial sweeteners to help you plaster over an insatiable sweet tooth and would always encourage to reduce your sweet preference as a priority.

Tip 3: Dilute the sweetness

One way to reduce the sweetness of the drink and keep your palate less sweet is to dilute the sweetness of the lemonade mixer.

Because my taste buds are accustomed to a lot less sugar these days, I find Pimms with Lemonade, even diet Lemonade, pretty sweet, so I’ve experimented and found the following can work…

  • Try mixing your Pimms with the smallest amount of lemonade (diet or no diet) you can manage and then top up the rest with soda/sparkling water. You can play around with the proportions to your own personal taste, but by doing this you’re diluting the sugar content and bringing it down to a lower level without too much compromise.
  • Adding extra fruit and mint also enhances the flavour without the need for the sugary lemonade overload.

You can also do this soda water trick with gin and tonic to a certain extent. Just little ways of bringing the sugar content down without giving up everything that you like all at once.

Keep it in perspective

From a final mindset perspective, remember lower sugar is a lifestyle rather that a regimented diet regime. There’s no reason to banish all things that you enjoy, it’s just a case of assessing the frequency and finding little strategies that work for you over time. Obviously if you’re buying Pimms out, you have limited control over what they mix with, so just sit back on the rare occasion and enjoy whilst congratulating yourself on your other lower sugar efforts.

What do you think of Pimms and lemonade? Too sugary or something that you’ll allow yourself on special occasions?

 

 

fructose

What everyone needs to know about fructose

Sugar in its many forms can be confusing, but if there’s one to get your head around it’s fructose. You might know fructose as the fruit sugar – I know I certainly used to a few years ago, before I got wise. It helps to understand fructose in a bit of detail, so here are the essentials you need to know (Don’t worry, I’m not going to bombard you with biochemistry here!).

What is fructose?

Fructose is a simple sugar that’s found naturally in fruit and in small amounts in some vegetables. It’s the sugar that makes things taste sweet and it exists as follows:

  • Refined sugar (white stuff on grannie’s shelf) is 50% fructose and 50% glucose
  • fructoseHoney is about 30-40% fructose
  • Agave nectar is a whopping 90% fructose
  • Fruits vary in fructose content. For example, bananas are higher, berries are lower

Fructose is unlike other sugars because it’s processed only by the liver. An excessive amount of fructose going through the liver puts strain on this organ. Our bodies just weren’t designed for the amount of fructose that is so readily available today (think fizzy drinks, 1litre cartons of smoothies and slabs of chocolate!).

The three main problems with fructose

1. It converts to fat & increases unhealthy cholesterol

Excess fructose in the liver converts to fatty acids as energy to be stored, so yes, it can lead to fat storage. This excess also increases bad cholesterol and uric acid. Whether it’s from honey, fruit, refined sources like chocolate, cake & sweets or agave nectar, you need to be conscious of your total fructose consumption.

2. You don’t feel full on fructose

Fructose doesn’t suppress your hunger hormones like other foods so you don’t feel as full on it. It’s why you can gorge or binge on sugar quite easily (now that explains my biscuit dilemma). Whilst fruit contains fructose, it also has fibre which does fill you up. This explains why you can’t eat 3 whole apples and a banana in one go (comfortably at least), but you could quite easily drink them in a juice or smoothie without feeling like a massive bloater.

fructose

3. It’s addictive

It’s this sweet sugar fructose that’s addictive. It’s the taste that hits the sweet spot when you’re craving, it releases the feel-good chemical in your brain and it wets your tastebuds for more. You want more and you need more to get the same hit. I know that feeling!

Managing your fructose intake

In your quest for low sugar, be aware that you want to really keep an eye out for the amount of fructose you eat day to day. Our bodies can tolerate a little a day, but not much. Different individuals may have varying sensitivities to fructose. I don’t count fructose grams (way too much hassle), but I’m largely aware of where it is and this is what guides me to eat it in moderation. I generally get my fructose from a few portions of fruit a day, if that.

You can build up a tolerance and taste for fructose. This is where you move towards sugar dependence or the addiction end of the scale. Likewise you can decrease your tolerance gradually reducing or detoxing off fructose.

In a nutshell, it’s important to consider refined sugar and natural fruit together in your daily fructose count and be aware of what it is (which this post should have explained).

I hope this has helped. Hit me if you have any more questions on fructose in the comments below?

Sources

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/02/28/new-study-confirms-fructose-affects-your-brain-very-differently-than-glucose.aspx

Dr Rober Lustig, Sugar: The Bitter Truth (You Tube) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dBnniua6-oM

The Skinny on Obesity (Ep.7 ): Drugs Cigarettes Alcohol…Sugar? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWnbMnnLo5w&list=PL39F782316B425249&index=8

Is there sugar in Balsamic vinegar?