low sugar lifestyle reviews

Low sugar lifestyle product reviews: July/Aug 2016

See below the video for timestamps so you can skip to different products and get more information on each one.

Enjoy!

Timestamps & links

00:28 Egg snack pots

Pick them up in on the go sections at many of the major shops and supermarkets e.g. Sainsburys and Pret A Manger

01:07 Dr Kargs Wholegrain Organic Emmental crispbreads

Get them in Sainsburys, Tesco, Ocado.

02:00 Twinings liquorice tea

Also check out my review of Pukka Detox tea

2:45 Choc Chick chocolate making kit

Also check out my video review of Sweet Freedom

5:48 Rebel Kitchen coconut water

7: 44 Oatly Oat Drink and Provamel Cashew Milk

Please do comment below with any thoughts or other products you’d like me to review.

greek-style-yoghurt

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.

greek-style-yoghurt

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.

food-sweet-cookies-christmas

How much do you fear sugar at Christmas? (& tips to fear it less)

You’ve done quite well in patches of the year. You’ve learnt about sugar, where it’s hidden and have had periods where you’ve been really ‘good’.

However, with the sugar season upon you (Christmas & New Year), there’s a little fear inside.

In fact, because you have started lower sugar life and been somewhat successful in places, you’re even more scared with it coming up to Christmas…

Are things going to take 5 steps back?

How am I going to handle all the sweet temptations? Will I eat too many mince pies? Should I try to avoid all the buffet deserts at the Christmas party?

If only I had a bit more control, a bit more discipline. Maybe I should pre-plan and make some more rules for when I attend this function/dinner party/Santa gathering!

So here’s something to consider around Christmas sugar fear…

The holy grail of changing your relationship with sugar, and potentially with food in general, is being able to eat anything you want, when you want without any fear. This includes sugar.

christmas-cookies-553457

So that means having no

  • Fear that you won’t revert back to old ways
  • Fear that you will undo all the ‘good’ times.
  • Fear that you will badly binge
  • Fear that cravings will come back and you won’t be able to keep a handle on them.
  • Fear that you’ll fall off the sugar wagon and be dragged back through the trials and tribulations of trying to quit again.

 

food-sweet-cookies-christmas

This might sound mission impossible to you right now. It would have to me a while ago.

I didn’t realise this until I didn’t feel it because it was just normal to me. Basically since I was at uni I realised, I went through every Christmas a little anxious at how much I would ‘let myself go’ around sweet food (before I knew about sugar in detail in 2012, it was just any ‘unhealthy’ food).

How much would I have to make up for things in January? Would I be craving more sweetness again? Would I have to go on a mini ‘detox’ and big exercise regime? How extreme?

Overeating sugar this time of year is completely normal. Most people do it. But then there’s overeating sugar to excess. Think 2 mince pies verses a whole box of 6. A large slice of panettone verses nearly the whole thing (been there). 1-2 slices of Christmas cake versus a slab which is eaten by going back for more like five times over an hour (also been there).

If you’ve impinged sugar restrictions onto yourself this year you are at risk of being in the latter category and you’re probably are full aware of it. Share your own experiences if you dare!

Hence the fear…

The fear of how you’ll behave when you have free reign at Christmas sweet foods that you have a history with.

There is another way

You might not believe me completely but you can feel fearless of sugar at Christmas. You can develop to have a trust in yourself to eat a more appropriate amount. You can repeat improved habits and change the beliefs about why you behave around like you do. And from my personal experience, it’s pretty awesome and liberating when you do this.

How? How? How?

I believe there is a need for a simultaneous approach that combines sweet tastebud recalibration and lower sugar habit change ALONGSIDE education on intuitive eating, mindset and the danger of restriction. You need both and it’s not always easy to navigate the line between them – but it can be done.

 

sugar-cookies-christmas-xmas

So what to do this Christmas?

Be mindful that I can’t give blanket advice easily here because you’re unique, however I will say a few things:

  • Eat quality sweet (special occasions, expensive chocolate, favourite treats). Don’t eat cheap advent calendar chocolate or a cheap mince pie just because they are free (read ‘Are you a sucker for free sugar‘)
  • Reduce unnecessary sugar with clever tips and new ideas. This embarrassing video I did two years ago has some suggestions. You can also try some healthy versions of festive favourites. I Quit SugarMadeleine Shaw and Deliciously Ella have some genius recipes that are fun to try.
  • Say no to some things when you feel indifferent about eating them or don’t feel like they are filling a strong hunger or enjoyment need. Say yes to others and really empower your choices – enjoy them!!
  • Pretend you CAN’T redeem your sins in January with anything extreme. Does anything change with this frame of mind?
  • Keep an eye out for over restriction or excessive obsessing
  • Focus on other forms of nourishment – gatherings, gift giving, crafts, work Christmas parties. The last are my favourite and I don’t have one this year… boo!

What’s going on with you?

Fearing sugar around Christmas is an important indicator of your relationship with it much more so than the actual sugar grams you eat.

If you do one thing from this article, just check in with yourself deeply and honestly to work out how much fear your really feeling as you enter into tricker seasonal territories.

Want more help to overcome the fear?

I have LOADS to share on this topic, much too much for a single blog post – loads of strategies, loads of tips and practical mindset ‘experiments’ that you can start doing during December to improve your relationship and self trust around sugar.

I’m going to be announcing something soon that is super special (and FREE!) and will help you take charge of sugar at Christmas like no other year.

Please make sure you are signed up here to get my e-mail notifications on it and look out in your inbox over the next few weeks. If you can’t wait then you can also book in for a free discovery session before I close this option at the end of November.

Thoughts?

Relate? Can’t stop with panettone? Wish mince pies didn’t come in boxes of six? Comment below and say what you think!

 

 

fruit-on-sugar-free-diet

To fruit or not to fruit?

Today on the blog I’m going to share an article that I had published on www.welltodo.com this week with some important messages on something I get asked about a lot…fruit!

If you’re reading this here it’s likely you sit in the craving control camp and so do consider the fruit you eat. However, it’s worth getting your head around this messaging because as you start to lead a lower sugar life or make positive change, you may well get asked about fruit by others and can come unstuck how to answer (I know I did for a while). It’s very important not to communicate fruit as a sugar villain to others who aren’t controlled by sugar.

 

fruit-on-sugar-free-diet

Image: Lauren Purnell

To fruit or not to fruit

It’s the topic that’s on everyone’s lips. What is the deal with fruit on a sugar-free or low sugar diet?

You read conflicting messages – health magazines say one thing, nutritionists say another and your personal trainer has an altogether different view. With differing messages, you can end up a bit confused.

Having been through the same fruit confusion myself when first exploring a life with a lot less sugar, and seeing my clients go through all the phases of sugar detoxing and low sugar life transition, here’s what you need to get you head around when it comes to fruit.

There is not a yes/no answer to the fruit question – it’s very personal.

Where you settle with fruit COMPLETELY depends on what you’re trying to achieve. Maybe you’re trying to reduce your calorie intake, lose weight, train for a marathon or get control over your sugar cravings. All of these things need a different approach. When you read blanket advice about fruit, be mindful that you have to factor in your personal context and goals.

Understanding fruit and fructose.

Fruit comes under fire because of its fructose content. An excess of fructose sugar in your diet isn’t good for your health because it is processed differently to other sugars, where it’s metabolised by the liver and can increase fatty acids in your blood and increase uric acid levels amongst a whole host of other things.  At this stage it’s worth remembering that refined sugar is 50% fructose, and that fruits have varying amounts in them.

However, whilst fruit is a source of fructose, it’s also packaged up with fibre that helps slow down the absorption, not to mention it hosts an array of super health-promoting anti-oxidants and nutrients that are beneficial to your health. Bananas for example are great after intense exercise and an apple is a superb on-the-go snack. Therefore a small amount of fructose, especially if it’s in the form of whole unprocessed fruit, certainly won’t be having a detrimental impact on your health and may well enhance it.

So what’s the problem?

#1 Fruity products and ‘natural’ but processed stuff

The first issue with fruit and fructose is the sheer excess of processed ‘natural’ fruit in many products that strip out the fibre and/or concentrate the sugar.

Sweet things taste nice, and they sell. With the increasing amount of sweetness in our diets these days, we’ve grown very accustomed to the taste. As a result, we are bombarded daily with ‘healthy’ fruit filled natural sugar products. Whilst of course healthier than a Mars bar, frequently consuming all of these ‘healthy’ fruit based things – juices, smoothies, dried fruit bars, granolas – in addition to whole fruit itself, and you’ll likely find your fructose totals quickly tally up to a potentially unhealthy level.

fruit-sugar-free-diet

#2 Craving control

The second issue lies in your cravings, control levels and personal preference to sweetness.

If you’re trying to increase your sensitivity to sweet things so that you’re less tempted by them and feel a bit more in control of how much you want to eat, eating an excess of fruit or fruity products isn’t going to help, and may even make things worse because you’re developing a preference for fructose.

It’s why you can get super healthy vegans, vegetarians, paleo and raw enthusiasts all still hooked on sugar even if they don’t actually eat refined sugar. The fruit or dried fruit is healthy until the excess fructose starts having a negative impact on your health or you start feeling habitually or emotionally dependent on it. Natural fructose, even in fruit, can be just as addictive as refined sugar fructose.

What to do

As you can see, there is no straightforward yes or no when it comes to fruit. It completely depends on where you are at with things, and what you’re trying to achieve, especially in terms of your relationship with sweet food and your cravings.

If you don’t quite feel in control of your sweet habits, then a sugar detox or temporary period of lower fructose (without fruit) may well help you tame the sweet tooth that sabotages your other healthier efforts. It will help you create new habits around savoury alternatives and become less dependent on sweet food in your day-to-day diet.

However, if you don’t feel cravings that often, or you’re able to satisfy them moderately with a little fruit here and there, then it is likely you can enjoy fruit as part of a healthy diet with no restriction needed.

Working out your personal optimum fruit amount takes a little experimentation, time and knowledge. Transitioning to lower sugar life can be a bit complicated on the fruit front as you go through but you can find your way to incorporate it sensibly in your health efforts. Use your cravings as your own gauge to determine how much is right for you and know that fruit absolutely can be part of a healthy lower sugar diet long term if you want it to be.

I’d really love to know what you think on this one so please leave a comment below on your general opinion or how you handle this topic with others. I’m widely opening the doors to discussion!

Laura xx

Sugar and your teeth: Expert tips to stop the decay!

I write quite often about the various negatives of consuming too much sugar. The control it can have over you, the dangerous role it can have in dealing with your feelings and of course all the physical dangers that are associated with overconsumption (metabolic diseases, poor sleep, bad skin etc.).

One area I’ve not highlighted as much is the damage to your teeth; which is strange because trust me, I have suffered when it comes to my teeth thanks to my former love of all things sweet. It seems this is the one way sugar can continue to haunt you even after you’ve largely stopped eating it.

Dentist pain

Last time I was at the dentist I told her about my blog and business Happy Sugar Habits. I told her I help people eat less sugar and change their lifelong habits; and that I hardly eat ANY SUGAR now in comparison to what I used to. I was going for angel status. This was all in the desperate hope that somehow good karma was going to make her tell me I didn’t need anymore fillings (which didn’t work because I did – it turned out an old one needed replacing, damn).

Thanks to sugar, I have fillings, lots of them. I’ve had a root canal (I actually had to come home from travelling at 19 to have that one done) and now I’ve got one tooth that still needs something big and ugly doing to it this autumn (which I’m dreading).

I’ve wept in dentists chairs, spent a small fortune, been numb from injections countless times and am likely to be ever anxious when I have to have routine check ups. Yet for years I kept eating too much stick to the teeth style sugar, prioritising low fat and low calories over everything else. Why, I ask my younger self, WHY?!

This week, I’m pleased to introduce James Goolnik, one of the UK’s leading dental experts who has kindly written some hints and tips around sugar to help you minimise the damage and avoid unnecessary dentist drama. I hope it helps you avoid future costs and pain!

James Goolnik

What sugar does to your teeth (by James Goolnik)

What did you last put into your mouth? Not many of us stop and think of the possible effects foods and drinks have on our teeth. The enamel of your teeth is the hardest substance in your body but it can easily be worn away by drinks and foods. You only get one set of adult teeth and with some common sense, you can ensure they last your lifetime.

Everyone has bacteria in the mouth and some of these live off the sugary foods you give them, producing acid as a by product. It’s this acid that burns tiny holes in your teeth leading to cavities (tooth decay). It takes a healthy mouth about 30 minutes to neutralise this acid and during this time they’re having a party in your mouth. These bacteria love to be fed regularly, so if you sip a sugary drink or snack on sweets, the saliva in your mouth does not get a chance to neutralise this acid. It’s effectively the same thing as dipping your teeth in acid; they slowly dissolve.

With sugary or acidic snacks and drinks, it’s the frequency that’s the most important – strangely eating more over a short period is much better for your teeth than regular grazing or drinking. This isn’t an excuse to eat more, but it’s something to consider.

Acidic drinks are also a problem. The acid in these does not even need the bacteria and can cause direct ‘erosion’ of your teeth. Any carbonated drinks are a problem, even fizzy water. They can lead to your teeth getting transparent and becoming sensitive. To minimise the damage, drink them through a straw or have them with food.

How can I prevent tooth decay from sugar?

You need to become more aware of when and where you’re eating sugar, making an effort to reduce the amount and frequency you consume it (Laura’s Mentor Me Off Sugar programme is of course a way to do this!). Eating food and drink high in carbohydrates, particularly snacking between meals, will increase your risk of tooth decay. If you eat or drink something containing sugar, you can neutralise this acid by:

  • Having some sugar-free chewing gum
  • Using a fluoride mouthwash
  • Having a rinse out with water
  • Finishing on a savoury snack to neutralise the acid

If you want to brush your teeth, wait at least 30 minutes so you are not brushing in this acid.

About James

James is the principal dentist at the award winning Bow Lane Dental Group in London. You can download a FREE copy of the oral survival guide to make sure your teeth last a lifetime here. James recommends you see your dentist for an oral health assessment and work with them to help minimise the damage sugar can do.

A final note from me…

Reading James’s article, I recognise something that I used to do that probably didn’t help me. I used to eat a small portion of something sweet then I’d be ‘good’ and stop. However I wanted more and so 30 mins later I’d go back for a little bit more (that’s what sugar does doesn’t it!?). Maybe 2 hours later and I’d just have another few raisins or one more of those chocolates. This is the constant mental battle I often refer to around sugar, but as highlighted it’s also a killer in terms of sugar attacks on your teeth. Can anyone relate to this? Do you pop back for just a bit more? Do you swear everytime you go to the dentist that you’re going to eat less sugar?! Comment below and we can share war stories!

The 5 sugar-friendly hotel tips I live by

Eating at home and being in control of the ingredients in your food makes keeping an eye on sugar relatively easy when you get used to it. However, when you’re out staying in hotels things can get a little trickier. If you find yourself in a hotel for either work or for pleasure then here are my best tips to keep healthy habits in check with a suitable amount of perspective.

100’s of nights in hotels

I can write this post from sheer experience. I have stayed in A LOT of hotels over the past few years. As a management consultant for the best part of 4 years I found myself practically living in them at times. From the Holiday Inn to a Marriott to the old serviced apartments; I had loyalty cards falling out of my wallet, reception staff knew me by first name and I developed my own weird little routines to keep as healthy as possible.

In fact it was my time on a project in Aberdeen living in serviced apartments that was a pivotal part of my own sugar journey. This was the year in my life when I really started to cut back on sugar with the depressing reality that most of the food I liked (& loved) had sugar in it. Ah, the memories…

Living in hotels I have a few key tips to help you navigate healthy eating. It actually isn’t that hard if you stick to some basic principles:

1) Navigate the hotel breakfast buffet

The breakfast buffet is not your enemy, you just need to navigate it with precision. I went from a fruit, yoghurt, granola/muesli and toast girl to an eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes girl. The latter is now my default healthy breakfast and fruit/yoghurt is now my ‘treat’ one. It actually seems backwards to most people i.e. hitting the fry up section first but it’s the protein & vegetable rich part of the buffet that is going to really set you up for the day rather than drive cravings. Note: Hash browns and fried bread are still a pretty unhealthy no no. Likewise processed meats like bacon I keep to occasionally rather than standard.

buffet breakfast

This was a rather large delicious feast of a buffet breakfast!

2) Hide biscuits as soon as you enter the room

I don’t have to do this anymore because I know I don’t want them. However, when I was still craving this favourite food of mine intensely, I used to walk in my hotel room, grab them, and put them straight in the safe. Yes, I still knew they were in there, and occasionally I would break in and eat them anyway. However, for the majority of the time the ‘out of sight, out of mind’ really did work. Repeat it a few times and you develop the habit. Ever found biscuits in your safe? Yeah that was probably me!

3) Minimise hidden sugar but don’t stress

In terms of hidden sugar, it’s sauces, soups and dressings that will hide the most. A honey glazed chicken dish is pretty obvious so avoid obviously sweetened sauces to start. Order dressings and sauces on the side and then taste them to see how much you really want or if you want it at all. Request plainly cooked food then order extra butter to add flavour, taste and good fat to a dish. Quite often they get this wrong or forget. I know the other day there was a bit of sugary dressing on something, so accept that sometimes either you or the hotel will slip up. Learn from it rather than stress about it..

Hotel dinner

4) Try not to get caught out really hungry.

Healthy snacks are hard to come by in hotels so it’s important not to let yourself get so starving that you’re forced to eat biscuits and mini-bar chocolate to stop from fainting. If you can grab an extra apple or a small cheese portion from the breakfast buffet just in case then you’ve got something healthier to tide you over. Likewise at lunch, if you spot some nuts, grab an extra bag to keep in your hotel room. I know when you’ve had a very long day you can forget how hungry you are until those shortbread fingers are suddenly staring you in the face.

5) Cement a healthy routine to start

This is super important, especially if you’re a hotel regular like I was. Your ‘first’ everything sets the standard so get it the way you want it. Create your healthy ‘norms’ the first few times you’re in a new hotel or location. This means not ordering a dessert, resisting the biscuits or mini bar and eating savoury breakfasts as your standard. It sets this mental benchmark in your head and cements initial healthy habits that will feel effortless after a while. Whoah benchmark?! I’m still a consultant at heart aren’t I…

There are more random tips up my sleeve but I think these are the most worthy to focus on initially and this post could get very long. Now you can go live it up in a hotel and have some sugar-friendly tactics to boot!

Do you travel or work a lot in hotels? What do you do to keep sugar intake under control or just to keep healthy in general? Any other tips you’ve got?

Laura xx

Christmas tips: 7 easy and fun ways to eat a little less sugar (video)

I’ve endured tinsel itch all afternoon to make this video! Enjoy….

To save you time here are links to some of the lower end of the scale mince pies and Christmas puddings I found in my research for this video.

Note they still have A LOT of sugar and homemade would be a lot better that anything bought…. however I figured it’s helpful information that’s useful to share….

Waitrose Remy Martin Champange Christmas Pudding (about 32g per portion)

Chosen by you ASDA mince pies (18g per pie)

P.S I’ll also add that if you do reflect over Christmas and you do want some serious change to happen next year in regards to your sugar habits, I’m here to help and support you on your journey….

There’s still a little time (until the 30th Dec) and space left to squeeze onto the 6th Jan Mentor Me Off Sugar Detox programme and I’ve got just 2 spaces left if you want 1-2-1 coaching come the new year. Get in touch (laura@happysugarhabits) and don’t miss out on getting the best support you can with this.

Have a good one!

Laura x

Healthy Easter Tips

Your Healthy Easter Survival Guide: 5 Tips

Easter time and the chocolate eggs come out to throw anyone, who managed to stay on their New Year health kick, right off track. Having a healthy easter can be hazardous. If it’s not the Lindt bunny with a bell on, it’s the hot cross bun or the Cadbury Cream Egg.

Sugary temptation is everywhere once again.

So here are my best tips manifested into some kind of survival guide to keep you from sweet overload.

My Healthy Easter Survival Tips

Survival Tip 1: Mentally prepare

  • You eat what you want to eat. End of.
  • You have complete control (actually believe this).
  • Your fear of missing out, being an Easter scrooge or changing things, is mostly in your own head and is not half as bad as you imagine (I reference this point from Christmas)

Just remember those things and equip yourself with some determination.

Healthy Easter Tips

Even the chicks are ready for it!

Survival Tip 2: Monies over chocolate

My Grandma stopped giving me chocolate a long while ago and I get something little and pretty instead. A pair of knickers or a spring bunny shaped soap (OK I’ve never been given that, but it popped into my head and fits nicely). Even better, she gives me a bit of money to go and buy a new top. I much prefer this arrangement, so now Easter is like a mini giving-fest. Ironically this year, I have a three tiered cake platter for my Grandma. It’s pretty enough without the cakes and will exist more as ornamental centrepiece… I hope!

Survival Tip 3: Don’t waste your saliva on cheap chocolate

I liked this quote from Sarah Wilson today…

“You just have to come to regard pre-masticated, additive-addled chocolate confection as a vile non-food and a waste of your salivary glands. Which it is”

OK quite extreme, but with this in mind, if you are going to have a little chocolate at least make it ridiculously expensive, extremely dark and good quality. Banish the day you will chuck a piece of cheap egg from the 99p shop into your mouth. It tastes simply horrible, even if you are desperate.

Survival Tip 4: Arm yourself with alternatives

Remember there are sugar substitutes like Stevia and Xylitol that you can sneak in if you’re baking. My flatmate and I are decided on finally making Sarah Wilson’s Raspberry Ripe tomorrow and you could also try your hand at some chocolate avocado mousse or chia seed pudding. Alternatively stock up on your favorite nuts or fruit so you always have something that is more nutritional to hand. Swap, substitute, swap…whenever you possibly can.

Survival Tip 5: Don’t stress

Healthy easter tips

Spring wishes…Will daffodils ever come!?

I don’t want to pain this picture that I am of high sugar virtue all the time, because quite honestly, I’m not. Despite having a very different taste for sweet to a year ago, I still falter like any normal human being, particularly with the social side of it all, which for me is still sometimes tricky.

This is my first Easter sans sugar, so like Christmas, I’m going in a bit unknown. My Grandma will have whipped up a lemon meringue pie before I have the chance to lace it with Stevia and there will be points where I’ll get curious about what a hot cross bun might taste like.

So don’t stress. Take your survival tips, do your best, play it cool and ride on for a very Happy Easter!

Laura x

p.s Just to let you know, I am an affiliate of Sarah Wilson, mainly because I actually love her quite a bit. If you do fancy buying one of her products and you click click here or through my side banner, I do get a small token that will go towards the all things Happy Sugar Habits.

p.p.s I can’t add a picture to this post but I’m totally going tweet pic the fancy three tiered cake platter once given, so follow me on twitter if you want to see!

Are artificial sweeteners bad for you?

I never liked the taste of full sugar coke anyway

It’s a question I get asked often. Are artificial sweeteners bad for you? How do they impact your health and do they cause either weight gain or loss?

As with many of the big health debates, it’s not quite black and white. There are some pros, some cons but really it just comes down to a practical approach in terms of how they fit your lifestyle and to what extent they become a ‘tool’ in your sugar busting toolbox.

I’ll explain the stuff, pitch the yay and nays before offering my own opinion around using the imposter sweet stuff.

What are artificial sweeteners?

Aspartame is of course the artificial sweetener associated with Coke, whilst saccharin and sucralose (aka Splenda) are other common ones found in other products or on coffee shop tables.

Additionally, there are other sweeteners out there which should be mentioned:

  • Sugar alcohols occur naturally but can be manufactured for consumption. I discuss one of these Xyltol in another post where it’s used in chocolate.
  • Natural sweeteners are from a wholly natural source e.g. honey & maple syrup
  • Novel sweeteners e.g. Stevia, are basically where the source is natural but the manufacturing process makes it hard to categorise in that way, so ‘novel’ they have been named.

For the purpose of this post we’ll stick to understanding if just artificial sweeteners are bad for you.

The pros

  • They have no calories compared to sugar but make things taste nice
  • They don’t raise your blood sugar. This is good if you have diabetes but also good if you don’t fancy getting onset diabetes.
  • They have been through a thorough and rigorous safety evaluation by regulated authorities.
  • According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no credible evidence that they cause cancer

The cons

  • Some scientific evidence suggests that consuming artificial sweeteners makes your body expect the calories, and you compensate later on thus eating more that you would have in the first place. Only you know if you have a tendency to do this so bear in mind.
  • It’s possible artificial sweeteners change the way you taste food. So frequent use may limit your tolerance to other tastes. Fruit may not taste as sweet and some vegetables may become unpalatable i.e. a bit gross
  • They are ‘artificial’ and you are putting chemicals into your body that our ancestors didn’t obviously do.

Using artificial sweeteners daily

I think I can just about remember the moment I discovered that a Diet Coke had a single calorie versus the 139 in a normal can. What an awesome no brainer. To a calorie counting queen, this appeared the magic bullet. Similar revelations followed with low calorie hot chocolate and snack pots of five calorie jelly.

Yipee I thought.

Not the most natural of colours either!

Essentially however, I wasn’t addressing the root cause of the problem – the fact I needed that fix, desperately. I would still quite often default to my sugar sinners. If it wasn’t artificial, it was high sugar dried fruit or a low calorie high sugar cereal bar. I went through phases of different things to try and cope with the cravings, switching when I got bored of tasting a particular thing (the jelly wore off pretty quick).

At the end of the day, using artificial sweeteners for such deep rooted habits is not a long term solution and either acts as delaying tactic or, if you’re lucky, a progressive stepping stone. Reiterate a stepping stone, not something you stand on until it erodes away and you can’t go any other way.

I believe artificially sweetened produce can play a part it overcoming sugar, but more in the way it shows you can change your habits. If you can replace a chocolate bar with a low calorie hot chocolate, then you are capable of replacing a hot chocolate with a sweet tasting liquorice tea, or a normal tea and so on.

A couple of substitutions in the right direction can be easier, more practical and more sustainable than going cold turkey. This worked for me and is why I offer a weekly tip when you subscribe to Happy Sugar Habits.

I will note to always consider whole fresh fruit as another alternative to artificial sweeteners. It’s filling, has more nutritional benefit and is natural. Although I am fully aware blueberries don’t go too well in tea.

For the sweet tea drinkers, again a stepping stone. If you are serious about sugar, you need to accept one day going without sweet tasting tea. A lifetime of daily sweeteners may damage your taste buds, which frankly would be a bit of a shame.

At the end of the path lies sugar free no sugar in my tea!

A more ad-hoc approach

In today’s society and lifestyle, artificial sweeteners have a place on a more occasional basis to keep big sugar hitters out of the picture without giving up all nice things.

Take gin and tonic. I did nearly cry when I discovered the amount of sugar in tonic water. Replacing with a slimline tonic (usually sweetened with saccharin) is a better choice. Depending on your drinking habits, it’s only going to be on occasion. The same goes for the odd diet coke here and there, or using some sweetener as a sugar substitute in a specific recipe. Again, balance and moderation as I mention in every post, because at the end of the day, that’s life.

So the Happy Sugar Habits take on artificial sweeteners…

A non-essential tool in the box of tricks that you need to make sure you can live without, whilst appreciating it might come in handy every now and then. They are good for you when you use to your advantage and bad if you rely on on them.

Do you agree? Or do you steer clear? Please share, tweet, comment…

Sources

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/artificial-sweeteners/MY00073

http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030