5 easy ways to use cacao nibs

I picked up these cacao nibs in Holland and Barratts (£7.99) where you can currently get one half price when you buy two (I gave a bag to Stephanie Fleming for Christmas if you’re wondering!).

What do you think of cacao nibs? Too bitter? Or an awesome sugar-friendly chocolate hit? Let me know in a comment below.

Laura xx

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Review time: Dark chocolate brands

A little while ago I did a sugar comparison on dark chocolate brands to help you get an idea for those that are high and those that are low when it comes to sugar content.

I advocate dark chocolate as a lower sugar option in a number of instances e.g. better than a sugary low fat yoghurt, better than a Special K bar and better than a 100 calorie milk chocolate bar. However, as my previous post demonstrated, not all dark chocolate is equal.

I really used dark chocolate to help me transition from my post meal sweet fix for a period of time and I still dabble every now and then if I really fancy it. There are a world of brands and varieties out there. I can’t review them that fast because I simply don’t eat it often enough!

Nevertheless, here are some reviews on many of those that I compared and a few that have made it into my home!

lovechock-dark-chocolate-raw-100percent-pure-nibs

Willie’s Cacao Venezuelan Gold 72%

I ended up with this chocolate because I mentioned to my mum I wanted to try their 100% cacao block, and she was on the lookout for it as a present. I wanted the block because it’s good for grating and using in recipes. However, my mum found they had run out of it, and not wanting to disappoint, she picked me up a different one from the same brand.

This Venezuelan Gold 72% is about as sweet as I can tolerate – I don’t like to go below 72% cocoa solids these days (oh how things have changed!). This bar has quite a distinct unusual nutty flavour – sometimes I think I really like it, sometimes I’m not sure. It comes wrapped as two big thick squares, so it’s not great for breaking off and eating (I like thin and snappy) but it is superb for grating though. Try it grated over full fat natural yoghurt and frozen berries for a tasty, sugar sensible dessert.

Green & Blacks organic 85% (&75%)

This is a classic and the 70% is usually pretty widely available here in the UK at a reasonable price in most supermarkets and shops. A smooth texture and lovely taste, it’s quality dark chocolate.

I prefer the 85% as it’s a bit lower in sugar, but the 70% variety can come in a really cute little bar.  This is great for those that struggle to stop at one or two squares and need a bit of forced portion control…and it’s just so cute!

Lovechock

12% sugar (coconut nectar – so one of the healthiest forms of sugar)

80% cocoa solids

Dairy & gluten free

100% raw

OK, I was given a Lovechock bar  to try at a show I attended. It’s really really nice, so much so that I found I got ‘I could easily eat the whole bar’ syndrome. I don’t usually get this so I wonder if this has something to do with the different ingredients or if it’s just way up there in terms of taste. They also gave me an orange and goji berry one, which again was totally delicious, but a little higher in sugar and it put me on the border of being in sugar control!

If you want to try, you need to buy online, I found Detox Your World sells it for £2.78

lindts-excellence-chilli-dark-chocolatedark-chocolate-nero-and-bianco-fairtrade-and-organic

Lindt Excellence 90%

This is dark. It’s for the hardcore dark chocolatiers. It’s the lowest in sugar content, so it’s more bitter than sweet. I love this chocolate now, but I expect if you gave it to your Dairy Milk sugar-loving friend, they would screw up their face like they’d eaten a sour grape and say ‘That’s not chocolate.’ Try it and let me know how you get on!

It’s definitely one to work towards and if you can grow to like it as much as I do, then you can satisfy your chocolate fix with practically no sugar…result!

Nero & Bianco

I picked this up in my office canteen one day. I have to say I’m not a massive fan. It’s quite sickly sweet and doesn’t feel as good quality as other brands. I still have half a bar of it leftover that I haven’t touched. Enough said.

Lindt Excellence Chilli

This is so unusual and I love the chilli-choc combination. It’s a nice smooth texture with a great velvety kick afterwards.

However, despite being ‘dark’, it’s nearly 50% sugar, so beware. Don’t go eating this thinking you’re being dark chocolate virtuous, because I’d count it more towards the regular chocolate camp.

It was largely my dark chocolate of choice for a while, but as I became aware and I moved to the darker end of the scale it edged down the ranks. As my tastebuds continue to get used to a life less sweet, I probably won’t buy it again or at least for a while.

What other dark chocolate brands have you found and would like to share? I will continue to try some new ones over the next few months.

 

fructose

Video Review: Get clued up on ‘Sweet Freedom’

A must watch if you’ve bought or been tempted to buy this product which I’ve noticed is now in most major UK supermarkets and health stores.

Useful videos and links on things that I mentioned:

are-nakd-bars-bad-for-you

Are Nakd bars good for you?

Do you LOVE Nakd bars? They are by far one of your favourite health snacks and you find yourself enjoying them quite often. However with all the stuff about sugar recently, do you wonder if Naked bars are good for you?

It’s a very common question I get asked these days, so I decided to help you out and lay out all the facts so you can make your mind up in line with your own personal situation…

Before I continue, I will say that the lovely Natural Balance Foods sent me a load of these bars to review and this was when I was quite new to blogging.

I was in a bit of a quandary because at that point I was what I call quite ‘sugar sensitive’  –  I was in a stage of my transition where I needed to be more cautious around some of my former favourite sugar fixes to avoid slipping back to the unhealthy habits I had with them.

Having a whole box of Nakd bars in my house and not reverting back to old ways was going to be a test…

nakd-bars-bad-for-you

Nakd Bars Reviews

Fair to say, ‘Natural’ healthy bars used to be my thing.

I would try out and hunt the latest ones on the market like my life depended on it because they were the most guilt free way I could satisfy my sweet fix.

At one point, these Nakd bars completely fed my ‘sugar addiction’ on a daily basis (it’s a strong term but you know what I mean).

I was eating 1-3 of them a day. Everyday. I had a ritual of eating them after a meal and in the afternoons and sometimes (also) for breakfast. I was hooked on these because in my head I could label them ‘healthy’, however, I was VERY accustomed to having a decent bit of fructose in my life everyday (read what you need to know about fructose here).

If you feel you’re in a similar place with these, you’re not alone and you should definitely read on….

Are NaKd bars good for you? The for and against…

Firstly, I want to highlight some really great points about these bars. They:

  • Are made with 100% natural ingredients i.e. not overly processed.
  • The Nakd bars recipe is simple with just a few ingredients
  • Contain mainly just fruits and nuts. Not refined sticky rice puffs like other cereal bars
  • Are pretty substantial and do definitely fill a hunger gap
  • Suffice as a source of some protein which comes from the nuts
  • Taste really delicious (I LOVED the cocoa orange one)

However, let’s not beat around the bush, on a sugar front they are not so great, due to the following:

  • Most bars are made with dates and raisins. Nearly all of them are made with approximately 50% dates and then another 10-15% raisins on top.
  • Dates and raisins are two of the highest and most concentrated forms of sugar (and fructose) around.
  • They are big portions of dried fruit. 35g in a packet equals a decent amount of your daily sweetness intake.

So how much sugar in Nakd bars?

On average we’re talking 14-15g sugar per bar. This is near enough 4 teaspoons of sugar if you were to convert it to white refined, which is quite a lot when you think of it in actual physical teaspoons.

The danger of this much sugar is that it’s likely to make you crave sugar again later on and continually build up your preference for sweet food in general.

To put it into perspective, I very roughly aim to eat about 25g of natural sugar a day.

So, relatively speaking, one of these Nakd bars is quite a big proportion of that (over half). This is similar to other health food bars – see the below image from The Daily Mail.

sugar-cereal-bars

Some can be less sugar, for example a small Special K bar can be around 7g, so Nakd are still over double that. Natural sugars yes, but high in sugar nonetheless.

To help you with the range, here’s a list of the lowest to highest sugar content by flavour:

  • Ginger Bread 11g
  • Pecan Pie 12g
  • Cashew Cookie 14g
  • Cocoa Orange 14g
  • Cocoa Delight 15g
  • Cocoa Mint 15g
  • Berry Delight 16g
  • Caffe Mocha 17g
  • Rhubarb & Custard 18g

To be honest the lower sugar ones are my favourite anyway. You may also find seasonal ones like the Christmas Pud one which is about 17g if I remember.

nakd-bars

So should I eat them?

This really does come down to you and where you’re currently at with sugar. Are you actively trying to reduce your sweet cravings to get more control? Are you trying to just make ‘better’ healthy swaps? Are you just in need of some quick release energy after exercise or running?

1. What to do if you’re trying to get control & reduce cravings

I’d say pull back on eating these for a while. They don’t have to go off your radar forever, but it may be worth you going through more of a tastebud recalibration period. Their high fructose content and addictive deliciousness won’t help with the end goal of getting more control over sweet food (trust me on this one!)

2. What to do if you’re trying to just make ‘better’ healthy swaps

If you’ve decided you’re going to eat something sweet and are about to reach for a chocolate bar, a flapjack or a full on dessert, these are a WAY better substitute. They were a definite ‘bridge’ for me in terms of switching bad foods to ‘better’ foods. However, know there are even lower sugar ‘better’ swaps like a small square of dark chocolate (1-5g) or some full fat greek yoghurt (contains the less addictive lactose sugar). Remember, this is a progressive journey.

3. What to do if you’re intensely exercising

Because dried fruit is a quick releasing source of natural sugar for the body, these can actually be a great post workout fuel. However if you also fall into the first category I mentioned earlier where you’re also trying to get in control, you’re faced with a dilemma.

You need to try and refuel where you can with lower fructose options (I know this is hard). I suggest checking out my 101 sugar strategies guide for ideas and if you’re a sweet toothed runner, you may also find this post useful.

4. Another one… When you’re a bit hungover!

After a little excess, your body is processing the alcohol and as a result isn’t that great at processing other energy you have stored. That’s why you find yourself craving quick sugar (Lucozade anyone?!). A Nakd bar, or similar equivalent can hit the spot in a more natural way, but again just be mindful of the sugar in them and the impact on your cravings. If you can opt for a good hearty eggs based breakfast instead (get some spinach in that fry up!) then you’ll nicely steady your blood sugar without the sugar hit.

In summary…

I’m hoping this post has been helpful to you wherever you are on your low sugar journey. I do think Nakd bars have a fair bit of sugar (sweetness) in just a single bar and they certainly aren’t something I’d advise to eat if you’re actively looking to cut down or get a bit more control over things. I encourage those reducing their cravings away from them.

These are not something I eat regularly now, but do occasionally enjoy as a natural treat because I know there’s no danger of going back.

However, I appreciate, everyone is different and at varying stages of lowering sugar, so really, it’s your call. Some are mighty tasty and they are a lot ‘better’ than other sweet things. At least now you can save yourself some sugar credits by opting for the lower sugar ginger bread flavour and you’re fully aware of how much sugar you’re putting away when eating one.

If you tend to get a bit confused between natural sugars when reading label then you can download my free 6-step process to reading labels PDF guide  which will walk you through really logical steps. Honestly, get your head around this process and you’ll never look back!

If this has been useful please share, like, comment or wave 😉

What do you think of Nakd bars? I would really love to hear your thoughts on these….favourite flavour, when you eat them etc. 

Review: Pukka ‘Detox’ tea

Looking for a new tea to curb the sugar cravings? Here I review Pukka ‘Detox’ tea so you can decide if you want to try it for yourself.

In general, tea is great sugar craving fodder. I know I used Chai and licorice frequently when I was weaning myself off a particularly strong post-meal sweet fix habit. This Pukka Detox tea is another really great one to add to that list.

Pukka ‘Detox’ TeaPukka Detox Tea

The Pukka ‘detox’ is a blend of organic aniseed, fennel and cardamom to ‘cleanse and revive’. All of these are distinct flavours that have a naturally sweet edge. For example I’ve used cardamom before in these muesli-type breakfast bars to sweeten without dried fruit.

If you don’t like aniseed or licorice, then you might want to stop reading now because the taste does come through in this tea. However, know that it’s not as strong as a pure licorice tea and you might be able to stomach it.

Fennel

If you’re not familiar with fennel, it’s a strange looking vegetable that is naturally sweet tasting, so combined with the licorice and aromatic cardamom, you really do have a winning combination for satisfying a sweet urge. Something to try if you’re having a face off with the biscuits or chocolate!

Fennel is also an excellent digestion aid – another great reason to use this tea after lunch or dinner to help sooth your digestive system.

After drinking this tea for a few days, I was so partial to the fennel flavour, I bought one to use at home. I thinly sliced half and added to my daily salads whilst the other half I roasted, which further bought out the sweet flavour. Why not have a go with fennel yourself and see if you can appreciate it’s natural sweetness – this will be even more apparent as you change your tastebuds.

The verdict

Overall I think the Pukka Detox Tea is one of my favourite herbal teas around. It’s tasty, satisfying and warming. Usually I find herbal teas can smell a lot better than they taste, but I have to say this one follows through. I would happily drink it any time or day, and it might even start to push my old favourite Early Grey out on occasion.

However, I wouldn’t rely drinking this ‘detox’ tea to redeem you from say a sugar binge, but it’s certainly going to make you feel like you’re doing your insides some good.

Have you tried Pukka Detox tea? Do you use any other teas for sugar cravings?

 

Review: CO YO coconut milk yoghurt

It’s always exciting to try a new healthy product, so when I took a leisurely break to Piccadilly Wholefoods Store last week, I decided to treat myself to a product I’d had on my low sugar radar for a while – A CO YO coconut milk yoghurt.

 

Let’s start with the facts…

  • dairy free
  • soya free
  • gluten free
  • lactose free
  • no added sugar

Understandably you might be asking what on earth has this yoghurt got in it at this point? Well, it’s nearly all natural coconut milk with a little bit of Xylitol sweetener.

If you haven’t noticed coconut is doing the rounds as the latest health food godsend.

I’ve already written about coconut oil and its various benefits. There’s coconut water springing up all over the place which it seems half the celeb world is endorsing. Skin like Rhianna and Miranda Kerr – err yes please!

Needless to say it’s packed with goodness. Picking just a few of the benefits it:

  • Improves immune system
  • Promotes glossy skin, hair and nails celeb style
  • Lowers cholesterol
  • Speeds up metabolism and can support weight loss

Personally however, my favourite thing about all things coconut is that they taste naturally sweet and are truly great if you’re looking to cut back on sugar. They’re savoir when you need to satisfy that urge because they feel rich and indulgent.

The verdict

So what does the CO YO yoghurt taste like? I can confirm it’s super creamy, it feels gorgeously smooth and as long as you don’t hate coconut tasting stuff, you’ll like the flavour. It seemed to disappear out of its pot quite fast and I thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful.

I think it’s important to point out the CO YO coconut yoghurt is high in fat with over 20g and comes in just over 200 calories per pot. That appears a lofty amount, but it’s a healthier natural fat and makes this a real tasty ‘treat’ yoghurt that is still sugar free.

They’re not super cheap at £1.99 and are only stocked in limited places (Ocado, Selfridges, Wholefoods and other specialist stores), so granted, these aren’t going to be a daily staple.

If you’re passing by then pick one up to try instead of an unhealthy treat i.e. a cupcake which is likely to cost you more than £1.99 anyway.

Also, make sure you’re subscribed to the Happy Sugar Habits mailing list because in addition to a weekly sugar busting tip, there are soon to be lots of other exciting things coming my subscribers’ way.

Fancy trying a CO YO yoghurt or have you already? Or are you put off by the high fat and calories? As always, open to your opinions, questions or thoughts. If you don’t want all to see, feel free to send me an e-mail to laura@happysugarhabits.com. You will likely make my day!