Sugar-free: week 1 update

Apologies in advance for the lack of photos in this blog. I’m not really used to being a food blogger and when I was planning what to talk about it occurred to me that foodie writing NEEDS pictures. But I didn’t take any. I was too busy eating. I promise pictures for the next update though. Reasonably good ones, taken by The Man With The Camera.

It’s Wednesday today, which means I’ve been sugar-free for 9 days. I’ve also cut back drastically on wheat and dairy, substituting in things like spelt and rye bread, as well as almond, rice, oat and goat’s milk. I’m not really attempting to go wheat- or dairy-free remember. Just experimenting with some alternatives that are cleaner and leaner according to James Duigan‘s book.

I feel REALLY good. Over the last few days, I’ve noticed that I have more energy. Two stubborn patches of eczema on my neck and below my right eye are all but gone. The skin on my scalp is still murderously bad but that’s a longer-term project I think. Crucially, I feel a lot less stressed by it and a lot less anxious in general. I even got a little virusy bug that laid me low on Monday and Tuesday. This doesn’t sound like a good thing but I think it’s been in my system since sometime in early March. I think I’ve just been too stressed to get any symptoms (cortisol suppresses your immune system). So I take that as a sign that I’m a lot less stressed and now quite a bit healthier than I was before.

I actually get hungry now instead of getting sugar crashes. And it’s quite nice to feel properly hungry as opposed to the shaky ‘must-eat-something-now-even-if-it’s-cardboard’ feeling of the sugar rollercoaster. The cravings for sugar went away pretty quickly. I know from prior experience that they take about 4-5 days to wear off as blood sugar levels stabilise. Where I have suffered is in breaking the habits that come with sugary treats. Had a lovely day out in the New Forest on Sunday and would have done ANYTHING to sit in one of Lyndhurst’s cosy looking tea rooms, drink hot chocolate and eat cake. It wasn’t because of sugar cravings; it was just absolutely part of the ritual of a day like that and I really missed it. When the sugar comes back, I would gladly sacrifice any number of week-night chocolate bars on the sofa to ensure I can justify treats like that.

Five foodie things I know after week 1:

  1. Peanut butter spread thickly on rice cakes is almost a cake substitute. Remember that not all peanut butters are created equal. There are brands out there with no sugar but they’re few and far between. Only one of the many options on offer in Waitrose had no sugar added so check the ingredients if you’re trying to avoid sugar.
  2. Porridge with fruit is not ‘oogly’. I’ve been guilty of being a porridge purist in the past, in the same way that I don’t really like bits in my yoghurt (and am secretly 5 years old). But I’ve changed my mind. These are our regular combos, with oat milk – frozen berries; lightly mashed banana and manuka honey; a whole grated apple and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
  3. Rice milk is naturally quite sweet and Rice Dream Vanilla Milk (which has just four ingredients, none of which is sugar) is amazing. Hoping to use this in a breakfast smoothie soon if I can stop just drinking it.
  4. I had forgotten how much I loved my hand-held blender for making soup. The following is a great combo: oven roasted sweet potato, veggie stock, slow-cooked onions and a little bit of cooked chorizo (I tend to cook the onions with the chorizo so it releases its lovely paprika-y flavour and enough oil that I don’t need to add any more). To get enough soup for about 8 people use three large sweet potatos, 2 large onions, 1 small chorizo sausage and enough stock to comfortably cover everything in the pan. Then blend. I added a tin of Heinz tomato soup as well…
  5. Jalapenos make everything better. Big bowls of salad for lunch have left me a bit cold in the past but I made a tuna salad I loved and I customised a salsa recipe from James Duiggan’s book. Both of them were MADE by the addition of jalapenos. Recipes below.

Tuna salad (serves 2 for a decent-sized lunch or up to 4 as a side salad)

You’ll need: A tin of tuna in sunflower oil (not no-drain tuna or the kind in spring water) / 8-10 cherry tomatoes (cut in half) / 8-10 chantenay carrots (topped and tailed) / half a cucumber (diced) / the juice of a lime / fresh spinach leaves / a handful of fresh parsley (chopped) / a handful of pumpkin seeds / a bunch of pickled jalapenos (roughly chopped)

  • Chop up all the veg and combine it with the flaked tuna, half the oil from the tuna tin, the lime juice, the parsley and the jalapenos. Don’t add the spinach.
  • Leave it to sit for at least an hour if you can to bring out the flavours.
  • Make a bed out of spinach leaves and spoon the rest of the salad on top.
  • Drizzle over any leftover ‘juice’ and sprinkle the pumpkin seeds on top.

Chunky salsa (serves 4 as a side dish) – based on the Spicy Salsa from James Duigan’s Clean and Lean but customised (He didn’t include any tomatoes!! And he suggested coriander, which I loathe, hence the parsley substitute)

You’ll need: 1 red onion (finely chopped) / 10-12 cherry tomatoes (chopped) / juice of 1 lime / 1 large clove of garlic (crushed) / a bunch of pickled jalapenos (roughly chopped) / a handful of fresh parsley (finely chopped) / black pepper and sea salt for seasoning

  • Chop up all the veg and combine everything in a bowl.
  • Try to prepare at least an hour before eating to let the flavours develop.

Five foods that are great for reducing stress:

Go for foods that are rich in minerals like chromium and magnesium to help relieve feelings of stress and anxiety.

  1. Oats
  2. Sweet potato
  3. Quinoa
  4. Broccoli
  5. Brazil nuts

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