Oliver's BlogSaturday 1st June 2019
How To Go Sugar-Free in Seven Easy Steps
We have got very used to eating sugar in large amounts. Foods high is sugar are everywhere in modern culture, almost every dessert you buy in a café or restaurant contains lots of it. Biscuits, cake, chocolate bars and sweets are the norm. Yet the consequences of eating large amounts of refined sugar are now becoming clear, not only causing tooth decay, but contributing to diabetes, over weight, heart disease, depression, poor thinking and possibly some forms of dementia, the list goes on and on.
The craving for sweet foods can be strong, very strong, so how can we wean ourselves off refined sugar? This may not be as difficult as you think, personally I have not eaten sugar for nearly 40 years, and I enjoy plenty of sweet appetising dishes and desserts, so lets look at how you can go sugar-free.
Step 1 - Recognise That You Need Sweetness In Your Life
Don’t deny your need for sweetness, it is natural to desire sweet foods. In Oriental medicine it is one of the five tastes essential to health. Denial can also lead to binging – your need for sweetness builds up, and then bang, you’ve gone and eaten a big portion of chocolate, or cake, or whatever your craving is.
In nature, sweet foods are nourishing to the body, whether sweet fruits, root vegetables or cooked grain dishes, and it is this physical and emotional nourishment that we often crave when we are seeking out sweet foods.
Step 2 - Create Sweet Vegetable Dishes
Make yourself sweet vegetable dishes. This may sound a little crazy – is a sweet squash soup, baked sweet potatoes, or steamed onions really going to substitute for that lovely piece of cake? Well you may be surprised that many people find over time that eating several portions of sweet vegetables a day really does cut down on cravings for sugary foods, so try it.
Vegetables generally need longer cooking to bring out their sweetness – try baked parsnips, beetroot, sweet potato, carrots or squash for a really sweet taste. Fry onions at the beginning of making a sweet vegetable soup, or steam whole onions for 20 to 25 minutes with just a pinch of salt on them to really develop their sweetness. Get into the habit of eating a sweet vegetable dish at least twice a day.
Step 3 - Learn The Art Of Healthy Desserts
Make some great healthy desserts, and enjoy eating them guilt free, as they are nourishing you instead of shooting your blood sugar levels up high and stressing out your pancreas, liver and nervous system and damaging your blood capillaries.
To create sweetness use fresh or dried fruits to make poached pears, baked dessert apples, fruit crumbles and cakes. You can also use small amounts of grain sweeteners like rice syrup and barley malt or concentrated apple juice to create a stronger sweetness. If you have strong sweet cravings, then make yourself a sweet dessert every day, or cook enough to last for several days so when the craving comes up there is something instant you can turn to.
Try these recipes.
Step 4 - Keep Snacking, Healthily
Have healthy snacks and sweet foods around you at home, at work or wherever you hang out. Clear out the sugar and sugary foods from your kitchen to reduce the temptation of diving for sugar, and replace with naturally sweet foods like fresh apples and berries, dried apricots, raisins and some grain sweetener (such as brown rice syrup).
Try amasake, a traditional Japanese fermented rice or millet sweet puree – some people find this the best substitute for creamy desserts. It can be made into a sweet hot drink, creamy puddings, or as a topping on almost anything.
Step 5 - Get Plenty of Rest
Ask yourself, are you using sugar to override exhaustion? Do you reach for the sweet snack when you are just exhausted, and are looking for something to pick you up?
If this is true for you then you need to get more sleep at night, adjust your work or daily life with more rest or breaks. This can then reduce the sweet cravings a lot. Learn to listen to your body’s real physical needs, and respond to them whenever you can.
Step 6 - Look After Your Emotional Health
Ask yourself, am I emotionally satisfied with my life? If you are very unsatisfied, then you may be using sugar and sweet foods as a replacement for the nourishment and love you deeply desire from good friends, a partner, emotional support, doing work that feeds you, or having time for fun and following your passions.
If you are using sugar to try to replace your deep human needs, you are caught in an endless cycle of feeling dissatisfied, eating sugar, momentarily feeling good, then back to an emotional low. Break this cycle by spending some time feeling out what your unfulfilled needs are, and make the changes in your life to bring you greater satisfaction and nourishment.
Step 7 - Understand The Benefits From Your Own Experience
Really observe how you feel when you are off sugar – many people say they feel more emotionally stable, more deeply satisfied with themselves and their life, have more energy, can think more clearly, and feel more in touch with their real feelings and self.
Taking Things Forward
Encourage yourself to keep going with your sugar-free way of living, until it becomes your natural default way of eating. If you do then eat something high in refined sugar you may will be surprised to feel the strong effect it has on you, that you never realised.
It’s also worthwhile making some nice sugar-free dishes and desserts for your friends and family, so you can enjoy eating good food together, and introduce the people you love to a healthier way of living too. You can also check out our short courses on cooking healthy food.