The first episode of the BBC documentary series ‘The Truth About…’ aired a few nights ago and focused on most people’s guilty pleasure and go-to snack buddy: SUGAR. The programme was well-structured and gave very informative information regarding Britain’s sugar intake and highlighted the differences between natural and artificial sweeteners. The effects of high sugar consumption were also presented, including its effects on our brain and eating habits.
The programme prompted me to analyse my past relationship with the white stuff. Sure, I barely have refined sugars nowadays and I always look for the sugar content in anything I buy from the supermarket but how smart do I have to be to ensure the 6-teaspoon daily guideline is not exceeded?
Much like many of my peers, I loved sugar as a child. I was not always a fan of carbonated drinks but chocolate and sweets were one of my best friends. I remember adding sugar to almost anything – cereal, yoghurts and hot drinks; there was a time when I had a teaspoon of sugar straight from the jar, something which highly grosses me to this day.
Fast forward to twenty years and I have no sugar in any of my hot drinks; I refrain from drinking anything sweet; I barely consume any sweets or chocolate; fruit and maple syrup are my new best friends. What changed me?
As a scientist, I am quite skeptical about statistics anyway so they were not my reason for quitting sugar. Nor did any health fads or life-changing experiences. For some reason, there came a day in 2013 when desserts and chocolate seemed unappealing, and a bowl of fresh fruit and Greek yoghurt became a staple snack. My general health and well-being journey is not due to an unfortunate disease, allergy or eating disorder, I was simply dissatisfied with some of my eating habits and fitness.
The Truth About… Sugar specifically mentioned that if you want to curb your sweet tooth, grab a fruit instead of chocolate. This is one of of my main reasons and motivation for my general well-ness changes – cold, hard facts! We all know that fruit > chocolate on the healthy stakes without needing the BBC or a magazine article re-iterating it to us. Yes, it may be hard for some to reduce their intake, providing we are constantly told about the nation’s sugar addiction, but listening to simple scientific facts about food and the body helped me more than any statistics did.
I started eliminating unnecessary sweet treats from my diet, as well as sticking to porridge and honey for breakfast. Sweet drinks were never my vice so drinking water all the time was not a problem. A year on, I rarely have sweeteners (natural or artificial) for breakfast or in my smoothies/juices; I rely on fructose from the fruit I am using for that!
I love baking and find it hard to resist home-baked treats, but halving the portion you’re about to consume to half a slice of cake is the way forward. Swapping sugar for natural sweeteners when baking is the next step to take. I am still mindful of the amounts I add as syrups tend to have a richer flavour, thus a little goes a long way.
Having dried fruit, nuts and natural snack bars curbed my sweet tooth during those afternoon slumps. Alongside some peanut butter, of course. These ensure your sugar levels are kept at a sustainable level without bringing about a sugar crash a few hours after. I did not think my snacking will make any difference but these usually dictate your eating habits for the rest of the day and whether sugar loading is on the cards or not.
Saying no is okay. I found this the most difficult aspect as I am a student and free food is what we live for; I have also been brought up in a household where plates must be immaculately clean before moving onto the next course. At times, however, it is acceptable, polite and more beneficial to refuse an offering of a second portion.
Lastly, seeing sugar as a treat rather than a necessity helped too. In my second year of university, I spent a £1 everyday at the Student’s Union shop on a piece of their finest maple and pecan plait. £5 a week x 24 = a lot of dollars. I’m amazed as to how I managed to sustain this habit financially and physically.
This was the easiest way to spot how I can cut back on my refined sugar intake – looking at my daily eating habits. As I am currently on my final year, I am more mindful of my eating and spending habits as I am planning to save to travel/live my life next year! Admittedly, this has helped curb my sweet tooth for baked goods as every £1 I spend = £1 less for travelling. Yes, we want to live our lives and not have to deprive ourselves of salted caramel goods, but kicking the daily habit of having almond croissants with your morning coffee is a good start.
Thus, maple pecan plaits are only consumed once in a blue moon nowadays, helping me make room for the inevitable binging to be had on tropical beaches (hopefully). Happy Sunday!