In September I completed a four week no-sugar challenge with a group I made through Instagram. You can read about our experience with the challenge here, but in this post I want to show you some of the things we ate on our no-sugar diet and share with you some of my top tips for maintaining it.
A no-sugar diet makes breakfast a bit tricky, as so many of our go-to breakfasts are stuffed with sugar. What most of us in the challenge ate for breakfast was:
- Porridge or quinoa bowl (see below) with nut butter and fruit. Add a little honey for sweetness.
- Green smoothie: banana, 1/2 avocado, unsweetened plant milk (almond/oat/coconut), lots of kale/spinach.
- Savoury route: any kind of eggs with fried vegetables (mushrooms/tomatoes/spinach) and avocado. Add meat on the side or cheese for extra protein.
Lunch and dinner tend to be savoury meals, so we didn’t struggle too much in cooking up sugar-free meals. One thing we had to be very careful of however, was the sauces. So many store-bought sauces are very high in sugar, so we avoided buying these and made our own. Stay tuned over the next couple of weeks where I will post some of my favourite homemade sugar-free sauces. In general though, some good lunch and dinner recipes with no sugar might include:
- Salads without the dressing. There are a tonne of things you can add to make it more exciting without a sugary dressing on top. My favourite salad additions include avocado, feta cheese, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, loads of raw vegetables, tofu, meat (chicken is great in a salad), or tuna. You can add some fruit to get that sweet flavour as well, strawberries and apples work particularly well I find. And just drizzle some oil and balsamic vinegar over it to stop it from being dry.
- Meat/fish with potatoes/rice and lots of vegetables. Use seasoning instead of sauces to stop it from being boring.
- Pasta dishes.
- Omelette with vegetables/cheese/meat.
It’s the snacks where most of the sugar is hiding, and this was what I found the hardest to avoid. So many snack bars are very high in sugar. I stuck to the raw and natural bars like Perkier, Nakd and Pulsin, for example. Energy balls by Deliciously Ella were a great favourite with the group, and I found my new favourite sugar-free chocolate. Honestly it’s so good. Try it out.
Eating out was difficult as we obviously couldn’t check a label for ingredients. The best thing to do would be to ask for your food without the sauces. The burger without the ketchup. The salad without the dressing. Think about the sides as well, even coleslaw can be high in sugar. Most restaurants are very accommodating with things like this, so just ask for your meal without all the added stuff.
And if you’re usually someone who goes for dessert, try ordering a starter instead. That way you should be more full after your main course and won’t be tempted to order that chocolate cake…
Fruit is a controversial one. When I said I was giving up sugar for four weeks, a lot of people said “even fruit?!”
But I wasn’t being that strict: I allowed myself natural sugars. Yet, despite the fruit in sugar being natural and unrefined, some fruits do have very high levels of sugar (figs, mangos, grapes and pineapple are some examples). For this reason, I avoided eating too much fruit. I usually tried to get no more than 1-2 portions of fruit a day, the rest of my micro-nutrients came from vegetables.
What about sweeteners?
Although sweeteners were allowed as they are technically not a “sugar”, I tried to avoid them as much as possible. If you’re trying to give up sugar, continuing to consume food that has been artificially sweetened will make it very difficult for you, as it still gives you that taste for sugar. It makes it harder to shake the cravings because you’re still supplying your body with that really sweet taste, so best to go without.
Top tip for a no-sugar diet?
Having all of my meals already prepared and having a good stack of natural food bars around meant that I wasn’t tempted to go to the vending machine or grab a chocolate bar in moments of hunger on the run. Almost all of the snacks you will find at supermarket counters and train stations will be packed with sugar. Prepping your meals and snacks will massively help you in avoiding eating sugary foods, so make sure you plan ahead.
Hopefully some of the above will help you on your own sugar-free challenge, or even just to cut down your sugar intake. Let me know if you try it out!