A couple of months ago I gave in to curiosity and bought the bestselling book I Quit Sugar. I wanted to experiment with the idea of minimising or completely removing sugar from my diet and I had a couple of good reasons why. Firstly sugar has always either given me a headache or made me tired. Even one biscuit gives me a noticeable thumping in my head and a small amount of chocolate at lunchtime will mean I’ll be falling asleep by the kids bedtime. Secondly we have a brilliant sugar free and paleo pop-up cafe locally to us which produces amazing delicious treats which I would quite happily trade conventional sweet snacks for, and finally I wanted to reexamine how much sugar I was giving Theo, I had no idea where it fitted on the scale of good or bad, but like most middle class parents I suspected I was probably doing ok.
So the book arrived and I read through the first few chapters nodding along to Sarah Wilson’s introdcution. She believes sugar reeks havoc on our bodies and there’s too much of it in our Western diet. She also says that due to the lack of sweet stuff around when humans evolved our humans never developed an off switch for sweet, which is why even when you can’t eat any more of your main course, you can always find room for pudding.
Current UK guidelines says adults should have no more than 7 teaspoons a day and children Theo’s age should have no more than 5 teaspoons and despite the bold title of the book what Sarah Wilson is really trying to do is stay within this limit. It sounds like quite a lot, but once you start checking food labels you begin to realise that sugar is in everything in insane quantities. For instance one can of Coke contains 9 teaspoons of sugar which means no one child or adult should ever drink a whole can in a day – wow! (and don’t even start me on Diet drinks!)
So I set out to try and get my sugar intake as close to zero as possible. Sarah says you should have no fruit for the first for weeks, but I choose to retain my fruit consumption. For breakfast I had homemade bread (no sugar) with a banana and hot water with lemon juice to drink. For lunch and supper I scrutinised food labels and found regular food in my diet like fish cakes or breaded chicken had sugar in it, so I cooked everything from scratch.
Happily for me I love crisps, dips, pitta and cheese and so these became my new “treats” and I was quite content to swap a pudding for oat cakes and cheese in the evening. However you have to check everything for sugar. Salted crisps are generally ok, but some salt and vinegar crisps have sugar and some do not, flavoured crisps are sadly laced with it. When it comes to dips, gucamole and hummus are sugar free, but taramosalata and tomato salsa are not. Cheese is fine and Sarah has a section talking about how we have all been mislead over fat and how important it is for our bodies. I was already a great believer in this anyway and we have been a full fat household (including milk) for some time.
I Quit Sugar is also a recipe book, but I have to confess I found the recipes were not good! I tried the raspberry ripple pudding which was like eating coconut flavoured soap, absolutely dire! Morgana also tried a couple of recipes and was not impressed. It’s s ashame because my experience with our local pop up cafe shows that great sugar free desserts can be made… just clearly not from this book!
Did I notice a difference?
Yes! No more headaches or falling asleep at the kids bedtime and I stayed fuller for longer when I ate less but ate savoury. Although it wasn’t my intention I also lost half a stone in just over a month. My palette adjusted to lower levels of sweetness and things I loved before I cut down on sugar lost their appeal. I regularly make Lobster Risotto using a tinned bisque and when I cooked it halfway through my sugar free experiment I found the taste horribly sweet and couldn’t finish eating it. I’ve never cooked it since! I also couldn’t eat a chocolate sponge pudding which my mum cooked.
How did the book change what I eat?
After reading the book I’ve been made aware of how much stealth sugar I’m consuming every week in savoury foods and it has changed what I buy forever. If I’m going to try and keep within my 7 teaspooons a day I want to use that quota on things that are actually supposed to be sweet and not waste it when I lazily pick one bag of crisps over another. I now only buy sugar free crisps, I’ve ditched fruit juice at breakfast time in favour of hot water and lemon, I don’t buy yoghurts, I’ve swapped stock cubes for boullion and I’ve changed the brand of mayonnaise I buy.
My involvement with a local community project has also made me aware of the virtues of “raw” honey which is honey produced by bees who only have a natural diet and are not fed refined sugar in the winter, so we now only buy our honey raw.
As far as alcohol goes, I now tend to stick to the odd glass of red wine and avoid the more sugar laden white stuff. I have also steered clear of Pimms this summer. Theo’s sugar consumption is something I’m still dealing with, a small carton to apple juice which I’ve allowed him to have for a snack at after school clubs has more sugar in it than he should have in a day (!) and two petit filous contain more than half his daily allowance
Should I try going sugar free?
Yes, but I suggest borrowing the book from the local library (or a friend) if you can. The first 40 or so pages are interesting reading and a great foundation for how and why you should lower your sugar intake, but the recipes themselves are pretty useless.