By joining the five day sugar solution challenge, you are taking a significant step towards a healthier lifestyle. Throughout this challenge, you will receive helpful tips, delicious sugar-free recipes, and guidance on navigating potential cravings.
Get ready to experience the benefits of a sugar-free diet and discover how small changes can make a big difference in your health and vitality. Let's begin this transformative journey together!
Introduction to the five day sugar solution challenge
Hi, if we’ve not met before, I’m Anna Earl, a Registered Nutritional Therapist and former police officer. Why am I encouraging you to join the five day sugar-free solution? Well, chronic health conditions are on the increase, as are statistics regarding average weight both amongst adults and children, and they come with health implications.
Two major changes to our diets over the last generation or two are the amount of sugar and the amount of processed food that we consume. Nutrition science provides evidence that a wholefood diet low in sugar and processed foods can help to reduce your risk of chronic disease, can boost low energy and mood, and help you restore your motivation and drive to perform at your best.
I’ve experienced the energy highs and lows of relying on sugary treats for an energy boost, for comfort, out of boredom, and purely out of habit, and the consequent impact on health. But now I’ve got a better understanding of what those sweet treats do in your body and how they can be the root cause of symptoms like regular energy slumps in the afternoons as well as putting our long-term health under strain. So I’d like to share with you how to live without feeling you’re on that constant rollercoaster with your energy spiking from sugar intake, but then crashing and causing strong cravings for unhealthy boosts because that’s the pattern that sugary foods causes.
Come to a place where you are able to decide and control when you have those occasional treat foods, and in what quantity, to still really enjoy them now and again, but they don’t control you. You don’t end up feeling guilty and like you have no willpower, perhaps struggling to lose stubborn weight gain. Foods high in sugar may give that instant hit of energy, but they actually make you feel more fatigued.
I know how hard it is to juggle healthy eating with a busy working life; it can feel like a huge effort. But taking time to plan, prioritise, and prepare nutritious meals can soon make you feel more energised, healthier, happier, and slimmer if that’s one of your goals. So could you be addicted to sugar? Does the thought of cutting down on certain foods feel overwhelming? But do you regularly feel sluggish and fatigued, especially from overeating? Do you eat certain foods as a response to cravings rather than real hunger, but then you need more and more of the foods that you crave to experience any pleasure or reduce negative emotions?
So what does sugar free actually look like? Sugar is present in such a vast spread of our food and drink options we barely question its presence as we consume it throughout the day. It’s not just the white stuff that we might add to tea and coffee, or find in bars of chocolate, many people don’t realise that white floury goods such as white bread and pasta, pizza bases, pastries, white rice, biscuits and cakes, as well as breakfast cereals, fruit juices, and fizzy drinks, they’re all quickly converted to sugar as we digest these simple carbohydrate foods.
Sugar is calories with no nutritional benefit other than that temporary spike of energy but followed by a crash. However, our average consumption of sugar is at such a level that it is chronically detrimental to our health. Many of us are totally unaware of the impact it has on our general energy, our mood, skin, gut health, and weight, our increased risk of Type 2 diabetes, and the extra pressure on our heart health.
Sugar can have an inflammatory effect, so reducing your intake can help to alleviate some of the aches and pains that are driven by inflammation in the body. So this week we are going to reduce reliance on foods and drinks with added sugar and sweeteners and to boost your energy with nourishing foods. This is a recalibrate week to adapt to fuelling your bodies with essential nutrients without an unnatural dependence and desire for sweetness.
If you need any further convincing, check out a two minute trailer on YouTube for a film that’s called That Sugar Film. It was filmed in 2015 by an Australian guy who followed a low fat, high sugar diet just for 60 days but with dire consequences on his health. He gained weight, became incredibly lethargic, and developed fatty liver disease from sugar, not from fat. Sugar adds calories, not nutrients.
Sugar is present in foods in so many different forms other than your regular sugarcane granulated type. Check for ingredients ending in -ose. That’s the chemical name for many types of sugar such as fructose, glucose, maltose, and dextrose. But when it comes to fructose, don’t worry and panic about the amount of fruit you’re eating. Eating a whole fruit is so beneficial; it’s just the fruit juice that can give that sugary spike.
And other common types of added sugars are corn sweetener and high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, and nectar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, and malt. If you’re used to counting calories and choosing low fat foods for weight loss, and yet your diet is high in sugar, you may be struggling to lose those stubborn pounds. Sugar that we don’t burn for energy after eating gets stored as fat.
Sweet processed treats and snack foods manufactured by the food industry are generally not designed for your brain to tell you that you’re full and to stop eating. They’re designed to make you want more, and the more your brain gets used to – used to certain amounts of sugar for that dopamine fix, that feeling of comfort and reward – the more it wants.
So cutting it out or even cutting down can feel hard, especially if you have habitually turned to sweet foods to give you a boost of energy throughout the day to get you through, or as a little treat for something, or a pick me up.
So as you start this five day sugar-free solution, could you consider packaging it up in an appealing way to get those you live with to join in to? If you have young people at home, consider that British children are some of the biggest consumers of sugar in Europe. A study by scientists at Birmingham University found that children are consuming an average of 75 grams of sugar a day. That’s the equivalent of 19 teaspoons rather than their maximum of five to seven teaspoons per day depending on their age. And this rises from 95 to 110 grams in teenagers; that’s four times their recommended daily allowance. Small wonder that sugar has been singled out as the biggest contributing factor in the national obesity crisis.
Sugar creates imbalances in energy that can contribute to erratic behaviour and mood changes, and paves the way towards Type 2 diabetes. I’m not telling you this to scare you; this could be a wake-up call. So if you can get others on board at home you’ll also be investing in their health, plus you won’t be tormented by them all scoffing sugary treats in front of you. You can reduce the amount of temptation that you have around the house this week.
You could also benefit from some peer support if you do this as a team at work. If you feel tired, sorely tempted or demotivated, sharing this experience with your colleagues could be the key to your success. The support from sharing your challenges and wins with those around you can be significant.
At the end of the week you can decide whether you want to manage reintroducing it in a controlled and conscious way, or manage without it all together for a while longer, and see what happens. So here’s what you get – a 10 page Sugar Solution Guide that you can download to breaking free from sugar, and this will help you understand where sugar can sneak into your diet. Discover healthier swaps, particularly ideas for breakfast and snacks, which are usually the worst offenders. A Health and Energy Questionnaire for you to complete before you start to see how you score and how this compares to how you feel at the end of the week. And a short daily video with a different focus to help you put the ideas into practice.
You might want to keep a notebook to hand to just jot down tips, ideas, thoughts, and perhaps a symptoms tracker along the way. And you might want to keep a blank copy of the Health and Energy Questionnaire too so you can complete it again at a later date without being influenced by your scores that you gave on day one. You might just jot your answers down in that notebook instead, and this can be a really handy gauge to monitor your progress.
So here’s how to prepare for a positive start for day one whenever you’re ready. Give yourself 15 minutes to sit and decide what your health goal is, and how reducing sugar is going to make you feel. What do you hope to achieve? Then have a look through the Sugar Solution Guide, particularly at the suggestions for less sweet breakfasts. Familiarise yourself with sources of protein; there are many options from meat, cheese, dairy, eggs, and plant-based such as beans, and then lentils, nuts, and seeds, and aim to include a portion of protein with every meal. This will help keep you fuller and reduce your cravings and desire to snack between meals.
And then plan out those low sugar meals for next week and create a shopping list with just those ingredients so that you are ready. Remember, the simple carbohydrates quickly convert to glucose, that simplest form of sugar in your blood, so you’re looking to substitute refined floury goods with wholegrain versions. So white bread, white pasta, and rice to wholemeal and brown versions. Keep high sugar foods at home to a minimum if possible to provide you with a more supportive and encouraging environment.
So two health alerts before we finish. As reducing sugar can start to reduce inflammation in your body, it can also encourage detoxification, so you may feel some temporary withdrawal symptoms similar to those if you withdraw from caffeine – headaches, low mood, dizziness, and nausea. Be prepared for this, but also know it does not last. Whole foods, good hydration, and some restorative sleep – which I know can be a challenge in your role – will help this process which usually lasts only a day or two. And on the other side of those detox symptoms is a new healthier you.
And then secondly, if you have any health reasons why reducing sugar quickly might be detrimental to you such as you are diabetic, you need to do this with supervision from your health practitioner. You might need to take a more gradual approach to reducing your sugar intake where your blood sugar is monitored.
So that’s it. If you’re really unsure where to start, maybe go back to the Oscar Kilo Nutrition for Wellbeing Resources, watch some of the other bite-sized videos there on healthy swaps and snacks. Check out the recipes and the toolkits, or view the Feed Your Body Clock webinar series. It’s all there to help you feel better, healthier, and more energised to do your amazing job.
So proceed to day one when you’re ready.
- The cause of cravings
- Artificial sweeteners
- Being prepared for temptation
Hello and welcome to the Five Day Sugar Solution Challenge day two. Do you experience cravings for sweet foods? They can be extremely powerful and hard to resist. Once we give into a craving, and crack open the biscuit barrel, it can be hard to stop, and that can then lead to frustration and regret; self-blame for lack of willpower. But often cravings are caused by our hormones. I’m not just talking about the sex hormones linked to the female monthly cycle, but our hunger hormones. These are influenced by an empty stomach and also by low blood sugar. It’s a natural survival instinct, nudging us into topping up our fuel reserves. Our body senses a drop in blood sugar which can cause an energy slump and triggers that craving for some instant fuel. A similar thing happens when we’re tired; we tend to crave less healthy foods, so balancing our blood sugar with good food choices can really help with cravings.
Have a look at your regular daily food intake and see what proportion of your diet comes from simple carbohydrates; that’s your foods made from refined flour, pasta, white bread, pastries, breakfast cereals, cakes and biscuits, then white rice, chocolate and sweets, ice cream, jam, sweetened drinks and juices.
So reducing your intake of these, and replacing them with either their whole grain versions or healthy alternatives, is the best place to control your blood sugar levels and manage those cravings. Look at your sugar solution guide and our posts this week for ideas.
You might experience a bit of withdrawal first, similar to caffeine withdrawal symptoms, but that doesn’t last. And ultimately the less you have, the less your body will crave. You can do this. Your Sugar-Free Guide also includes a page on artificial sweeteners. These are mainly found in diet or sugar-free foods – so diet drinks, chewing gums, and some yogurts. Unfortunately, there is currently no such thing as a healthy sweetener.
Despite their extensive use and their lower calorific value to regular sugar, artificial sweeteners have not been proven to significantly affect weight loss, nor to improve health. There may be some dental benefits compared with sugar, but sweeteners keeps you attuned to sweet flavours. It may continue to affect your blood sugar and energy, and there are concerns of their impact on your gut microbiome – that population of gut bugs that are also influenced by our food choices – and they can affect our systemic health.
So reducing a reliance altogether on sweetness, on a particular level of sweetness, and reducing that, recalibrating that is by far the better and healthier option. So tip for day two – pre-empt your main challenges. Where and when are you going to feel most tempted to reach for your sugary treats? Can you walk into that coffeeshop, or the petrol station, and avoid the sweet snacks on offer? Where are your healthier food outlet options? How can you prepare in advance to deal with the temptation in those situations, especially when you are tired and hungry?
So give those questions some thought, and I’ll see you on day three.
- Understanding the many forms of sugar
- Meal planning for success
Day three of the Five Day Sugar Solution Challenge. How are you finding, identifying, and reducing the sugar in your diet? When out buying food, get into the habits of looking at your food labels and recognise the vast range of names for sugar. Often they’re ingredients ending in -ose. If it says sugar-free or no added sugar and yet it has a sweet flavour, what is sweetening it? Even foods sweetened with fruit juice means they likely contain a form of sugar called fructose. This gives fruit their sweetness. So a fruit laden smoothie will likely spike blood sugar, but it doesn’t mean we have to stop eating fruit.
Keeping our blood sugar regulated – by not causing it to spike too much with high sugar foods, which is always followed by our levels then crashing – we can keep our energy and our weight better regulated as well as reducing our risk of conditions such as Type 2 diabetes.
All foods affect our blood sugar differently. Eating a large bunch of grapes on its own will spike some people’s blood sugar more than others. A continuous glucose monitor shows the response, but if you eat certain foods and you have an energy slump soon after, that may be an indication that your blood sugar has spiked and then taken a dive, but it may not affect the next person in the same way.
Eating a variety of fruit has huge health benefits, but rather than eating a large amount on its own, particularly blended into a liquid, combine it with other sources of fibre, whole grains – like adding oats or some low sugar granola topping – some vegetables, some protein and healthy fats, maybe some natural yogurt, some nuts and seeds, for example, and that reduces the impact on your blood sugar whilst getting all the benefits of the vitamins and minerals from your fruit.
One key habit that can help hugely with healthy eating is to plan snacks and meals in advance. It takes a little forward thinking but can pay dividends. Without a weekly food plan it’ll be pure luck if you end up with nourishing food to regularly take with you to work. You can use notes in your phone to plan, a good old paper list to stick somewhere in the kitchen, or an app such as Whisk, to help with your inspiration.
Invest time in planning meals and in some advanced food preparation. If you live with others, can you get them to help you prepare some healthy snacks if they’re around on your rest days so it’s not all on you? This could also encourage them to try some sugar-free or low sugar alternatives that will benefit them too.
Prepare healthy snacks to keep to hand to help with unpredictable events where you would usually grab a chocolate bar, some biscuits, cakes, or pastries as a quick filler on the go. Keep a tub of trail mix in the car, or in your work bag; just a simple mix of nuts, some pumpkin seeds, some dried cranberries, maybe a few dark chocolate chips. And check out the meal planner for shift workers and the snack ideas both on the Oscar Kilo Nutrition for Wellbeing pages as well as the suggestions in your Sugar Solution Guide and give something new a go.
So tip for day three; if you fancy a sugary snack mid-morning, try this four D technique and see if this snack is just a habit or actually a necessity to refuel you. Can you delay, distract, distance yourself, and then consciously decide.
Depending on your level of activity, a nutritious meal at the start of your day should get you through four to five hours to your next meal. Unless there is a medical reason, we shouldn’t really need to constantly graze between meals.
So that’s it for today; a quick recap. Familiarise yourself with the various forms of sugar in foods, and have a go at planning what are you going to eat for four or five meals in the week ahead. See you tomorrow.
- Are you comfort eating?
- Natural sweeteners
Hello, it’s day four. If you’ve been on a sugar rollercoaster for a while you can experience some detox symptoms such as headaches. Drinking sufficient fluid, ideally water, is essential for your hydration, particularly for brain and muscle function, as well as getting rid of toxins from the body. So make sure you have provision with you through your day or night for the six to eight recommended glasses of fluid per day, which can be water, tea, and coffee – though watch your caffeine intake – and ideally not mainly from juice or fizzy drinks. And it doesn’t count if it comes from alcoholic drinks.
So, today, we’re looking at the emotional side of sugar cravings. Find an opportunity for some private reflection today, and ask yourself what kind of upsets or events trigger the “I must have some sugar” reaction. If you have your private notebook for this challenge maybe jot down some thoughts.
It’s pretty normal to spend a lot of time in our life feeling upset by something to one degree or another. Recognising what triggers you to reach for the sweets, biscuits, chocolate, and cakes will be helpful going forward in considering other ways to deal with those upsets. What alternative health-promoting practices can you think of to replace seeking sugar? List them, and decide to try a different method to find your comfort.
Perhaps it’s getting out for a walk, catching up with a good friend, doing some exercise, maybe a yoga session, or spending time with a pet. But if you sometimes cave and seek solace in a tub of chocolate ice cream, don’t beat yourself up. Work out a new coping strategy for next time you feel like this, and aim to break that cycle of behaviour with its reliance on that short-term sweet fix.
When you’re going sugar-free, the ideal scenario is to wean yourself off sweet things generally, but this can be tough going at least at first. Natural sweeteners like apple sauce, dates, or mashed banana can be helpful. You’ll find these in lots of healthy recipes, so check out the resources on Page 10 of your Sugar-Free Guide. Just remember to combine these naturally sweet foods with other food groups as we discussed yesterday, keeping that blood sugar in check and your energy levels more even.
And now a word on alcohol. Alcoholic drinks can be high in sugar depending on your choice. Alcohol can contribute to menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes and weight gain. Whilst some spirits are sugar-free, their typical mixers of cola, lemonade, fruit, juices, and tonics are not, so these make them less healthy choices. I’m not suggesting you therefore drink neat vodka.
Alcohol free beers and ciders can also actually be higher in sugar than the alcoholic versions, so check the labels and become aware of the quantities of sugar in your favourite tip that will be adding to that daily intake.
The social aspects of drinking can be beneficial in moderation; this is recognised as a significant social stress reliever and a joy maker in moderation. Mixing a small glass of dry white or red wine into a longer spritzer style drink with some sparkling water and ice is one of the better alcohol low sugar choices.
So two tasks for today – set aside time to work out alternative ways to find comfort when you are upset or bored and tend to turn to sugary foods as solace. And check out the recipe resources in your guide. Find an appealing sugar-free recipe, perhaps containing some fresh apple sauce, dates, carrot puree, or mashed banana, and commit to making it this weekend just for you, or for family and friends to enjoy as well.
Accept that it is likely to be less sweet than similar foods made with actual sugar, but your taste buds will soon adapt. And very often you can quite drastically reduce or replace the amount of sugar in sweet recipes and get used to less sweet bake like your flapjacks, meringues, cookies and cakes. There are always low sugar and sugar-free alternatives that you can practice. So good luck with that and I’ll see you for day five.
- Assessing the week, highs and lows
- Looking ahead – planning for parties and holidays and a sugar-laden work environment
Congratulations, you’ve done it; five days resisting sugar. However you got here, you gave it a bash, and will hopefully have learned why reducing sugar is key to your health, as well as some techniques and tips to continue.
Now what? Do you just stop and go back to your old ways? The answer is what do you want to do? I can tell you that your body and mind want you to carry on feeding it with real food, with whole foods, vegetables and fruit, healthy fats, and those occasional treats. So here are three small tasks to take away with you.
Keep that sugar free guide to hand, refer back to it regularly as a prompt and try those resources for new healthy recipes, name the strategies that helped you in delaying, reducing, avoiding, and resisting your sugary foods and drinks, and continue to implement them as necessary. And make a diary entry to complete the Health and Energy questionnaire again in two weeks’ time, giving yourself a small goal to aim for.
Where would you like that score to be by then? And how are you going to make that happen? This could be the start of an exciting journey for you, getting back your energy, shedding some stubborn pounds, feeling lighter and brighter. It can have a real knock-on effect on your sleep and your stress levels. So how did that make you feel?
Have a look at the Oscar Kilo Nutrition for Wellbeing pages, the Feed Your Body Clock webinar series, the bite-sized videos on Healthy Snacks and Swaps, and there’s also a five minute video especially for nightshift nutrition. I’ll share the YouTube link on the social media channels so you could watch this in your team briefing prior to a nightshift. There’s the meal planning template, and an example of how to build a healthy plate of food with the recommended portions of the nutrient components and examples.
So thanks for joining me on this five day solution challenge. I’d love to know how it’s been, so do share your experience on Oscar Kilo’s Instagram page, especially with any tips that worked for you so your colleagues can also benefit. Thanks very much and well done.
Make your own granola
Banana pancakes recipe
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Make your own houmous
All the equipment you need is a blender, one drained tin of chickpeas to which I’ve added four tablespoons of water, two tablespoons of lemon juice, two tablespoons of olive oil, two tablespoons of tahini which is a sesame seed paste – a bit like peanut butter – two cloves of garlic, salt and pepper, one teaspoon of smoked paprika, and then whatever flavours you like. I’m adding one teaspoon of cumin. And whizz it all up.
And there we have it; super versatile, healthy little lunch or snack, great on some oat cakes, dip in some vegetable sticks. Done.
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Energy ball recipe
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