We did it! We actually managed (bar the slight error with the apple drink) to be refined sugar free for 32 days. I am immensely proud of my family for supporting me with this challenge – because it was a challenge!
Before we started
I can honestly say that as a Nutritionist & Mum I try my best to strike a good balance between being a crazy health obsessed warrior with living in the real world with kids!
It’s not always easy!!!
Of course, we aim to eat a very healthy diet (for example: I cook from scratch every day and my children have never been to a fast food restaurant!) and our sugar intake is a lot lower than the average bear.
However, we were still eating too much of the white stuff and I wanted to be able to challenge the idea that it’s possible to avoid all refined sugars and raise sugar free kids – even if it was just for one month!
Why choose the school holidays? Isn’t that a bit harsh on the kids?
A news report identified that during the school summer holidays our consumption of sugar (that’s both us and the kids) increases by 5 times.
Now since we already know that our kids are eating way more than the recommended 5 teaspoons a day I wanted to use the period where 1) I got biggest impact & 2) I had control over their sugar intake.
During school term time my children have school dinners twice a week. The reason for this is that most of the children (and their friends) have a school dinner. By only giving them a packed lunch means they do not get to sit with their friends and this causes an issue.
The nutritionist side of me wants them to have packed lunch everyday (because the school dinners are not great) but the Mum side of me wants them to fit in with their peers.
So, the compromise is that they have school dinner on Wednesday (roast diner day) and Friday (fish & chip day).
To give you an example of why I do not rate school dinners (at most schools but some are better than others) is this:
1. The healthy school’s guideline is so weak it’s not worth the paper it’s written on!
2. There are no wholegrain foods used in school dinners (so they only use white rice, white pasta etc).
3. The budget is very low, so I question the quality of the protein used.
4. The dessert is full of sugar & is given every day (so last week my children had for dessert bananas and custard and a choc ice).
This is just my general opinion and for this reason I prefer to give my children a packed lunch.
It should be noted that a study carried out a couple of years ago identified that only 1.6% of packed lunches met the same nutrition standards as a cooked school dinner!!!!
Now that’s food for thought.
So, unless you are going to be the 1% it is still better to have your kids on school dinners.
What do you think about this?
What were the negatives of going sugar free?
The hardest part of going completely refined sugar free was the lack of available convenience foods. This made it very difficult to just grab something when out and about or even go out for dinner or lunch.
We did however, find that Café Rouge offered a sugar free children’s menu, but Pizza Express was definitely off limits!!!
We also found a huge link between certain activities and food. So going to the cinema would be linked to pick and mix or popcorn, going to the beach would usually have resulted in an ice-cream and going to a friends for a playdate was a challenge (although I have to commend all of my friends and the parents of my children’s friends for adhering to the sugar free rule – I know it was not easy).
Another interesting thing that came up was other people’s reaction to us being sugar free. I think there’s a lot of work to be done in changing the current mindset that sugar is a treat.
You can read my blog here about this one!!!
We also became extremely aware how much sugary foods and drinks were promoted to kids when attending holiday clubs, places of interest, family activities etc. Trying to find, even a bottle of water, amongst the drink offerings were difficult at places like Legoland. And don’t get me started on the slushi drinks!!!
It was also incredible how much sugar is added to foods you wouldn’t even consider having sugar in the ingredients (I’m still shocked at the ricotta stuffed peppers, stock cubes & salt & vinegar crisps)!
Overall the biggest challenge for me was the need to be super organised. We had to take food with us whenever we were out (most days) and so I had to make and prepare a lot of our snacks and foods in advance.
What were the positives?
The biggest positive was the increase in our energy levels.
By reducing our sugar intake, we all noticed an improvement. Our energy was also consistent without the usually highs and lows.
Because of this I personally found that I didn’t need the usual snacks between meals.
The children got on really well during the holidays and there was much less fighting (this may be a coincidence but read on…)
And our sleep was better.
My husband noticed a huge drop in his sugar cravings (he is a self-confessed sugar addict).
I can’t tell you how many people have said to me recently, how well I look!!
And despite so many people around us coming down with all types of illness, we all stayed healthy.
Being free from sugar addiction is a very nice feeling! It is amazing how we all tend to rely on a sugar fix without necessarily realising it. Breaking that tie is very special.
Grandads Birthday Cake
After 32 days of being sugar free we celebrated Grandads 70th birthday with cake.
The children were incredibly excited about having cake but here’s what we all noticed.
1. It was incredibly sweet. Not a nice sweetness like eating fresh strawberries but like an artificial sweetness. It left a horrible after taste in the mouth.
2. After eating the cake, I felt incredibly tired like someone had switched off my power. My tummy was bloated too.
3. The children could not settle that night & ended up going to bed very late.
4. We noticed a mood change in the kids. The reintroduction of sugar seemed to trigger more arguments and fighting!
I’m not suggesting we never have cake again but once you’ve adjusted your taste buds it’s great to appreciate the difference between the sweetness of a piece of fruit versus the sweetness of caster sugar!
My personal intention is to remain sugar free as much as possible. My husband and kids have a different idea!!!!
We will continue to avoid the use of products with added sugar as well as keep any sweet treats to special occasions (or when they are out of my control!!!). It is, of course, important with kids not to demonise foods. There is a balance to be struck. They need to understand what constitutes a healthy diet and I do that every day by leading by example, cooking from scratch, teaching them how to cook etc.
The long-term benefits of keeping sugar low are incredibly significant. There is no doubt that we all need to reduce our consumption of the refined white stuff.
By looking after our own health and especially sugar consumption could mean a saving to the NHS of £150m an hour!!! This is the current cost of treating sugar related disease in the UK.
It is not impossible to go sugar free as we have hopefully demonstrated. You will most definitely feel the benefits.
Why not give it a try for 7 days? Just watch your energy levels sore. It’s just 7 days.
When was the last time you felt completely energised?
If you’re someone who cannot control their snacking habit, then you definitely need to give sugar free a try.
Join my completely FREE sugar free energy challenge starting on Monday 17th September. Click HERE.
I will be giving you my full support during the week so you can stay motivated and on track.
The facts about sugar:
1. It has absolutely NO NUTRITIONAL value whatsoever!
2. It’s addictive, it lights up the same part of the brain as cocaine & heroin.
3. It affects your mood and in studies has been shown to increase your chance of depression.
4. It causes tooth decay.
5. It causes inflammation in your body – joint pain anyone?
6. It makes you fat.
7. It accelerates the aging process.
8. It feeds cancer cells.
9. It causes fatty liver.
10. Which leads to the condition insulin resistance.
I’m sure you don’t want any of the above, right?
What about the TV documentary?
We are currently in the process of putting this together, so watch this space…