This month I have decided to help out a great cause by giving up refined sugar for a whole month! The Sugar Free February challenge was created by Cancer Research UK and as soon as I read about it I knew I wanted to sign up for it.
I'll be completely honest here and admit that I have a serious sugar problem. It's really quite ironic given that I have a very good idea of what constitutes a healthy diet, and feed my family good, wholesome healthy meals on a daily basis. I work very hard to ensure that my children have a healthy diet and they eat very little in the way of sugary treats and snacks - biscuits, crisps and sweets are an occasional treat rather than a regular feature in their diet.
When the boys are at school though, it's a different story. Working from home gives me plenty of opportunity to munch through all the chocolate I can eat when there's nobody around to see me and learn from my bad example. Gradually over the last year or so more and more sugary treats and snacks have crept into my diet, and now I've found myself stuck in a viscous circle, feeling rubbish about my weight and health and then eating even more sugar to cheer myself up.
Not any more though! This challenge is giving me an amazing chance to make a real change and break the habit. My fervent hope is that by giving up sugar for a good cause, helping to fund life-saving research to beat cancer, I'll manage to resist the sweet stuff, conquer my cravings and change my health for the better, for good.
I hope to share a weekly update here on the blog to let you know how the challenge is going, along with tips and recipes for low sugar and sugar free meals and snacks. If you fancy trying the challenge yourself too, it's never too late to join in - you can find out more about the challenge, get some great tips and sign up for it yourself over on the Cancer Research UK website.
How you go about giving up sugar for this challenge is entirely up to you. For my own challenge, I've decided to give up refined sugar. As I'm discovering, this is trickier than it sounds! As well as the obvious chocolate, sweets, cakes and fizzy drinks, refined sugar is added to a huge range of foods, often where you least expect it! In the last couple of days I've been obsessively label checking and have found sugar in practically every food imaginable:
- Bread - I'm yet to find a bread loaf that doesn't contain added sugar in my local supermakets
- Other bread products - tortilla wraps, bagels, sandwich thins etc
- Cooked ham and cold meats - I had to do a lot of label checking before I found a packet of ham that didn't have added sugar
- Crackers - most have added sugar, Nairn's oatcakes are one of the few exceptions I've found so far
- Breakfast cereal - Shredded Wheat is the only one I've found that doesn't have added sugar
- Peanut butter - most have sugar, but the Whole Earth brand is sugar free.
- Pickles - it's in all of them!
- Flavoured yogurt - I'll be sticking to Greek and natural yogurts.
- Ketchup, mayo and other sauces
- Baked beans
- Cereal bars
- Stock cubes (yes really!)
My Sugar-Free Rules
My main rule for the month is no refined sugar, however I've decided to make an exception for stock cubes, as I use them in so many of our recipes for family meals and the overall sugar content is so low.
I'll also try to avoid replacing sugary foods with foods filled with artificial sweeteners instead, as I'm not convinced they're any better for you and I think it would feel a bit like cheating. So I won't drink sugar-free fizzy drinks or squash for example.
I'm not going to completely ban natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, but I'll try to keep use of them to a minimum.
That's it, it sounds so simple doesn't it! I have a feeling I'm going to need all the help I can get though!