Cutting down on sugar for the whole family: A mum’s challenge

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  • Sugar. It’s everywhere, in everything and everyone’s talking about it. Whether it’s spoonfuls in your coffee, hidden sugars in your favourite pasta sauce or sugar in your child’s favourite lunch box snack, it’s become a big part of our everyday lives whether we like it or not.

    In order to tackle this sugary ordeal, we’ve challenged mummy blogger Anneliese to cut the sugar in her family’s food. Will she be able to break the habit? What will it mean for her family’s food bill?

    Over to you Anneliese…

    Intro: ‘Since watching Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Rush documentary last year, I have become acutely aware that my children consume too much sugar.’

    It’s the start of another year and like most of the nation, I’m hoping to get healthy and lose some stubborn Christmas pounds along the way. My bathroom scales are proof enough that I overindulged during the festive season. However, I have no regrets as I thoroughly enjoyed the process! Sadly, but not surprisingly, I am left with a thicker waist and zero energy. After allowing myself to let loose and eat my own body weight in mince pies, it’s time to get back on track and take some much needed action. I have no desire to start another diet where I have to count calories and endure a grumbling tummy. Instead, I shall be waving goodbye to something that I crave and cannot resist; sugar!

    The dilemma is that, once you are hooked on sugar, it’s not easy to let it go. Just the thought of a life without my favourite biscuits, sweets and chocolate brings me out in a cold sweat. Sugar has always been my best friend in times of trouble. I’ll happily scoff multiple slabs of cake or an entire packet of biscuits and feel instantly better. Unfortunately, these moments of sweet contentment are all too brief. The sugar crash hits and I’m left feeling worse than before – lethargic and tired, and there’s only one way to fix it. Yes, more sugar! It’s a vicious cycle but it’s a habit I truly hope to break.

    It’s so easy to feed a sugar addiction as supermarkets are keen to target sweet tooths with their endless special offers and enticing displays. Coffee shops tempt our senses with a huge selection of sugar drenched drinks. Who can resist the whopping great big muffins? If you can, you are stronger than I am. My love of baking means that I work through endless packets of sugar. I always baulk as I pour a mountain of sugar into my mixing bowl, but it has yet to put me off eating any resulting cakes! It comes as no surprise that both of my young boys have inherited my sweet tooth, although they know when to stop – unlike their mother!

    Since watching Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Rush documentary last year, I have become acutely aware that my children consume too much sugar. I was shocked to learn that the average 5-year-old in the UK currently consumes the equivalent of their body weight in sugar each year – the equivalent to 3½ stone. My oldest boy is 5, so this hit home particularly hard. According to Public Health England, a child of 4-6 years old needs no more than 5 cubes of sugar (19g) maximum per day, a 7-10 year old should stick to 6 cubes (25g) and an 11 year old should have no more than 7 cubes (30g). I admit that my children have more than their daily allowance. I’m horrified and I’m determined to make a change.

    There is a big leap in the quantity of sugar a fully grown adult can consume as we are allowed up to 90g. At first, this seemed like a lot of sugar and I started to fantasise about all the Kit Kats I could eat, but of course it’s not as simple as that! Cakes, chocolate, sweets, fizzy drinks (yes, all the yummy stuff) and any other sugary snacks contain added sugar and the NHS advises that no more than 5 per cent of our total daily intake should come from foods of this type. Why do sweet foods have to taste so good?!

    I’m all too aware that I cannot cope with the notion of going cold turkey on sugar. Similarly, I don’t think it would be fair to the rest of the family! But over the course of 4 weeks, I will cut down on sugar until we are just eating natural sugars from milk and fruit. I did question cutting these out too but I want my children to continue eating fruit as I feel that the fibre, vitamins and nutrients they provide are a necessary addition to their diet. I’ve always instilled the message that fruit is good for you so suddenly to take it away may send out confusing messages. I believe the enemy is the white stuff, not fruit! However, there are mixed opinions on natural sweeteners, such as honey, maple syrup and agave syrup. Although they contain natural sugars, honey and maple syrup still induce a blood sugar spike, which promotes the release of insulin and agave syrup is high in fructose. They may be useful as an aid to wean me off sugar gradually, but I intend to cancel them out in the final weeks.

    Of course, the best way to avoid sugar is to make as much food as possible from scratch. Sugary baked beans and jars of sauce are out as is my beloved tomato ketchup. The hardest part will be trying to avoid the so called hidden sugars in white bread, pasta, savoury snacks and yogurts. Yogurts seem to be among the biggest offenders. There is more than 6g sugar in a tiny pot of yogurt, which is marketed for children. My boys eat one on a daily basis! Perhaps the first change I can make is to cut out fruit juice from their diet. Cartons of fruit juice may make an easy addition to a school lunch box, but they actually contain up to 20g sugar, which is above the recommended amount for a child! They would be better off eating the whole fruit instead. I’ve always estimated that my children eat pretty well as they enjoy vegetables, fruit and wholegrains but it’s now blindingly obvious that they eat way too much sugar, as do their parents!

    It’s time to take my family in hand and cut down on sugar. Sugar makes us fat, increases the risk of type 2 diabetes and rots our teeth. I just wish it didn’t taste so nice!

    The next 4 weeks will be a real challenge; it’s going to be HARD! If you are keen to cut down on your sugar intake, join with my family and let’s get through this together! Each week, I will share how it’s going and also some low sugar recipes. I very much doubt if I can cope without some cake in my life, so I shall be looking into alternatives and also ideas for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Week 1: ‘The first 2 days lulled me into a sense of false security… However, on day 3, it hit me.’

    I’ve completed the first week of my low sugar challenge, and my goodness did the week drag! The first 2 days lulled me into a sense of false security as I found it relatively easy and I didn’t particularly notice the reduction in sugar. However, on day 3, it hit me. I woke up with a slamming headache, which lasted on and off for days. My overall mood was irritable and I had limited patience with the children. The poor things must have wondered what on earth had happened to their mother! I frequently felt tempted to scoff cake and biscuits with the notion that all would be well if I could have lots of sugar. I have stubbornly resisted the urge to go back to my old ways, but I think it just goes to show how addictive sugar really is!

    I acknowledge that I have a touch of the green eyed monster but I’m more than a little jealous of my husband’s ability to forego sugary treats happily. He has never been one to gorge on chocolate and sweets so he’s managing perfectly well and is his usual placid self. My 5-year-old son has dealt with the deduction of sugar with a maturity beyond his years. He informs me that he shouldn’t have certain treats as he believes they may contain a lot of sugar and he is also suggesting alternatives. However, he did weaken once this week when it was cake day at school. Unfortunately, my 3-year-old truly believes that I am deliberately trying to ruin his life. He does not wish to be fobbed off with a rice cake or a carrot, thank you very much. It is impossible to explain the benefits of a sugar free diet to a 3-year-old; especially one who believes that cake should be eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

    Cutting back on sugar hasn’t, as yet, impacted too drastically on our evening meals. We are still able to enjoy family favourites such as homemade chilli and sausage and mash with veggies. White pasta and rice seem to be where sugars lurk. Although they contain only 1-2g sugar, it does all add up, especially in the diet of a 5-year-old, who should only consume 19g each day. I’m trying to think up some alternatives to pasta and rice and this week. I enjoyed making a mushroom risotto with pearl barley. Barley has been proven to control glucose levels, as well as improving insulin production and making tummies feel fuller for longer. I can vouch that it is very filling! The texture is slightly chewier than risotto rice, but equally creamy. The slightly nutty flavour of the barley complements the mushrooms and I will certainly be making it again. At the moment, we are still eating wholemeal bread for most of our lunches.

    Over the next few weeks, we shall be experimenting and trying out spelt flour for a healthier alternative to white and wholemeal flour. My 5-year-old, Isaac, has a packed lunch at school so it’s really easy to control what he is eating. I’ve recently purchased a popcorn machine, so now I’m adding a handful of freshly popped, sugar-free popcorn instead of a cereal bar. This is no hardship for Isaac as he loves popcorn! Probably the best and easiest change to his lunch box was to take away the sugar-loaded fruit juices. That’s 20g sugar gone, in one simple step.

    After just a week of this challenge, it’s clear that snack time is my toughest opponent. My boys are used to tucking into a Jaffa cake and a few Hula Hoops for a treat but now I’ve taken away the Jaffa cake and replaced it with a rice cake. I’ve managed to find a tasty salt and vinegar version, which contains a trace of sugar each. This is far better than the 6.8g sugar within a single Jaffa cake! I also tried to replace the Hula Hoops with homemade kale crisps. The kale crisps were really easy to make but I was put off by the smell that wafted from the oven as they cooked. Despite our initial reservations, we all had a try and the unanimous verdict was that Hula Hoops were nicer. Maybe we should learn to love the kale crisps though as kale is packed full of vitamins and powerful antioxidants. As we’ve cut out sugary snacks, I feel I have little left to nibble on. This is where cheese comes in! A small chunk of cheese really helps to stop my cravings in their tracks. I’m very grateful for cheese!

    This week has also brought some funny moments as we try out these new ideas. Right at the beginning of this challenge, I decided to make chocolate avocado mousse. It’s obvious that this recipe contains chocolate but it is in the form of unsweetened cocoa powder. I tried not to use any extra sweeteners for this recipe and simply blended the avocado with the cocoa powder. My husband, Neil, played taste tester. He noticeably gagged after his first taste and made a desperate plea for water! After adding 5 tablespoons honey as a natural sweetener, we agreed that it was palatable. I appreciate that the resulting mousse can’t be classed as sugar free, but I wanted to experiment. We were amazed by the mousse-like texture but both of us were very much aware of the avocado. I offered a sample to the boys without informing them of the secret ingredient. My 3-year-old immediately made his feelings known by exclaiming “YUCK”, but Isaac really enjoyed it and happily went on to finish off not only his but Oliver’s too! It was a fun experiment.

    There may have been some setbacks during this first week but there have also been many positives. My boys have always had a small yogurt after their evening meal but, since finding that each little pot contains more than 6g added sugar, I looked for alternatives. I swapped to plain natural yogurt and used it as a dip for fruit kebabs. I have found that homemade rice pudding, sweetened with banana, gets a big thumbs up. I have a feeling that I will be asked to make it on a regular basis! Breakfasts are usually a very rushed affair in our house. A bowl of Shreddies will usually have to do. I always thought of this as a fairly healthy breakfast until I actually took the time to check the label. I was surprised to see that it contains 6g sugar per serving and that doesn’t even include the milk! I’ve been exploring new options this week in the form of overnight oats. I love how this can be made up the night before and enjoyed the next morning. There are so many fruit combinations to try, which will naturally sweeten the oats. It’s well worth a try. For a more leisurely weekend breakfast, I’ve resurrected one of my old favourites – eggs with soldiers. We have tried it with wholemeal bread so far but asparagus spears would make it even healthier.

    I’ve also tested out Public Health England’s new, free app called Sugar Smart. This enables us to check the sugar content of packaged food and drinks by scanning the barcode with our mobile phones. The sugar content is shown in either cubes or grams, so parents can easily control their child’s intake of sugar. Of course, we can check labels without an app but I do like how it shows the amount of sugar in cubes. In fact, I think it would be even better if the sugar content were displayed on packaging in teaspoons. It is instantly recognisable and much easier to understand than grams. I believe that, by using a teaspoon symbol to show the quantity of sugar, it would be a real eye opener to most parents and possibly encourage a healthier diet.

    At the end of this first week, I was expecting to spend more money on food but it appears that we have actually saved around £5. Avocados and pearl barley are a little pricey, but this was more than cancelled out by the complete lack of chocolate, sweets, cakes, biscuits and fruit juice! Although I don’t consider this a diet, I have still managed to lose 2lbs. I have no doubt that cutting back on sugar has helped shift it. Not only have I lost weight but my trousers are now a little loose and I am no longer bloated, despite still eating bread!

    There is no way I can last any longer without my beloved cake and biscuits, so next week I shall be trying out some recipes. I shall experiment with everything from sweet potato to maple syrup as a sweetener for my recipes. I have found a handy online nutritional calculator, which I shall use to work out exactly how much sugar is in each of the recipes. I have found it very helpful during the course of this first week to make sure we are keeping our sugar intake as low as possible.

    As I move on to week 2, I feel much more positive. The headaches have cleared, my tummy is flatter and I’m looking forward to trying new recipes and cutting down on sugar even more. I just wish I could stop thinking about chocolate cake!

    Week 2: ‘After the party, I questioned whether I should have asked Isaac to leave the cake or avoid the juice.’

    The second week of this challenge has shown me just how difficult it is to live a sugar-free life. If I and my family could stay at home and not indulge in a social life then, maybe we would find it easier. My 5-year-old son, Isaac, was invited to a birthday party last weekend and there was, of course, party food galore! Delicious pizza and salad was followed by little cakes and then a slice of birthday cake to take home. My son’s face was a picture of happiness as he sat scoffing the yummy food; I must confess that I also couldn’t resist a slice of pizza! After the party, I questioned whether I should have asked Isaac to leave the cake or avoid the juice, yet that wouldn’t have seemed fair as all the other children were enjoying the sweet treats. Perhaps the answer might have been to send him to the party with a lunchbox full of plain snacks or simply to have kept him home. Both of these possibilities also seem unreasonable. I faced a similar conundrum later on in the week when he had a friend over after school and the friend kindly brought along a packet of biscuits. It was such a thoughtful gesture that I didn’t have the heart to reject them, although I did ration them to just one biscuit each!

    This week, I attempted to satisfy my cake cravings by making some low-sugar alternatives. I have been missing chocolate, so I decided to make a batch of brownies and to use sweet potato and banana for natural sweetness. I did add cocoa powder, but I managed to find an unsweetened version, which contains just 0.5g sugar per 100g. It’s well worth checking labels as some cocoa powders can’t claim to be so virtuous! The resulting brownies were passable in texture but they tasted far too bitter; there wasn’t even a hint of sweetness. If I were to try to improve the recipe, I would need to add more banana or perhaps some sugar-free apple sauce. However, this will of course increase the amount of sugar. I was so disappointed. I was tempted to head straight back to the kitchen to make my favourite sugar-loaded, full-fat brownie recipe. Instead, I tried to console myself with sugar-free popcorn, but it just wasn’t the same!

    Get the recipe: Raw peanut butter cookie dough

    Thankfully, I did have much more successful results with other recipes. My peanut butter cookie dough was delicious and highly addictive. I used raisins for sweetness and it worked really well. Banana and date flapjacks were also a hit; I think it’s obvious how I sweetened them! It’s fair to say that neither of these recipes can be classed as sugar free. However, I feel that they are both healthy treats, which are free from refined sugar and flour. I contemplated using maple syrup, honey or agave syrup to sweeten my recipes but, after some research, I decided not to use them. They are full of sugars and have the same effect on the body as processed sugar. They will still induce a rise in insulin levels and also cause the dreaded sugar spike. At least when fruit is used to sweeten a recipe, it provides vital fibre, vitamins and minerals and is not just empty calories.

    Get the recipe: Low-sugar banana and date flapjacks

    Our evening meals have remained much the same but have required some tweaks to make sure they contain as little sugar as possible. My family really enjoys pizza and we often tuck into one on a Friday evening while watching a film. Not wanting to miss out on our family ritual, I tried out cauliflower pizza, which is considered to be a much healthier option. The base is made out of a mountain of whizzed up cauliflower, which is combined with cheese and egg. At first I was concerned as it didn’t smell very tempting and the mixture was extremely sloppy. However, to my amazement, the cauliflower base firmed up in the oven and it was even possible to turn it over to cook the other side. I honestly thought that it would break into 100 pieces! After cooking the base, I simply spread over tomato purée, a chopped red pepper, onion and mozzarella and placed it back into the oven for a few minutes. The finished article looked like a pizza, sliced like a pizza and almost tasted like a pizza! We could tell that the base wasn’t made out of dough but it was still very tasty. It was a bit of a surprise to enjoy it so much. A great recipe and one I’ll make again.

    Get the recipe: Cauliflower pizza

    Another family favourite is macaroni cheese but I had to make some changes to lower the sugar content. I swapped the white sauce for puréed butternut squash and also swapped white pasta for spelt pasta. Spelt helps to lower blood sugar, build strong bones, and is packed full of fibre. It was therefore certainly well worth using it in place of white pasta. The finished meal didn’t really taste any different from our usual macaroni cheese. It would be no hardship to eat it on a regular basis. Unfortunately, I did struggle later on in the week when we had burgers, minus the bread baps. I must admit that it was difficult to forgo the bap and the lack of tomato ketchup was even harder to endure!

    Although my sugar cravings have subsided somewhat, I do still miss sugar. It’s perhaps not so much the taste but the fact that it is a dampener at social gatherings. I feel somewhat like a party pooper when I invite a friend over for a cuppa but don’t offer biscuits or cake. A meal out should be considered a real treat but it’s no fun when you have to dismiss most of the menu and refuse dessert! When I started this challenge, I said it wasn’t a diet but it is starting to feel like one now.

    Next week I will finally get around to cutting out processed bread and trying to make my own with spelt flour. I also want to look into breadless lunch ideas and alternatives to my beloved pasta. Perhaps, most importantly, I will try to make my own tomato ketchup. I am bereft without it and can only hope that a sugar-free version will be edible!

    Week 3: ‘As I approach the final week, I must confess that I am on a countdown!’

    This low sugar challenge is really testing me to my limits. In fact, I feel I must confess to a moment of weakness. After 3 long weeks of using either mashed banana or dried fruit to sweeten my baking, I felt a strong urge to make a batch of sugar-loaded brownies. Not for myself, you understand, but as a treat for a friend. Of course, this turned out to be a big mistake. After placing the tray of brownies into the oven, I headed straight to my electric whisk and licked the beaters clean. It was utter bliss! However, it didn’t take long for me to realise that I’d just consumed an obscene amount of sugar. I considered eating the whole tray of brownies and to be done with it! That’s what I’d usually do. Instead, I reminded myself that sugar is empty calories and its only purpose was to tighten my trousers. It still hurt, though, when I had to hand those gooey chocolatey brownies over!

    Shop-bought bread contains a surprising amount of sugar so make your bread from scratch

    Thankfully, the brownie incident gave me more of an incentive to stick with the challenge. I was even keener to experiment in the kitchen this week; my first port of call was to find alternatives to bread. My family adores bread, so I’m loathe to go without it, but there are other options to explore. I eased us in gently by making bread with spelt flour. I worried that I’d end up with a loaf as heavy as a brick, but thankfully we were pleasantly surprised. It’s true that it is different to a standard white bread but that’s not a bad thing! It is light and slightly nutty in flavour and it made a very decent sandwich loaf. Despite the success of the spelt bread, I decided it was time to take a step out of our comfort zone and omit bread completely. This was very daunting. Did I mention that we like bread?! I attempted devilled eggs. This was greeted with suspicious glances but the plates were left clean. They might seem a little old fashioned but they are actually very tasty and there are plenty of fillings to try. It’s also a great one to make with young children as they can happily mash and mix the cooked egg yolks. Another popular choice was a cous cous salad and also ham roll ups, where we used ham in place of a tortilla wrap. Perhaps a life without bread isn’t so bad after all. Hmmmm…maybe!

    It is hard to forgo my favourite sweet treats such as Jaffa cakes, chocolate digestives, etc. but there is one thing I miss the most – tomato ketchup. I am completely lost without it. I remember receiving a massive bottle of it as a birthday present from my Dad one year. That’s how much I love it! Sadly tomato ketchup is well known for being high in sugar so it was obvious that I should try to make my own sugar free alternative. I doubted it could live up to my high standards, but it was actually a decent replacement. My children loved it! It only contains a handful of ingredients and any sugar comes from tomatoes. It’s quite frightening to read the label on a bottle of shop bought tomato ketchup and see it contains 3.4g sugar per 15g portion. Perhaps I should stick to the homemade variety!

    Tomato ketchup is another family favourite that contains lots of sugar, so make it from scratch instead

    After using fruit and vegetables to add sweetness to homemade cakes and bakes, I looked into sweeteners this week. After many years of artificial sweeteners such as aspartame, so called natural sweeteners are now arriving on the market. Initially I was concerned about horrific side affects but, after some research, I felt it was worth a try. Xylitol seemed like a good place to start. It is a sweetener which is mainly sourced from corn cobs. It has the same sweetness as white sugar, so I was able to make a standard lemon loaf cake and no alterations were necessary. The end result was surprisingly pleasant. It was sweet and the texture was pretty good. However, it did feel a little chalky in the mouth. It was a nice enough cake but it was obvious that I hadn’t used normal sugar. In the past three weeks I have tried using banana, dates, raisins and sweet potato to sweeten recipes but the results have been very mixed. In my opinion xylitol did make a tastier cake but it is still a sweetener and it can have a laxative affect if eaten in large quantities. Moderation is most definitely the key!

    Anneliese swapped sugar in her favourite lemon loaf cake for Xylitol instead and it tasted just as good!

    For breakfast we are still tucking into overnight oats but we warm them in the microwave each morning so it ends up more like porridge. We also enjoy Weetabix now and again. It has a far lower sugar content than most of the other breakfast cereals. Dinnertime remains much the same apart from completely cutting out baked beans or jars of pasta sauce. Homemade may take a little longer but it makes it easy to cut out sugar. Last week I made a healthier version of macaroni cheese and it was so good that I made it again this week. Butternut squash is used in place of a white sauce and I also used spelt pasta to keep the meal wheat free. It’s a new family favourite!

    Get the recipe: Anneliese’s healthy butternut squash macaroni cheese

    Snacks remain the hardest challenge. After preschool/school the boys come home hungry and are keen for a snack. Rice cakes and cubes of cheese get a bit boring after a while! For the final week, I will see if I can liven things up a bit and come up with a few more ideas.

    As I approach the final week, I must confess that I am on a countdown!

    Week 4: ‘I’ve come to realise that sugar is almost impossible to avoid’

    Four weeks ago, I was addicted to sugar. My diet was littered with chocolate, cakes, biscuits, processed white pasta and bread. My love of baking only served to fuel my addiction. Who can resist raw cake mixture? I had little self control and found sugar impossible to resist. Although I exercised a healthier diet for my children, they’d unfortunately inherited my sweet tooth and munched their way through far too many Jaffa cakes!

    After watching Jamie Oliver’s Sugar Rush documentary last year, I knew that I needed to re-evaluate my family’s diet. I was shocked to learn just how much sugar is in our day-to-day food. Who would have thought that a bowl of bran flakes could contain 6g sugar? I was horrified to learn how sugary drinks are rotting pre-schoolers teeth and that Type II diabetes is on a steady increase due to our love of sugary treats. It’s pretty scary stuff and definitely a good reason for us to try to cut out sugar!

    Make fruit fun for kids by presenting them in different ways!

    Unfortunately, over the course of the challenge, I’ve come to realise that sugar is almost impossible to avoid. As a family, we’ve struggled to find decent alternatives and ultimately, we found it impossible to cut sugar out completely. Before this challenge, I often forgot to check the nutritional information on packaging. It had, therefore, escaped my notice that the carton of orange juice in my child’s lunch box contained 18g sugar! We also discovered that our favourite yogurts were full of the white stuff and that even plain and natural yogurts contain a small amount. Carbohydrates such as bread, pasta and rice are among our favourite foods, so we were upset to learn that they also contained sugar. It soon became clear that it was not simply a case of cutting out obviously sugary treats! Even fruit became a bit of a grey area. Fruit contains fructose, which also raises blood sugar levels. A single banana contains 12g sugar but I still used it to sweeten overnight oats and my banana and date flapjacks. I decided that the health benefits of fruit such as fibre, vitamins and nutrients were a necessary part of our diet. In fact, in the final week of this challenge, I turned to fruit to liven up a wet weekend! I sliced up a watermelon and turned it into cute ‘lollies’, which my 5-year-old loved! I also made baked apple and cinnamon crisps, which proved really popular. It may have been cold and bleak outside, but we still enjoyed 1-ingredient ice cream – made by whizzing up frozen banana.Homemade banana ice cream is much healthier than shop-bought and cuts down on sugar.

    Snacks have consistently proved to be the hardest part of the challenge. We all tend to crave sweetness mid-afternoon and finding a satisfying treat was NOT easy! At first, I tried to replicate our favourite sugar-laden cakes, but that just caused more disappointment. The sweet potato brownies are a case in point; they tasted awful and only served to make our cravings worse! I was also loathe to use popular natural sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup and agave syrup. Our bodies cannot distinguish between processed white sugar or natural sweeteners. They have the same result on the body; a release of insulin and a rise in blood sugar levels. In the end, I decided that, instead of trying to sweeten my baking naturally, it was best to avoid it altogether and look for alternatives. Savoury options seemed sensible and we enjoyed snacking on cheese and oat muffins. Sundried tomatoes did add a little natural sugar, but we used spelt flour along with the oats to keep the muffins as healthy as possible. Of course, we snacked on some fruit too, but I also managed to find some pretty good salt and vinegar rice cakes, which were rather moreish. After a few weeks, we got used to the lack of cake and quite enjoyed savoury foods. We no longer had the dreaded afternoon sugar cravings and the snacks kept our tummies fuller for longer.

    Cooking our evening meals from scratch made it fairly easy to cut out any added sugar. I used to buy the odd jar of pasta sauce but, after checking the labels, I was only too glad to make my own! Waving goodbye to baked beans was tricky to start with as they are a quick add-on to a meal, but my young boys didn’t mind and never asked for them to be included. With that in mind, it’s doubtful that baked beans will find their way into our shopping trolley on future trips to the supermarket. Unfortunately, it was a lot harder to give up salad dressing and tomato ketchup, and I’m too weak willed to cut them out of my life for good!

    Apple crisps are the perfect healthy alternative to shop-bought crisps.

    This low-sugar challenge has made me painfully aware that I and my family used to eat far too much sugar. Thankfully, I have been able to take some steps to lower the amount we eat by making some simple changes. I have taken away the seemingly innocent fruit juices and less innocent sugary afternoon snacks. By making this small alteration to my children’s diet, I have cut down their sugar intake by almost 30g sugar per day. My own diet has definitely improved too. It’s no longer second nature to reach for a bar of chocolate if I’m having a tough day; instead, I comfort myself with a mug of tea and a chunk of cheese! I now know to choose slow release wholemeal carbohydrates rather than white. The wholemeal variety still contains sugar but it is released into the body slowly, which keeps blood sugar levels much more stable. However, I’m all about moderation. Now this challenge has finished, I will carry on baking sugary cakes and bakes, just not as regularly. I will most definitely eat cake, chocolate and biscuits but as a weekend treat and for special occasions, rather than on a daily basis! If I’m lucky enough to have a meal out, I won’t skip dessert; I shall enjoy and savour every mouthful.

    I’m not sure if I will ever be completely free of my sugar addiction, but it has definitely loosed its grip!

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