As part of Sugar Free September, the team at Peppersmith HQ decided to ditch sugar for a whole week. The purpose of this was for us to understand a bit more about hidden sugars, see how much it impacted our lives and of course to encourage others to have a go at booting the sweet stuff too.
We’re not going to sugar coat it (sorry), but in general it was a lot harder than we expected. Not only did it involve saying goodbye to our favourite morning cereals or that mid afternoon brownie, but it included a whole load of everyday savoury foods too. It was so difficult in fact, 4 out of 5 of us failed on hidden sugars. Having said that, we all thoroughly enjoyed the challenge. It made us so much more aware of our sugar consumption and even if we aren’t quite ready to go cold turkey again just yet, we’re all looking to cut down massively from now on and feel we’re now better equipped to do this.
Do any of us feel any different after avoiding sugar for 7 days?
A couple of us noticed we had clearer skin, but overall we didn’t feel all that different on the inside after sugar free week. However, we’re putting this down to a week being too short to notice any huge difference. Stick with it though: the two of us who have been gradually reducing our sugar intake over the last few months and have definitely noticed our cravings disappearing and experienced more energy throughout the day.
What was the hardest thing about quitting sugar?
Eating on the move, buying packed lunches from supermarkets, going out for dinner or eating at a friends house. The good news is that quitting the sweet things like chocolate bars and desserts was relatively easy, but cutting out the hidden sugars was much more difficult. Whether it was in mayonnaise or sweet chilli sauce, we found that most packaged sandwiches contained added sugar.
Going out for any kind of Asian food was sadly off the menu (quite literally), and eating at friends houses required a pre-warning that you were on a very strict no sugar diet (cue loss of friends). We found the easiest food to avoid sugar when eating out was Italian, as long as you steer clear of rich dressings and sauces.
This did encourage us to get in the kitchen a little more and make our own food. Not only was it much cheaper, but it also made us much more aware of what was going into our meals. It also encouraged us to experiment with other ingredients and recipes that didn’t contain sugar that we might not have used before, i.e. dressings made with natural yoghurt, oil, fresh lemon juice and herbs. Who needs shop bought sauces anyway.
The most surprising places we found hidden sugar?
Sushi, jerk seasoning spice mix, balsamic vinegar, rye bread, curry powder, chicken stock cubes, Greg’s favourite crisps. We found that many ingredients we use for cooking contain added sugar, and even healthy foods like rye bread had it listed as a key ingredient. This meant sticking to homemade spice mixes, and a lot of label watching. On the plus side, we’re now so much more aware of the sugar we are consuming without realising. We realised that on some days before the challenge, we were probably getting our recommended daily amount without even touching that after dinner treat. So cutting that out can only be a good thing, right?
Our top tips for booting sugar
- Cook with spices rather than ready made sauces where you can
- Make your lunches in advance and base them around fresh ingredients where possible (who knew that the shop bought sandwich contained so much sugar)
- Crowd out the bad stuff. This may seem obvious but if you stick to fresh veg, wholegrains, protein, fats and a bit of fruit, you really can’t go far wrong. If you’re already feeling satisfied from your meals, we promise you’ll be much less likely to reach for something sweet.
- Be sparing with the sauces: soy sauce, ketchup, mayonnaise and chilli sauces can easily cause your sugar intake to creep up without you realising. Don’t worry too much about cutting them out altogether if you’re already cutting sugar in other areas, but just make sure you’re considering them in your daily intake.
- Switch up sugar for alternatives like xylitol. It’s a myth that you can’t have a treat when you’re not eating sugar. Xylitol tastes just the same as sugar, and can be used in baking in the same quantities. Check out this cookie recipe if you’re still not convinced.
- Finally, get the Sugar Smart App. It’s a great app for your phone which allows you to scan and check for sugar quantities on loads of brands before you buy them in the supermarket.