how to cut out the white stuff and lose weight

0
4

Easter has been and gone, and most of us will have been celebrating the beginning of the end of lockdown with chocolate. But now we’re on the countdown to (hopefully) a restriction-free summer, and if getting your pre-lockdown body back is a priority, one of the easiest ways to lose weight is to cut back on sugar consumption. You’ll also be doing a world of good for your health and building a resilient immune system to fight off coronavirus. 

But cutting sugar out of your diet isn’t easy. It’s not enough just to cut out chocolate and ice cream; sugar is hiding everywhere. A good first step is to take our 7-Day Sugar Challenge, which gives you one simple strategy a day for reducing your sugar intake.  Let us know how you get on…

Day 1: Switch up your breakfast

Cereals are often packed with added sugar so it’s the easiest place to start to make a big dent in your sugar intake. A small first step would be to swap to an alternative lower-sugar cereal like Shredded Wheat or Bran Flakes or make porridge with milk and whole, unprocessed oats. To give your sugar habit an even harder kick at breakfast, take the sweet factor out altogether and think more creatively about how to make delicious food that fills you up:

  • Make scrambled eggs in just one minute and pair them with a piece of wholegrain toast or smoked salmon, upping the fibre and fill-you-up factor.

  • Prepare pancake batter the night before and think about toppings such as low fructose berries with a dollop of low-sugar whole Greek yoghurt. 

  • Make a frittata with vegetables the night before and freeze it, popping in the oven or microwave in the morning before going to work.

  • Pair apple slices with peanut butter.

  • Scramble one whole egg and three whites with some spinach and diced peppers in the morning. Finish with a bowl of blackberries on the side. 

Day 2: Find natural swaps

Today’s the day to cut out at least one packaged food from your snacks or meals and replace it with a whole food. Instead of a granola bar or bag of vegetable crisps, snack on cut-up real vegetables or eat a handful of nuts and seeds. Be aware that some ‘natural, wholesome’ swaps are just sideways steps and a date bar, for instance, can have as much sugar as a chocolate bar.  

Start looking at labels and try to identify the added sugars. Download the Food Switch app, which enables you to scan the barcode of every processed food and suggests the same kind of item with less sugar. Try stocking your cupboards with foods that don’t come with a label. Think fruit, vegetables, fresh fish or meat. Keep in mind that one ingredient is good, a dozen or more is not so good. If you want a quick meal and you usually mix your pasta with a ready-made jar of pasta sauce, try the half and half approach: use half the amount of sauce and top it up with a tin of chopped tomatoes, thereby reducing your sugar intake.

Think about your drinks too – one can of cola can have as much as nine cubes of sugar. But smoothies or an afternoon orange juice are just as bad as they contain a high concentration of fructose, so stick to water if you can. If you do make a smoothie use the whole fruit, add protein powder and reduce high sugar fruits like banana and mango. 

This challenge is designed to increase your sugar-aware habits by giving you new strategies to build on each day. At this point in the week, you should be:

Day 3: Load up on full fat foods and protein

If eating becomes all about denial and foods you can’t eat, it won’t work. The mindset for reducing your sugar intake is to think about the foods that you can put in, rather than take out. Fats are essential, as is protein, as our bodies cannot produce them. Increasing healthy fats and protein also has the benefit of filling us up because protein reduces your level of the hunger hormone, ghrelin, so you don’t feel as hungry. In one 2005 study, increasing protein intake from 15 to 30 per cent of calories made overweight women eat 441 fewer calories each day without intentionally restricting anything.

So what delicious foods should you be eating more of? While your favourite fruit yoghurt may have just as much sugar as ice cream, swap it for natural or Greek yoghurt with a sprinkle of low-fructose berries. For dinner, fill your plate with lean meat or chicken, high-fibre brown rice and lots of leafy vegetables. Let avocados and nuts be your friends – sprinkle walnuts or almonds over your salads, smooth nut butters on an oatcake for a mid-morning snack or make up a cheese plate with a healthy handful of olives. Salmon, tuna and tofu stir fries are good lunch and dinner options too.

At this point in the week, you should be:

  • Starting your day with a low-sugar breakfast.

  • Limiting the packaged foods you consume and finding natural swaps.

  • Loading up on healthy fat and high protein foods to fill you up.

Day 4: Add spices

Today is the day to try one dish of home cooking and get busy adding spices. As soon as you start cooking from scratch with real, whole food you will start to see how processed foods taste bland, overly sweet or salty, and your palate will become more refined.

Spices can also help to curb sweet cravings. A 2019 study reported in the International Journal of Food Science has shown that 3g of cinnamon can help to reduce sugar cravings by controlling blood glucose levels, and this helps to minimise insulin spikes that result after an unbalanced meal, which typically lead to increased hunger and sugar consumption. Cinnamon is great in porridge or try it sprinkled on sliced apple and roasted vegetables or added to banana and peanut butter on toast. Cloves, ginseng and fenugreek are also sweet spices that can be used to control blood sugar and, in a Danish study, when people added half a teaspoon of red pepper to their lunch, they had a decreased desire to eat sugary, fatty and salty foods, and ate about 70 fewer calories at their next meal. Try making a soup by throwing lots of vegetables, adding a tin of chopped tomatoes and chucking in some spices – high in fibre, tasty and filling, too.

At this point in the week, you also should be:

  • Starting your day with a low-sugar breakfast.

  • Limiting the packaged foods you consume and finding natural swaps.

  • Loading up on healthy fat and high protein foods to fill you up.

  • Experimenting with spices to add flavour to your food and curb your sweet cravings.

Day 5: Be careful with snacks

Your goal today is to avoid processed foods as much as possible when it comes to snacking between meals and to choose ones that don’t come from a packet or wrapper. Fruits are nature’s candy so go for those with edible skin, like blueberries, cherries and apples or edible seeds like blackberries, raspberries and kiwis. Avoid bananas and grapes, which are very high in sugar, and skip smoothies and high fruit juices, but vegetable-based juices and low sugar smoothies are good if you like these. Nut butters and low-fat cream cheese are good to spread on oatcakes and when you’re feeling peckish, reach for nuts, edamame, cut vegetables or Greek yoghurt and steer clear of foods that are deceptively branded as healthy but are crammed with sugar, such as dried fruits, granola bars, salad dressings (unless you make your own with olive oil and lemon juice) and sushi rice. 

At this point in the week, you should be:

  • Starting your day with a low-sugar breakfast.

  • Limiting the packaged foods you consume and finding natural swaps.

  • Loading up on healthy fat and high protein foods to fill you up.

  • Experimenting with spices to add flavour to your food and curb your sweet cravings.

  • Choosing carefully when it comes to snacks.

Day 6: Sweeten your vegetables

Today is all about unlocking the natural sugar in your vegetables. Pick a favourite root vegetable and roast it at a high temperature for about 15 minutes. You can try roasting asparagus, sweet potatoes, butternut squash, carrots, kale, broccoli or corn. Roasting vegetables reduces the water content in them and caramelises the natural sugars, making your vegetables taste sweet and delicious without having to add any sugar, and provides a great alternative to simply steaming them. 

Vegetables, especially green leafy ones, are high in magnesium and chromium, nutrients which help your cells’ sensitivity to insulin to maximise the amount of sugar your body is able to metabolise and burn.  

Many vegetables contain fat-soluble vitamins too, and we need some fat in our diet to absorb their nutrients so add butter, olive oil or salt before you roast to make them even more delicious – almost crisp-like. Roasting bite-sized cauliflower pieces with a little olive oil, salt and paprika creates a tasty accompaniment to any meal or can even work as a snack. 

At this point in the week, you also should be:

  • Starting your day with a low-sugar breakfast.

  • Limiting the packaged foods you consume and finding natural swaps.

  • Loading up on healthy fat and high protein foods to fill you up.

  • Experimenting with spices to add flavour to your food and curb your sweet cravings.

  • Choosing carefully when it comes to snacks.

  • Sweetening your vegetables to unlock their natural sugar.

Day 7: Choose your dessert wisely

Yes, you are allowed dessert. Deprivation is not the goal here; lowering your sugar intake is. Dark chocolate is good as the darker the chocolate, the less the sugar content.  There are some fantastic dark chocolates in the supermarkets now, even at 100 per cent cocoa – although if you’re a sweet milk chocolate addict, you need to build up as this strength is pretty hard core until your palate changes! 

The great thing about dark chocolate is that it’s so rich you won’t want to eat more than a few chunks. Eat with a bowl of strawberries on the side and it’s the heavenliest combination to hit your sweet spot without overloading on sugar. 

But perhaps rethink having to have something sweet every night or after every meal – a couple of times a week is probably enough to indulge. 

And of course, making your dessert is better than buying a packaged one as you can surf the internet and choose to make chocolate puddings or desserts with dark chocolate and a lower sugar content. Think chocolate and avocado mousse topped with cacao nibs and raspberries or a raspberry sorbet sweetened with bananas.  

You now have seven strategies, one for each day of the week. Now you’ve reached the end of this challenge, your sugar intake should be lower and you have plenty of ideas for keeping it down long-term. Well done!

Please let us know your tips and progress in the comments below.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here