Friday focus: No sugar challenge

I am bringing you a little bit of a different Friday Focus this week.

I have been part of a Health and Wellness forum for a few years and belong to a small “Challenge Warriors” team, where we choose fitness or nutrition challenges and encourage each other through these challenges. The challenges may be short-term or long term, and my personal challenges have been anything from “exercising at least 15 minutes a day” to “stick to a 100% Paleo/Vegan/Dairy-free diet for a month.”

As I have been studying diet theories such as Vegan, Paleo, etc, I have enjoyed turning those dietary lifestyles into challenges and “road-testing” them for a while to experience my body’s response to them. I believe there is no “one size fits all” solution as far as nutrition is concerned and experimenting with your nutrition allows you to find out what works for you. I have found out that my body works at its best with more protein and less grains. My digestion is also improved by reducing my dairy intake. It all sounds a bit “trial and error” but as every one of us is unique, it makes sense that our nutrition should be too.


As May has just started, my fellow “Challenge Warriors” and I have all chosen a new challenge for this month. I have decided to start a no sugar challenge and then, I had the thought that some of Sandra’s Holistic Kitchen friends might want to join in.


So why a “no sugar challenge”? Well, let me start by stating something I have mentioned before: sweet treats have a place as part as a balanced nutrition. BUT, even as a keen baker, I have stepped back from using refined sugar, preferring to use natural alternatives such as honey, pure maple syrup and coconut sugar. Even more worryingly for me as a nutritionist, I have become aware that sugar has a way of sneaking into every day products. People who are striving to live a healthy lifestyle and feed themselves and their families a wholesome diet may not be aware of this. Have a look at the sugar contents of many children’s cereals (even the ones touted as “healthy”) and you will see what I mean. Read the labels of your everyday foodstuff and you could be in for a surprise as sugar makes its way into many products under many aliases: Dextrose, Fructose, Glucose, Sucrose, Maltose, Syrup, Cane juice, Raw sugar, Evaporated cane juice, Fruit juice sweetener, Corn sweetener, Corn syrup, High-fructose corn syrup, Modified food starch…


Going into details about what sugar does to your body would make this blog unbelievably long. So let me just give you an overview: when we eat sugar (in any of its forms), the body releases insulin to regulate the amount of sugar in the blood. Some of the sugar you eat will be converted to energy by the muscles, the rest will be stored as fat. We usually eat WAY more sugar than we need for energy and find ourselves with surplus sugar in our bloodstream, which will create an imbalance and more fat storage. As well as being an empty calorie product, sugar also increases the toxic load in the body, leading to cell damage.


If you want to find out more about sugar and its effects, there are many resources online that will give you some information. I really enjoyed this very interesting article (and accompanying video) by Steve Kamb on Nerd Fitness:




So if you’d like to join me, onto the challenge!! The rules are simple:


          If it is pure sugar, refined (white sugar, brown sugar) or unrefined (unrefined golden sugar), it is not allowed.


          If it is added sugar, it is not allowed. As I have mentioned before, sugar is hidden in many foodstuff. Make sure to read the ingredients labels and be aware that sugar may be present in your product under another name.


          If it is artificial sweeteners (even the “natural” ones such as Truvia or Splenda), it is not allowed. As a nutritionist, I have an innate distrust of those substances.


          To make this challenge more challenging (to myself, most certainly as I am a keen baker), all natural sugar alternatives are not allowed either: agave syrup, honey, pure maple syrup, coconut sugar…


So what is allowed? Only naturally occurring sugars are allowed such as sugars naturally present in fruits or milk and dairy. Basically, if you need to add it or if it has been added to your food, do not eat it. If it is there naturally, go for it.





The challenge will run for a month, to allow your body to adjust to the changes and for you to feel the benefits. During this time, I will support you with tips and recipes that you will be able to find on my Facebook page:


Let me know if you’d like to join the challenge and what I can do to help you; if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to fire them my way. Good luck! J



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