As I come to the end of my no-sugar challenge, I thought I would round up my thoughts on living totally sugar-free.
If you cook all your meals from scratch, it is actually very easy to stay away from sugar, and I am hoping that, if people take away any advice I have given them over the past month, it is to read the labels of the foodstuff they buy.
Even as a Certified Nutritionist, I am not exempt from making mistakes. I had a shock one day when I looked at the ingredient list of my favourite mocha drink and realised that sugar was at the top of the list! I should have listened to my own advice, but the lesson was learnt.
Sugar can sneak into the most unexpected places; even canned vegetables are often packed in salt and sugar water. However, they are a time-saver in the kitchen and I use them very often, mainly beans. If you do too, make sure you rinse them thoroughly or buy a brand that does not use sugar water. Sweet Harvest (found in Aldi) does not use salt and sugar, but I would still advise to rinse them carefully as other products may be added for preservation.
So what did I find the most difficult during my sugar-free month? One word… Baking! I am a keen baker and it was hard to wrap my brain around sugar-free baking.
Now, let’s be realistic. There are certain cakes/biscuits you will never be able to make without sugar. Sugar-free Victoria Sponge anyone? Believe me, you don’t want to!
But, it doesn’t mean sweet treats are off the menu altogether. In this case, the natural sweetness of fresh or dried fruits is your ally.
My first example is this amazing recipe from Angela Liddon of Oh She Glows, Two-layer Raw Chocolate Brownies. Here is the link to Angela’s original recipe: http://ohsheglows.com/2014/05/08/two-layer-raw-chocolate-brownies/.
I only did the “brownie” half of the recipe and it was delicious – a perfect little hit of sweetness from the dates which really took care of that sweet tooth of mine when it was making a nuisance of itself J
A baked apple, filled with almonds and currants makes for a beautiful and tasty sugar-free dessert.
And finally, if you are trying to bake without sugar, trust me when I say that overripe bananas are your best friends. Here is my recipe for sugar-free banana bread. Rich in bananas, raisins and nuts, it actually is perfect for breakfast with a cup of tea.
Sugar-free Banana Bread
3 large, overripe bananas, mashed
80ml coconut oil, melted
2 large eggs
60ml milk of choice (I used soya milk)
1tsp vanilla extract
220g flour of choice (I used spelt flour)
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
2tsp baking powder
1tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp salt
110g chopped walnuts (or nuts of choice)
120g raisins (or dried fruit of choice)
Preheat your oven 180C or 160C fan. Lightly grease a loaf tin and line the bottom with baking parchment.
In a large mixing bowl, mix together your wet ingredients (mashed bananas, melted coconut oil, eggs, milk and vanilla extract) with a hand or electrical whisk.
In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients (flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, spices and salt.)
Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and using a spatula or wooden spoon, mix until the dry ingredients are just incorporated.
Fold in the nuts and raisins gently with the spatula and pour the batter in the prepared tin.
Bake for 45 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean (if the top of your banana bread browns too fast, cover it with foil for the rest of the baking time.)
Leave the banana bread to cool in its tin for 10 minutes, before turning out on a wire rack.
Leave to cool fully before slicing.
Sandra’s note: This banana bread freezes beautifully. Cut it into slices and wrap carefully each slice individually in cling film before freezing.
I hope you have found the advice I have gathered over the past month useful and that it will help you navigate the sometimes tricky issue of sugar consumption.