It is day three post completion of my seven day no added sugar challenge.
And it was imperfect for a few reasons.
I knowingly started with some perishable added sugar products that needed to be eaten in the week.
HOW DOES A NO ADDED SUGAR CHALLENGE SIT WITH MINDFUL EATING?
You might think it strange that I would complete a no-added-sugar challenge as a mindfulness practitioner and encourage my clients to join me as well!
There were three main reasons for conducting the challenge in the New Year:
#1 Many of us had eaten more sugary foods during the main festive weeks and we wanted to get back to basic mindful eating.
#2 There are health benefits to eating less added sugar, such as better mood, higher energy levels, improved gut health, healthy weight, and blood sugar control for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes.
#3 Choosing not to eat added sugary foods was an opportunity to reveal a lingering dieting mindset and an emotional reliance on sugary foods. Please read the warning below about these.
Sugary foods are a main way to soothe uncomfortable emotions and stress. They are also used for reward and celebration.
A SNAP SHOT OF OUR SEVEN DAY CHALLENGE
- Naturally occurring sugars in whole foods were permitted.
- No free sugars, such as table sugar, honey or syrups, added to drinks or foods, including baking.
- No pre-prepared foods with added sugar, e.g. cakes, biscuits, lollies, chocolate, sauces and jams;
- No fruit juice;
- No added sweeteners of any sort, including stevia and artificial sweeteners.
MY USUAL SOURCES OF ADDED SUGAR
- One teaspoon of honey in my chai every day
- Toasted muesli most days
- Soy milk most days
- Balsamic vinegar most days
Occasional chilli sauce, sweet soy sauce, chocolate, and ice-cream
Less frequently eaten foods are gelato, homemade cake, and sweetened yoghurt. There might be other sweet foods that I eat at events, e.g., a mint lolly or a homemade slice. As these are eaten so infrequently, I haven’t estimated their sugar contents.
The amount of added sugar from these foods daily:
One teaspoon of honey is 6g sugar or 1.5 teaspoons
⅓ cup (30 g) toasted muesli is 2g or ½ teaspoon
200ml soy milk is 2.8g or ¾ teaspoon
1 teaspoon or 5ml of balsamic vinegar is 2g or ½ teaspoon
Occasional foods per week on average:
2 dessert spoons (40g) chilli sauce is 12g or 3 teaspoons*
2 teaspoon (10g) sweet soya sauce is 5.6g or 1.5 teaspoons
50 g chocolate per week is 28g or 6.5 teaspoons*
3 scoops (120g) ice-cream 23.5g sugar or 5.5 teaspoons*
*These are total sugar amounts for foods also containing naturally occurring sugar
ADDED SUGAR DURING THE CHALLENGE
During the challenge, I did finish off some sweetened yoghurt and 750 ml of soy milk, and I accidentally had two salads with my balsamic vinegar!
- Half cup of sweetened yoghurt (125g) was 14.4g added sugar
- 750ml sweetened soy milk had 10.5g added sugar
- 10ml balsamic vinegar was 4g added sugar
A total of 29g of sugar or 7 teaspoons of sugar, which is 1 teaspoon a day.
So during my imperfect no added sugar challenge, I reduced my sugar intake by 31 teaspoons, which is still a great effort.
Before I move on to my experience of eating without added sugar during the challenge, you can see from my usual foods that the sweetened yoghurt is a significant source of sugar, as are the chocolate and ice-cream. And I will talk about my plans post challenge in regards to added sugars.
EATING WITHOUT ADDED SUGAR
#1 I didn’t miss my usual added sugars.
#2 I ate the remaining ½ cup of sweetened yoghurt on day 1 and happily returned to my regular, no added sugar variety.
#3 I found that I enjoyed the spicy flavour of my chai without the added honey, so I will continue with this.
#4 I will also keep eating my oats soaked in cinnamon and turmeric with added fruit in place of the toasted muesli, not so much because of the added sugar but because I enjoyed the soaked oats more!
#5 I have swapped to no added sugar varieties of oat and soy milk, and this will be easy to continue with. I usually drink 2 litres of plant milk a week, so this is a positive change to reduce added sugar.
#6 I will return to balsamic vinegars that have less added sugar once I finish my current bottle.
#7 For the occasional foods—chili sauce and soy sauce—I will continue to have these to add variety to my meals. However, during the challenge, I covered my baked tofu with turmeric and cumin powder instead of soy sauce and it offers a tasty alternative.
#8 I didn’t miss the chocolate or ice-cream during the week of the challenge, so I am happy to continue replacing my ice-cream with either yoghurt or chia pudding.
#9 I will mindfully eat chocolate when I feel like eating it!
I will mindfully eat chocolate when I feel like eating it!
MY TOP TAKEAWAYS FROM THE CHALLENGE
- Label reading remains an essential part of mindful eating, especially if you have diabetes or are wanting to reduce sugar cravings.
- Going without added sugar for a week or for an extended period reminds you, “I am sweet enough.”
- If there is a no added sugar alternative that you enjoy, then eat that instead, like my yoghurt and plant milks.
- If the very thought of giving up sugar sends you into a panic due to sugar cravings or years of on and off dieting, then I do not complete this challenge; instead, book in for a free 15-minute call with me to unpack your drive to eat sugary foods.
- If you are aware that you have an emotional reliance on sugary foods, then this type of challenge is not for you. Understanding your reliance on these foods is the first step, and if you would like my help in identifying this and letting go of it for good, then book in for a free 15-minute call.
In a 15-minute Mindful Eating Discovery call, we unpack your main eating habit or food craving. If I can help you, I will provide a personalised tip to confidently move on from your eating habit.