Tania is a mother of two and a member the SugarByHalf team. Here she tells how she broke some old habits over time, how she brought her family along, and some handy tips she learnt along the way.
Why did you cut down on sugar?
I thought our family ate well. After my son was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes we had to start looking closely at food labels to count carbs and I was devastated to realise there was lots of sugar in savoury foods we ate.
How much sugar were you having?
There were obvious sources like a raspberry muffin from our local cafe for morning tea, chocolate or biscuits for afternoon pick-me-ups, and ice cream for dessert. But what I didn’t realise was the way it had crept in with convenient foods we ate a fair amount of like tomato sauce, muesli bars, canned spaghetti and baked beans.
What did you cut back on?
I stopped buying the obvious culprits like juice, biscuits, ice cream and milk chocolate. It was easiest not having temptation in the house. We also moved onto eating real, homemade food with some minimally-processed foods. Instead of ice cream for dessert we’d have fruit with cream or yoghurt. I then thought about alcoholic drinks and cut right back on beer. Red wine is my drink of choice and if I have spirits it’s neat or mixed with soda water.
How did you do it?
We did it gradually over a period of about a month - not just because it was easier to bring the kids along one meal at a time but it was also easier to gradually change our shopping, prep and cooking habits one meal at a time too. So in addition to the obvious sugary drinks and treat foods, we started out with breakfasts for the first week, then moved onto lunches, then dinner and finally snacks.
Did you have sugar cravings?
Yes for the first 3 weeks or so. I decided I wasn't going to feel guilty about eating a couple of pieces of dark chocolate or a homemade low sugar chocolate brownie to get me through the afternoon. By about the third week I naturally stopped eating these so often.
What are you eating more of?
These days we’re eating way more vegetables and nuts which I’m really pleased about as I’d always struggled with getting more veggies into the kids. Getting the kids involved in washing and peeling veggies and choosing fruit and veg at the supermarket helped a lot. You could say we’ve crowded out the processed snacks like Milo and muesli bars with simple foods like carrot sticks, hard-boiled eggs, cheese, corn cakes, fresh fruit and nuts.
What has been the biggest surprise of sugar lurking where you least expect?
Peanut butter (look for natural peanut butter). Learning that smoothies and juices are loaded with sugar was an eye opener too.
What changes have you noticed since cutting back?
I lost some weight very easily, about 15kg. I really like the control I have over what I eat and am no longer at the mercy of sugar cravings or feeling hungry all the time. I’m pleased I can turn down cakes and treats at social gatherings not because it’s the healthy thing to do but because I just don’t feel like it (fingers crossed there's a cheese platter!).
What’s your top tips for others cutting back?
When it came to rethinking my kids' lunch boxes, I wrote a list of the food options we swapped over to and kept it on the fridge as a reference for those busy, weekday mornings when you're tired or stressed and trying to get everyone out the door. At first you really have to consciously think about what you're preparing but it gets easier with repetition - after a couple of months that list became second nature for me just like my old habits once were. And don’t trust processed foods with words on the packaging like “healthy’, “no added sugar” or “organic”. There’s some pretty sneaky ways manufacturers can get sugar into food without using the word sugar. If you buy something that comes in a package, always read the label.
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