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Got a food allergy?

Bread skull (blog)

Some allergy sufferers people spend a lifetime avoiding eating out and always have to cook for themselves to make sure that they are not playing Russian roulette with their lives. Now, new rules in the EU means that all packaged and unpackaged foods, including those served in restaurants, takeaways and canteens, by law, have to be able to provide the customers with information on possible allergens in the various dishes and products.

For businesses, especially the small ones, this is a burden, having to trawl though possible hundreds of ingredients in recipes and extra training for their staff. But, isn’t it our rights as consumers knowing what goes into our food, especially if taking the wrong mouthful could be life threatening?

I am fortunate to “only” suffer food intolerances, rather than allergies. However, whenever I eat out and ask the staff for information about gluten, dairy and sugar it’s rather hit and miss if that staff member knows this info or can find out. Sometimes I take a gamble, but for me, it’s not the end of the world if a tiny amount of gluten found its way into my soup (although getting sick isn’t particularly pleasant, it won’t kill me), for an allergy sufferer or someone with an autoimmune disorder, it just might, or at least have severe consequences.

In New Zealand and Australia, food retailers and food outlets (for example cafes and restaurants) are required to provide information about allergens if requested. Foods which must carry a label also has to display allergen information. Typically its displayed in bold or in brackets. However, all the un-labelled and un-packaged foods are still a mystery for those with allergens. Let’s hope that the move forward towards greater transparency continues (also when it comes to processed foods and all the things added to it, their origins and treatments, but that’s a whole other story).

Do you know what the most common allergens are? Check out this great infographic from the UK Food Standards Agency below. Just note that substances and ingredients that must be declared on food labels in New Zealand and Australia only count ten rather than 14 (NZ and Oz don’t have to declare celery, mustard, lupin and molluscs).

If you would like to see more articles like this and gluten, dairy and sugar-free recipes you can follow me here (via email, see top right on this page) or on Facebook.

14 allergens in new rule

 

How to get rid of your sugar addiction (1/4)

lady eating sugar cubes - how to get rid of your sugar addiction TEXT

Are you unable to go a whole day without eating anything sweet? Are you an emotional eater? Are your energy levels throughout the day like a roller-coaster? Do you NEED something sweet to get you going during the middle of the day, but then your energy levels drop again soon after? Are you unable to say no to people offering you treats?  If you answered yes to some or all of these questions you are likely addicted to sugar. And who can blame you – sugar is added to most processed food these days. If sugar is as addictive as cocaine and tobacco, it is really no wonder that we get hooked!

If you know that sugar is bad for you (if not, check out my last post) and you are ready to take the leap and become sugar-free, here are some top tips for kicking the sugar in a series of four blog posts 1: Starting out – at home, 2: At work, 3: Going out and 4: Visiting friends.

At home

Living on your own might make the start of a sugar-free journey easier than if you are living with someone. However, if you do live with a partner or have a family, I’d start out by getting them on-board first. If there is chocolate lying around, you might not be able to help yourself (unless you are one of those superhuman people who have an ironclad willpower). If you don’t think that this is a good option in your household, start this journey on your own but know that the sugar-free community is growing rapidly everyday, there is always help and support to be had if you know where to look (you could always start here, by following this blog by email or on Facebook). When the rest of your household witness the changes in you (For example, loosing weight, better skin, loads of energy and how much happier you are) they might be encouraged to join you on your journey. This is NOT another fad diet to try out, it is a life-style choice which will make you happier and healthier.

Before you start whipping everything out of your kitchen, just make sure that you are prepared with sugar-free substitutes. You need to have alternatives ready for when you house is ‘clean’ and you are suffering serious sugar withdrawal (no, it’s not fun the first two weeks). Otherwise, you are setting out to fail. So, if you are new to this, I’d recommend saving the link to this series of posts and then go back and start here when you have read them all). I will be following up with posts about weekday breakfasts, lunches and dinners and how to prep in advance to make life easy.

Now, are you ready to make a change? Start out by going through your pantry, make it a cool challenge, get your partner/kids to help. First, start of by binning the obvious ones, your regular sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar etc. Then proceed to look at all the processed foods (check the labels) – has is got more than 5% sugar in it? (5 gram per 100 gram). Put it all in a pile on your kitchen bench. All the whole foods (oats, coconut flakes, seeds, nuts etc) are fine, only natural (tiny) amounts of sugar there. Don’t be surprised if your seemingly innocent cornflakes, toasted muesli or energy bars are crammed with sugar. While you are at it – remove all your (wheat/gluten) flours. Gluten and wheat are just empty calories which will be turned into sugar in your body.

Woman looking into fridge

Then pull everything out of you fridge which aren’t whole foods (veggies, fruit etc). Look at the back of the labels and add anything which has more that 5% sugar in it (and wheat/gluten) to your pile on the kitchen bench (unless the sugar content it is not added sugar and comes in its original ‘packaging’, e.g. a can of apple sauce with nothing whatsoever added to it).

Now, stand back and be amazed by the amount of food that makes up your pile (hopefully your fridge and pantry are completely empty!). How big was it? If it’s wasn’t much – congratulations, it seems you sugar addiction isn’t being fuelled at home (but perhaps rather when you are out and about). Decide what to do with your haulage of sugar but make sure it leaves your house or lock it in a box and burrow it in your garden with a note as a time capsule for your future self (kidding away, I would suggest actually throwing it in the bin so it doesn’t harm someone else!).

Empty fridge      Healthy fridge

Excellent. You have taken a huge step, now you need to replace all the sugary foods with sugar-free ones. The best way is to make wholesome foods yourself and not buy any processed foods since it’s ridiculously hard to find any processed foods which aren’t sugar-free (and it’s far better for you anyway). You don’t have to make everything from scratch though, use some ‘shortcuts’ if you want. Such as buying unsweetened chocolate (instead of making the chocolate yourself – in some countries it’s really easy to get, whilst in others like NZ it’s almost impossible to find), ready to use gluten and wheat free flour-mixes, unsweetened rice-milk etc). This is where the Ex-sugarholic comes in handy – browse through and see which recipes you like/need, then go shopping and get cracking on your amazing new sugar-free lifestyle.

For weekday breakfast, lunch and dinner ideas and how they can be prepped in advance, please keep an eye on up-coming posts which will be focussing on these particular topics.

If you would like to see more articles like this and sugar-free recipes you can follow me here (via email, see top right on this page) or on Facebook.

DIABETICS: Please note that the recipes containing glucose (including the following terms: dextrose, rice syrup and glucose syrup), as far as I understand, is not suitable for people with diabetes. Please see my recipes with no added sweeteners or just the natural sugar from fresh fruit. If in any doubt, please contact your health professional

 

How you got hooked on sugar and why it’s so bad!

sugar syringe

It probably doesn’t come as a surprise to you that sugar is not really healthy. Right? But, what most people probably don’t realise is just how bad and addictive it is. If you are currently a sugarholic, read on! (and keep and eye out for my next post on how to become an ex-sugarholic). If you are already on a sugar-free journey, a reminder of why we choose this lifestyle is always good.

So, how did you get hooked in the first place? Well, sugar binds itself to the same opioid receptors that drugs, alcohol and tobacco do! Following the fat-free ‘revolution’ in the 70’ies much of the fat in processed foods was replaced with sugar. This, unfortunately, means that there is added sugar in most processed foods. So, the generations growing up after the fat-free ‘introduction’ never really stood a chance of not becoming addicted in our modern and very convenient world. If we had all stuck with making everything from scratch like previous generations did, we probably wouldn’t be facing the global obesity epidemic that we are today.

The majority of this sugar consists of fructose and glucose.

Glucose is produced in our bodies and ingested through food and beverages and can be naturally broken down by every cell in the body. Glucose is the main energy source for our brain and for various processes in the body. We NEED it.

Fructose, however, is not essential and can only be broken down in the liver. Small amounts are okay as the liver can handle it and turns it into glycogen which is stored until it’s needed. If we flood our bodies with fructose the liver can’t keep up though and it’s forced to convert the fructose into fat which can cause havoc on our bodies in a multitude of ways (from tooth decay and obesity to fatty liver, diabetes, kidney failure, erectile dysfunction and heart disease). Natural fructose ingested through whole fruit is okay (as the fibre slows it down from being absorbed too rapidly in the bloodstream causing a spike in blood sugar). Juice is the one to stay away from. Juicing fruits hides the bulk that you are drinking. Think about a large glass of orange juice. It could have taken 8 oranges to make – would you ever eat that many oranges in one day? And, as mentioned, it goes straight into your bloodstream. You might as well just inject sugar right into your veins. If you stick with non-juiced fruit, it is really hard to over-eat. Just be careful with dried fruits, it’s easy to be tricked into eating too much because they take up more space than fresh versions and, hence, more concentrated.

For these reasons, you will notice that a lot of my baking uses glucose/dextrose (in the shape of glucose powder, glucose syrup and rice syrup). Important to note though is that glucose has a high Glycaemic index (GI) and is not suitable for people with diabetes (instead, please check out my low-carb recipes with no added sweetener, just fruit). Also, please note that even though we need glucose, it is a sugar and an excess can be dangerous, potentially causing obesity, diabetes and a host of other issues. All the recipes with glucose should still be considered a treat (baked goods) although some of them only has low amounts. Just eat sensibly.

Generally, many of the recipes that you can find here I only make for special occasions and a fair few of them I created or adapted during my sugar withdrawal because I craved those things I would normally eat. On a daily basis though (when you’re past the withdrawal), the main bulk of my food is wholesome and made from scratch as this is the only way to fully know what goes into your body. Yes, sure, it takes extra time, but as with anything that really matters, good things take time.

Need more information to be convinced? Check out the following:

Dr. Robert Lustig – Sugar: the bitter truth (video)

David Gillespie – Ways fructose destroys your body (article)

Nigel Latta – Is sugar the new fat?? (video)

If you would like to see more articles like this and sugar-free recipes you can follow me here (via email, see top right on this page) or on Facebook.

 

 

Top 5 sugar-free recipes from the Ex-sugarholic

Instead of sharing my favourites, I thought I would share yours. In no particular order, these are the most popular recipes from the Ex-sugarholic (based on blog and Facebook stats):

1: Fudgy chocolate

2: Choccy treat balls

3: Mint chocolate chip ice cream

4: Peanut butter cups

5: Chocolate ‘cheesecake’ with white chocolate spheres

I’m sensing a pattern here….. bread and ketchup just doesn’t  get you drooling as much as a sweet threat 🙂 (quite understandable, really). Well, what is not to like if you can eat sweet things but without the addictive and disease causing parts? Win win!

PicMonkey Collage 06-09-14 (no watermark) blog

If you would like to see recipes which are sugar-free, dairy-free and gluten-free do browse my blog and follow me here (via email, see top right on this page) or on Facebook.

 

Vote with your dollar

canstockphoto14153313

Vote with your dollar

Many of us vote in elections to have a say in our country’s future. However, an equally important vote happens every time we go shopping or eat out, often without thinking about it.

Every day I make an effort to vote for organic products free of sugar, wheat and dairy. I vote for cruelty-free animal products, healthy foods and palm-oil free products. I may not be able to do it 100% of the time but I do it as often as I can. How? I buy the products which support my views. I vote with my dollar.

When you buy products crammed full of processed sugar (breakfast cereals, jams, spreads, pastries, burgers) – you are telling the retailers that you want the food to be super sweet – you are voting for sugar, for addiction, for health problems.

It is not easy though. We have been conditioned by the food industry our entire lives to appreciate and NEED sugary things (well, if it is as addictive and dangerous as a drug, that really isn’t surprising). So much so, that when we are served with a sugar free treat we wrinkle our noses. Just today, I had baked a delicious strawberry tart and brought it to work. I happily shared that it was sugar free (+ dairy and gluten free) and asked a colleague if she wanted to try it – however, the cake got a look of disdain and she said “what does it have in it then, air?”. It just re-affirmed to me how hooked we all are, on foods that aren’t good for us.

By taking a stand, whether it be sugar free, dairy free, gluten free foods, cage free eggs, free-range meat, FSC marked furniture, local or organic foods – you are sending a message to the retailers and the manufacturers. You are using the only leverage that will work:  driving consumer demand. If there is no demand, there is no product.

Picture1  canstockphoto14368625

Yes, I know you are thinking it. The organic and cruelty free products do cost more and you might have a couple of teenagers at home who seem like bottomless pits when it comes to food, but think about why those products cost more. If you are growing carrots and you can’t use pesticides, you may have to do weeding by hand which costs far more in labour. If pests overrun your crop you may lose it all. If you don’t pump animals full of growth hormones and antibiotics they will take longer to grow (naturally) and the occasional illness might take them off production for a while (i.e. milk cows). However, you are not poisoning the ground or yourself with pesticides and you provide animals with a good quality of life.

I vote with my dollar for a healthier body, free of processed and addictive junk but also to prevent animals and plants from extinction and to stop cruelty to farm animals.

What do you think?

What are you voting for?

Super charged!

Just wanted to share my recent findings from quitting sugar (fructose). And when i say quitting, I don’t mean 100% because that is ridiculously difficult  (there is sugar in almost everything – the obvious ones but also fruit and vegetables) and un-needed. Unless you suffer from fructose malabsorption I wouldn’t recommend boycotting fructose completely as we need all the other goodies found in, especially, vegetables. My aim is to stay below 15 grams of fructose every day (which is the equivalent of 2 bananas, 2 Medjool dates, 5 cups of raspberries, 12 prunes, 16 passion fruits, 25 carrots or 1.5 kg of spinach – so munch away on veggies and low fructose fruit as crazy as you want, there is no way any normal person would eat too much of that).

It has been two months now, not easy, but I’m loving the effects. There are many benefits (most might say weight-loss if they are packing a couple of extra pounds), but my main one is that I used to have energy slumps throughout the day. I work regular hours and and would come home from work and have little energy to do anything (cooking, exercising and even walking the dog took so much effort). Now, I’m full of energy all day long (good for work) and can give my home life the same attention my work gets (good all around).  As I am a bit of a statistics nerd I tracked my productivity and came up with the diagrams below (before and after). Would love to hear from anyone else out there on a fructose free journey. And, if you are considering if it is worth the trouble, I would recommend reading The Sweet Poison Quit Plan by David Gillespie – food for thought!

Sugar - productivity

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