It’s widely accepted that refined sugar is not something that we should be consuming too much of. Refined sugars tend to be devoid of any nutrients and are known as ‘empty calories’, calories which could be used on get sources of protein, carbs and fats! Another implication of too much of the refined stuff is that you can become resistant to insulin which is what allows glucose to enter your bloodstream and tells the cells to burn glucose instead of fat. This resistance is known to be a leading cause of diabetes so to avoid disease we should be finding alternatives to curb these sweet cravings and make better use of the calories we consume in our food and drinks.

So what are the secret culprits and what can we eat instead?

Tinned soup

There are some pretty horrifying stats on the amount of sugars in the soups we get in cans… whilst they seem convenient, one tin of regular tomato soup contains 4 teaspoons of sugar, that’s the same as half a mars bar which is rather a lot for a savoury lunch! To reduce this sugar content found in a lot of ready made meals, the best thing to do is prepare in advance. I know it seems hard work but it’s honestly a lot less hassle than it seems. Just prepare a little extra dinner and take the remainder into work for lunch the next day. Alternatively, dedicate just an hour of your weekend to making meals to eat during the week if you’ll be short on time.

DIY: To make homemade soup, simply boil, roast or steam vegetables of choice and blend up with some water and stock and you have a delicious soup which is ready in no time.

Cereal bars

Some leading cereal bars – which many people use as a quick breakfast when on the go to replace their usual bowls of cereal – are absolutely jam-packed full of sugar. What’s worrying is these are so often marketed as healthy options so people think they are making wise choices! In reality, some are 40% sugar which is an awful lot and will inevitably lead to sugar crashes! A great alternative for these are protein balls which can be made with very few ingredients and more importantly, you can control the levels and type of sugar in them! I also find that due to the higher protein content and the addition of healthy fats like nut butter, these balls keep you fuller for much longer, making them a perfect snack or post workout treat.

DIY: Blitz almonds dates and nut butter in a food processor then form into balls for a healthy energy boost!

Baking

Sweet treats have to be exactly that, sweet. So there does have to be some form of sugar involved. However, there are so many options that enable you to avoid refined sugars and give those bakes a healthy twist. My favourite alternative is to use fruit and veggies because they add much more nutritional value and genuinely enhance the flavour. here are some of my go-to additions:

  • Bananas are full of sweetness, especially when super ripe. They can be used for way more than just banana bread.
  • Sweet potatoes are full of slow release energy and form a great base to chocolate brownies or cakes, reducing the need for processed sugars
  • Avocados are so creamy and when blended they form the perfect base for a cheesecake or mousse mix. You can’t taste it I promise!
  • Dates make for a great sugar swap and I love putting these into protein balls, cheesecake bases puddings like banoffee or sticky toffee!

Breakfast cereal

As with cereal bars, cereal itself is often full of sugar and I don’t know about you, but it never keeps me full for very long. I always end up with hunger pangs by 10am if I just have cereal and there are so many other sweet breakfast options which satisfy the sweet cravings but whilst also keeping you full! My go-to for sweet breakfasts revolves around oats. I like to have oats cooked in almond milk with added chia seeds and protein powder. This added protein keeps you full and provides way more goodness than other cereals. You can add your own sweetness with unrefined alternatives like date nectar, bananas and cinnamon, so you know exactly what’s going into your body!

The main point I want to make is that you can have the same meals you’ve always enjoyed, a few simple swaps are all you need to reduce the amount of refined sugar in your diet. Being healthy is about making small lifestyle changes, not strict fad diets!