MY SUPER VEGAN ‘SUGAR-FREE’ FORTNIGHT

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It seems as if everyone is talking about sugar at the minute. Some are saying that it’s an incredibly addictive white poison. Obesity, they claim, is directly attributed to sugar consumption, not fat. Even Jamie Oliver had his say on sugar – in his Ted Talk he dumped a large wheelbarrow-load of sugar cubes onto a stage (about a years equivalent of a child’s daily sugary treats) and called it child abuse. Then there’s others who are simply trying to cut it out as part of the latest new year detox.

As someone with a profound love for all things sweet, I’m in no way surprised to find that I’m eating far too much of the stuff. That realisation has been staring me in the face now for quite some time. What does surprise me, however, is the hidden sugar that I’ve been missing all along. In the Irish Times, Darragh Murphy wrote a before and after feature on his month of going sugar free. Fine, no McDonald’s or sugary drinks. But no bananas or butternut squash? If you’re vegan, they’re the two things getting you through it. Well, sweet potatoes too, but I’m 99% sure that by its very name, it’ll be cut out of the menu too.

Anyway, ever curious and ever one for throwing myself into random projects (it’s been a while since the mirror-fasting experiment) I’ve decided to try it out for a while. I’m going to start with a fortnight, but genuinely can’t see myself coping like Darragh and sticking to it for a month! The thing is, being vegan means that a lot of the sugar-free staples such as meat, cheese, eggs, etc. are all out for me. So it’s the veggies, nuts, oatcakes and popcorn all the way for the next 14 days!

Okay so here’s the plan: For the next two weeks, I’ll have 25g of sugar a day. I know that’s not sugar-free so to speak, but given that the average consumption is usually in the 70-80g mark, I’m going to be making a massive cut into my sugar intake. Besides, cutting sugar out entirely isn’t the answer to a healthy diet either, and I don’t intend to stop my body functioning altogether.

Here’s how it all went.
Day 1: It’s Sunday. After a takeaway last night and more than my fair share of chocolate, I feel ready to embrace the sugar-free lifestyle. Well, sugar-reduced lifestyle. Food with less than 5g of sugar per 100g right? I went shopping today to make sure that I’ve plenty of snacks to see me through it. Kale smoothies, berries, natural soya yoghurt, cashews, popcorn, peanut butter, hummus and oatcakes…I’m trying to con myself into thinking that this is basically my normal diet, only minus the dark chocolate binges. It definitely isn’t. My trolley practically halted all by itself once I reached the sweet potatoes. Pushing past them was the ultimate sign of committing to the task – I’m in the game now.

Day 2: Already struggling. I don’t feel a huge sugar craving, but the temptation is constantly there. Just to add to the struggle, I’ve been given a mammoth amount of chocolate hearts to hand out today as part of a promotion going on in college. A large bag load are currently sitting in my locker. They’re milk chocolate, so I can’t have them anyway, but this is the first time in quite a while that I’ve even considered taking some. It’s only a mild craving, I’ll survive, but I can’t stop thinking about those chocolates…

Day 3: It’s Pancake Tuesday. How did I not factor this in? Feeling very sorry for myself in the knowledge that I have zero hope of finding sugar-free vegan pancake recipes online. I guess I’m just going to have to power through this day pancakeless. Oh and I’m not enjoying the kale smoothies.  #PrayForSorcha

Chocolate avocado pudding with
soya yoghurt and berries.

Update: Got really curious and googled ‘sugar-free vegan’ pancakes. Turns out that they’re actually a thing. I’m half afraid to insult the day that’s in it by making such heavily substituted recipes and still calling them pancakes, but if the desperation kicks in, I’ll keep you posted.

Day 4: I figured out how to make a sugar-free chocolate avocado pudding! The recipe is up on the blog here. Let us all rejoice and be glad on this day of all days.

Day 6: I literally take half my sugar intake in first thing in the morning with breakfast. I wouldn’t mind, but I eat porridge with hazelnut milk and flaxseed. Shouldn’t that be super healthy? Over 13g of sugar in that alone, so three teaspoons. I don’t even want to know what my sugar levels were like when I used to add in honey and berries…

Day 8: The local health food shops do dairy-free mint chocolate with no added sugar It’s a brand called Plamil. With 0.9g of sugar per bar, I bought them in bulk.

Peanut butter fudge!

Day 10: I think I’m getting the hang of this. I had a bit of a slip up when my family came to visit though – I just stopped sugar watching and enjoyed myself. We had the yummiest of lunches in Cornucopia, and I regret nothing.

Day 12: I actually think the slip up helped get me back into the swing of the no-added-sugar diet. I’m beginning to consider sticking to the diet indefinitely, allowing myself a cheat day on Saturdays maybe. Oh and I made peanut butter and hazelnut fudge with no added sugar. I feel like a domestic goddess.

Day 13: So close. So very very close.

Day 14: Finished!!!!! Well, the experimental phase at least. Funnily enough, knowing now how I can cope without huge amounts of sugar, I don’t feel any great desire to start filling myself up with it again. I just don’t feel the need to put myself through that. I’ve no idea whether getting rid of sugar out of my diet is massively helping my health, but I lost 3lbs in the fortnight without drastic effort at all. I was eating much of the same food, having the occasional treat, and I actually really enjoyed altering recipes to remove as much sugar from them as possible. I can’t say that my sleeping patterns, skin or general form changed much, but then I wasn’t really having any problems in the first place.

Verdict: I think I’m going to have to eat my words and say that I’m sticking to the diet longer than this fortnight. I’m not finding it too awful at the minute, and I’m pretty sure cutting down on sugary things can only ever be a good thing. That said, I do like fruit. I think cutting bananas out is a little extreme, so I’m still going to keep them in the fruit bowl. As for cheat days, they’re needed, and I fully intend to embrace chocolate at least once a week, if not more. I’m going to do my very best from now on to take in about 25-30g of sugar a day, but if I slip up, I’m not going to lose any sleep over it.

Sorcha x

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