How to give up sugar (and why it’s so hard): 2 methods that work

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Following a healing diet means removing all added sugar from your diet – that is, sucrose/table sugar and unhealthy fructose – and it can be really, really hard.

Where you’ll find added sugar

When you start reading food labels, you’ll probably be shocked to discover just how many foods contain sugar. Apart from the obvious culprits like cookies, cakes, chocolates, sweets and fizzy drinks, you’ll also find added sugar in cereals (even ones marketed as ‘healthy’), bread and bread products, canned fruit and vegetables, sauces, condiments, pickles, savoury crackers, processed meat, biltong, fruit juice, some packaged non-dairy milks, flavoured water, peanut butter – the list goes on. Foods that are not supposed to be sweet; foods that you’d never imagine would contain sugar, all do.

Recently, a colleague discovered that the small jar of guacamole he purchased from Woolworths (South Africa) contained a whole teaspoon of sugar. Why? I don’t know about you, but I for one have never put sugar in my guacamole!

Last week, when K and I ate out at a smart restaurant, we found that our starter (carpaccio, which is simply very thin slices of raw meat) was covered in a sweet glaze and topped with grilled pear. The couple at the next table ordered two meat-based main courses that must’ve been completely drenched in something sugary, because I thought they’d gone straight to dessert when I smelt the food being carried up behind me.

And, when I worked as a TEFL teacher in Cape Town, my students (particularly those from other parts of Africa) constantly complained to me that the food here was ‘too sweet’. “Sugar in everything, teacher,” they’d say. “Sugar in the rice, sugar in the meat, sugar on the pizza.” From raisins in the rice (a Cape Malay tradition) to sweet chilli sauce on pizzas, they were right. I was at a loss to explain it. After all, I love nothing more than a rich, decadent chocolate chilli steak myself. But even I knew that the amount of sugar we were all consuming was ridiculous.

Why it’s so hard to give it up

If you’ve tried to give up sugar, or are in the process of doing so, I sympathise. It is almost everywhere, which is why it’s so important to read food labels. Whenever possible, eat foods with a single ingredient – like fresh vegetables and fruit, unprocessed meat, raw seeds and nuts, and home-cooked food.

But it’s not just about avoiding foods that contain sugar. If it were that easy, it wouldn’t be difficult to give up the sweet stuff. A bit of a bind, maybe; a bit time-consuming perhaps, but not hard. However, if you have tried to quit it, you’ll know just how challenging it can be. Why? Because sugar can be addictive, and food manufacturers are banking on this fact – literally banking on it – to keep you hooked and keep their millions and billions rolling in.

Have you ever had a sugar craving? Ever desired ‘something sweet’ straight after finishing a healthy meal? Ever associated sweet food with an event or special occasion – cake on your birthday; ice cream on the beach; cocktails at sunset; cookies with your coffee? Most people do, and for some people, it can be more than just a craving – it can actually be an addiction.

Sugar addiction

Recently, I discovered a website called Authoritynutrition.com and it’s been a complete wake-up call for me. It’s helped me to understand why I battle sugar cravings and why, from time to time, I have uncontrollable binges. It’s helped me to realise that I am addicted to sugar (that’s the first time I’ve written that), and that, for me, there’s only one way to stop it (although I’m going to discuss two ways here): abstinence. I highly recommend visiting the site if you battle with cravings, food addiction and/or bingeing behaviour.

How sugar addiction works

Here, I am borrowing greatly from Kris Gunnars’ book, Vicious Eating, which is a valuable tool for food addicts and available for free download here.

Gunnars explains that added sugar triggers reward-seeking behaviour in our brains, which leads to a vicious cycle of repeated unhealthy eating/bingeing. Essentially, eating sugary foods releases dopamine in our brains, a hormone that gives us a feeling of pleasure. Because our brains are wired to seek pleasure, we start to seek out these sugary foods – and the more we consume, the more we require to achieve the same levels of pleasure over time. Simply put, we get used to the amount of sugar we’re eating, and we start to need more of it to attain the same ‘high’. The enjoyment we used to get from eating a single chocolate can now only be achieved when we eat three chocolates and half a box of cookies. You can read more about how sugar addiction works here.

Two types of sugar

It’s important to point out at this juncture that there are two types of sugar in food. First of all, there are the natural sugars you find in carbohydrates. We need these sugars to function, survive and perform at our peak. They fuel our bodies and brains and give us the energy we need to complete everyday tasks.

The other kind of sugar – the bad kind – is not actually required at all by the human body. This is the sugar I’m talking about in this post. Added sugar, table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose – it has many names but it’s all the same thing. It’s the stuff that food manufacturers want us hooked on. It’s also worth noting that while honey contains natural sugars, it’s not wise to consume it with abandon, especially if you’re watching your weight or simply concerned about your health. It’s true that honey is healthier than sugar, but as Gunners points out, it’s not entirely healthy either.

How to give up sugar: Two approaches

So now you understand why it’s so difficult to give up sugar, and you shouldn’t feel bad about it: we’ve been conditioned over decades to want, desire, even crave the stuff. We’ve consumed it at almost every meal, some of us since we were kids, so giving it up is no mean feat. Then of course, there are those of us who are actually addicted to the stuff, and for us, it’s an even greater challenge.

How do you know if you’re addicted to sugar, or other kinds of foods? You’ll probably have a suspicion, but here are 8 useful ways to tell.

If you are not addicted to sugar, you can give up sugar by gradually removing it from your diet and/or enjoying it in moderation. 

If you are addicted to sugar, you need to cut it out altogether.

First approach: Cold turkey (for ‘addicts’)

I know that I’m addicted to sugar because once I start eating it, I can’t stop. I can go months and months without the stuff, but when I binge, I binge hard. Which is exactly what happened to me a few weeks back, when I consumed the following in a single day (this is everything and all I ate this day):

‘Breakfast’:

  • 1 x 65g bag chocolate shortcake balls
  • 2 x 25g milk chocolates

Rest of the day

  • 150g slab of wholenut chocolate
  • 45g Kit-Kat
  • 1 x kitka roll (this is relevant because kitka bread is sweetened)
  • 1 x large slice caramel éclair cake
  • Several small bowls of raw almonds
  • 1 chocolate Pop Tart
  • Wine (also contains sugar)

This is what I consider a proper, all-out binge. I probably consumed around 3500 to 4000 calories in a single day (more than twice what I need per day at my height and weight), and I felt guilty, remorseful and quite nauseous. I loved every bite as I consumed it, but afterwards I felt awful.

I’d do it again in a heartbeat, even though I keep promising myself that I won’t.

Clearly, I cannot control myself around sugar, and I can honestly tell you that I’d have eaten more chocolate that day if there had been any in the house.

For me, ‘moderation’ doesn’t work. It used to, but clearly my recent years of bingeing and restricting have broken that mechanism in my brain. I can’t have ‘just a little sugar’ from time to time. It’s all or nothing – but when I set my mind to ‘nothing’, and don’t even give myself the option of eating it, I do just fine. This is something that Gunnars talks about a lot in his book.

This is why when I started the SCD diet, I was able to cut out sugar fairly easily. I of course had lots of cravings but never once did I consider giving in to them, because it simply wasn’t an option. When I switched to paleo, and started seeing a nutritionalist, the lines started to blur. She told me (not knowing about my problem – I hadn’t even identified it then) that it was okay to have a bit of gluten-free chocolate from time to time, or to enjoy foods on the odd occasion that I was craving. In my mind, this information caused a weird and constant battle between abstinence and bingeing and I simply couldn’t find a middle ground.

This battle continued until I discovered Vicious Eating and read it from start to finish. Now I realise that moderation isn’t an option for me, because one bite, two bites, ten bites, are never enough. No amount of sugar will ever be enough, and every time I give in to my craving, I make it worse.

I’ve now made the conscious decision to eat NO sugar. I am having cravings but, taking Gunnars’ advice, I’m working hard to break them. I always crave something sweet after supper. Now, I won’t even touch a piece of fruit after supper (even though I still eat fruit), because I’m trying to stop the cravings. I am trying not to think about the next time I’ll binge on cake, because there won’t be a next time. I’m not telling myself that this is ‘just for now’, because that leaves the door wide open for relapses. It’s not easy but for me, it’s the only option.

Second approach: Reducing/limiting sugar intake

If you aren’t addicted to the stuff, that’s awesome. It’s going to make it a lot easier to avoid it. Not only will you find it less of a challenge to remove it from your life, but you’ll also find that even if you do happen to consume some sugar inadvertently, you won’t fall right off the wagon.

Check all your food labels and start to remove the biggest culprits from your home – the processed cakes and cookies and cereals. If there is sugar listed in the ingredients of food you like, but it’s not one of the main (top four or five) ingredients, you could let it slide.

You could also slowly start to remove sugar from your life, until you reach a point that it’s mostly gone. Remember that alcohol contains high amounts of sugar, and that when you drink it, it also lowers your inhibitions about eating other foods you shouldn’t be.

You could also allow yourself to enjoy sugary treats in moderation, from time to time, because you know it won’t spark an all-out spiral into bingeing and regret. This might also help you to give up sugar at first – knowing that on special occasions, you could enjoy a treat or two. This doesn’t work for everyone but it might work for you.

How to handle cravings

If you experience cravings, push through them – don’t give in to them! They WILL start to ease up, as long as you ignore them. You are trying to undo years of habit, so it will take time. For some people, just a few weeks can break the sugar habit; for others, it takes a few months, but it WILL happen and you WILL get through it.

Make sure all your meals are healthy and satisfying, and always carry healthy snacks with you (nuts, biltong, fruit) so that you avoid getting hungry and bingeing sugary treats.

For me, it’s a huge help knowing I’ve made this decision and the option to eat sugar isn’t even there. Last night, my post-supper sugar craving hit and I pushed through it. Within minutes, I actually realised I was too full for any more food, and that was it. I had a glass of sparkling water before bed (very satisfying for some reason) and I was fine until breakfast this morning. It was a small achievement, but a significant one for me. And it’s all about the small, significant achievements – after all, these are the ones that become habit.

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How your body feels after eating healthy food vs unhealthy food: A comparison of physical & psychological symptoms

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This morning as I arrived at work, our new boss placed a fresh, warm, just-out-of-the-oven croissant on each of our desks. My resistance didn’t crumble. It crashed in a single almighty explosion at my feet, sending shards of flaky, buttery pastry everywhere. The croissant didn’t make it (any further than my mouth).

The guilt was immediate – but what surprised me was that the physical symptoms set in almost as quickly. I don’t usually react so quickly to refined carbs and dairy, but today I did – and it got me thinking about how (great) I feel when I eat healthily, and how (bad) I feel when I don’t. I also immediately wanted – no, CRAVED – more. MOOOOOOORE!!! In fact I could easily have swallowed another three or four pastries without blinking. Possibly five. Definitely five.

After switching to a clean or healing diet, it’s easy to forget just how bad those ‘bad’ foods can make you feel. Which isn’t exactly helpful, because it makes it all too easy to go back down that sparkling, sugar-paved road. So, for my edification (and yours, if you need it), here’s a comparison of today’s croissant breakfast versus what I usually eat, and how my body feels after consuming each.

Cheat breakfast: Butter croissant

How I feel/physical symptoms after eating:

  • Instant headache that lasted several hours
  • Immediate craving for more junk food/sugar
  • Not satisfied/satiated
  • ‘Popping’ eyes, like my eyes were really wide open and everything was very bright (this usually happens when I have too much sugar)
  • Gurgling stomach (probably a reaction to lactose)
  • Hungry soon after
  • Guilty

Regular breakfast: Boiled egg on gluten-free seed toast 

How I feel/physical symptoms after eating

  • Immediately satisfied after eating
  • No cravings afterwards
  • Full/satiated
  • Not hungry for 3 to 4 hours afterwards
  • Not guilty

While the differences are vast, they’re probably not going to surprise you. But in the same way that keeping a food journal can alert you to issues that you may not have been aware of, writing down these differences is a great way to remind myself of just how bad bad food can make me feel.

If I’m 100% honest, every day is a battle between the foods that I should eat and those I shouldn’t. I find it really, really hard to stay on track, and that little ‘just eat it – go on, it’s not going to hurt you’ voice never, ever stops. Ever. At least, by writing out this list, I can show that little voice that YES, it is going to hurt me – here’s the proof! (I guarantee that won’t shut it up though. It’ll probably pause for moment, regroup its thoughts and then say, ‘Yeeees, but how bad will it really be? What’s a little headache between friends? A little bloating? You own a baggy shirt, don’t you?’).

I shouldn’t have cheated today but at least I gained something from the experience apart from just a headache, a sugar rush and a large serving of guilt. A little insight never hurts, after all.

Depression cake will make you very happy

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Yesterday, whilst Googling chocolate cakes (don’t tell me you don’t do it too), I came across curiously named ‘Depression cakes’ on Thechiclife.com’s blog. At first I thought it was because when you’re feeling depressed, you eat some chocolate cake and you feel better*. Then I thought maybe it was because the cakes had some sort of dent in them (they don’t). Then I thought, maybe I should actually read the post instead of just drooling over the photos and trying to cobble together an explanation myself (I always ‘do’ first and read later – which is why I can’t be trusted to put furniture together).

Turns out, Depression cakes are so named because during the Depression and times of war/hardship, it was difficult to get hold of expensive foods like butter, milk and eggs, so it doesn’t contain any of those ingredients. This means its virtually allergen free, and the ingredients it does have can be easily subbed for gluten-free/sugar-free varieties. It’s also dairy-free and can be vegan. And just look how beautiful it is! I’m thrilled that this is actually something I could indulge in without guilt.

I’m probably going to give these a bash this weekend using ‘legal’ ingredients, and then treat myself to near-illegal amounts of chocolately enjoyment 😉 I of course will eat both of them, so don’t come over looking for sharesies 😉

What are you treating yourself to this weekend?

*Basically scientifically proven

An overview of 7 different healing diets

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When it comes to healing diets, there are a number of popular options that have proved effective for people suffering from inflammatory bowel disease or various digestive complaints. If you’re looking to help heal your gut through diet, it’s a great idea to pick one of these tried-and-tested options – but which one?

Here’s a (very high-level) run-down of each of the main healing diets to help you decide. Bear in mind that, just like medication, different diets work for different people, and you’ll have to try them yourself to discover which one works best for you. Also remember that you’ll need to tweak and ‘engineer’ whichever diet you end up selecting – that means adding, removing or limiting things based on your own unique set of food intolerances, sensitivities or allergies. Each of these diets provides a great path towards health – you just need to pinpoint your exact route!

SCD – specific carbohydrate diet (long-term/indefinite)

I started this blog to document my 100 days on SCD – a diet aimed at helping to heal IBD and other GI complaints by removing grains, starches, processed sugar and processed food from the diet – food that are known to irritate the gut and promote inflammation. Many people claim to be medication-free and in remission thanks to SCD, which is why I initially attempted it. It works in phases: You start by removing virtually everything from your diet except for eggs, meat and carrots, and gradually re-introduce foods slowly, week by week, month by month, until you know what your body can and can’t handle. It is an extremely slow process that gives your gut a chance to heal and recover from months or years of damage. SCD offers amazing results for some people and ‘meh’ results for others – simply proving that every ‘body’ is different and requires different approaches.

SCD wasn’t the perfect solution for me, but I’m very glad I did it, if only for 100 days. Here’s a summary of my experience on the SCD diet. You can visit the SCDLifestyle.com site for loads of info about the diet, or view the stages of the SCD diet here.

Paleo (long-term/indefinite)

Paleo wasn’t intended to be healing diet per se, but many IBD sufferers have adopted it due to the fact that it cuts out many foods known to cause inflammation and aggravate the gut. Like SCD, paleo focuses on ‘clean’ eating that is free of refined/processed foods, sugar and grains, but unlike SCD, it also prohibits dairy and, depending on how strictly you follow it, honey. Like SCD, the paleo diet consists mainly of fresh fruit and vegetables, nuts and seeds, unprocessed/organic meat and eggs, as healthy oils. Unlike SCD, you don’t have to take a phased approach to the diet, which has both advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that you can enjoy all these foods right from the get-go, but the disadvantage is that if certain foods on the paleo ‘legal’ list are causing you gastric distress, you won’t know which ones they are due to the fact that you aren’t testing them individually.

Paleo has gained massive popularity around the world in recent years, because more and more people are wanting to remove unhealthy processed foods from their diets. This also means that more restaurants and grocery shops are catering to this diet and it’s easier to change to a paleo lifestyle.

AIP – Autoimmune Paleo diet/protocol (short-term/indefinite)

AIP is a healing diet aimed at restoring the gut and immune system. It’s based on the same principles of the paleo diet, but it has the added bonus of having many of the problematic foods removed, as well as the opportunity to test these foods and either reintroduce them slowly or cut them out altogether if your body doesn’t like them.

AIP is not intended to be a lifelong diet. It’s recommended that you follow it for a maximum of 60 to 90 days to help repair intestinal damage, which should theoretically give your body enough time to recover sufficiently for you to progress to a paleo diet. Things that aren’t allowed (particularly at first) include nuts, seeds, nightshade vegetables, many spices, dairy, eggs and various other foods.

I have followed the AIP protocol and I can tell you that it is very, very hard, but worth the effort. Knowing that it’s only temporary does make it easier, and from my experience, I do believe that it can be effective in the healing process. Here is a full list of foods you can and can’t eat during AIP. You can also take a phased approach to reintroducing them to see what your body can and can’t tolerate.

GAPS – Gut And Psychology Syndrome diet (long-term/indefinite)

GAPS isn’t as well known as SCD but its principles are similar, in that the underlying belief is that diet can aid in not only digestive disorders, but conditions like autism too. The foods consumed are almost the same as on SCD, but often dairy is excluded. It also takes a phased approach by removing and then reintroducing foods, and it is recommended that you follow it for at least two years, if not longer. Read more about GAPS here.

FODMAPS – Fermentable Oligo, Di, and Mono-saccharides And Polyols (long-term/indefinite)

This is another healing diet that you’ve probably come across during your research, but it’s less well-known than SCD or paleo. It’s also been designed to help relieve chronic digestive complaints, and many people swear by its effectiveness (I’ve never tried it). As with the other diets, it’s worth researching it and reading about the experience of others to figure out whether it might help you too. Get an overview of FODMAPs here.

Gluten-free/wheat-free/egg-free/dairy-free (long-term/indefinite)

A lot of people don’t have a digestive disease but do suffer from food intolerances – the most common of which include dairy, wheat, gluten and/or eggs. I am lactose intolerant and after discovering this fact, the only thing I removed from my diet was, obviously, dairy. I only later discovered that I had ulcerative colitis and that led me to change lots of other things too.

If you don’t have IBD or a digestive disorder, it might not be necessary for you to follow a healing diet, but simply to remove allergens/irritants from your diet. I have friends who, based on their intolerances, have removed those foods from their diets without actually following a specific eating plan. They’ve found a way of eating that works for them, and that’s great! They don’t need to follow an actual healing diet. If you don’t have IBD but suffer from something like IBS, for example, it’s well worth having yourself checked for common food intolerances. You might find that removing just one thing from your diet – like dairy for me, or wheat or eggs – might be a big part of the solution.

‘Rice’/‘White food’ diet (temporary)

This goes against every other diet I’ve covered above and it’s not even a ‘real’ diet. Plus, it’s also meant to be very, very temporary! Basically, this is my flair diet. When I’m flaring (which hasn’t happened in a year!), the only foods that seem to agree with me are white rice (with a bit of lemon juice), white bread, white pasta – all that icky refined stuff that I usually avoid. Plus starchier, low fibre veg like peas and carrots (cooked).

It’s well documented (maybe not scientifically, but certainly among sufferers!) that highly refined starches can actually help soothe aggravated GI tracts. That said, it should only be temporary solution because you can’t live on white rice, pasta and bread! I remember going through a phase some years ago when that’s exactly what I did – and I thought it was okay; that my body just ‘preferred’ these foods. It should in fact have been a HUGE red flag. If you have chronic diarrhoea and bleeding, white foods are NOT the solution. Get to a doctor!

That said, if you’re flaring, white rice and pasta can be very soothing, so if you can’t keep anything down/in, give it a bash. It works for me.

This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the healing diets out there, and as I mentioned at the beginning, any of these (or others that you choose) should be altered and tweaked over time to suit your body’s specific needs and sensitivities.

Please feel free to share your healing diet experiences, tips or advice in the comments 🙂

Day 3 and some handy paleo food swaps

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I think most people who switch to a healing diet would be lying if they said there weren’t at least a few things they missed from their former way of eating. I also think for most people, sugar/carbs create one of the biggest holes – it’s classic comfort food, after all.

Today is day three of paleo for K, and I was super impressed to discover that she’s been drinking her coffee without sugar. Today’s email read:

You would actually be so proud of me and I have L [colleague] to corroborate the story. I was going to make coffee with sugar… I put the sugar in the mug (like half of half a spoon) and then sat down with L and R at the table. I decided against the sugar and surrendered my mug to L. SHE LAUGHED at how little sugar was in the mug. Then she went to add more.

I’m especially proud of K because tea and coffee, especially when sugary and milky, is ultimate comfort ‘food’ for me. Growing up, if I had a shock or a heart break, my mom would make me a cup of strong, sweet tea. For stomach bugs, the solution was the same, with Marmite toast added to soothe the belly. As an adult, five or six cups of sweet tea or coffee would get me through the work day, and would also assuage my sugar cravings.

When I started worrying about my weight, I switched from sugar to sweetener, which is super-duper sweet, and I could easily drink six cups of tea a day, each with three sachets of sweetener added. I also drank a ton of diet cooldrinks. At the back of my mind I suspected that the artificial sweeteners were wreaking havoc on my gut, and I was right! Cutting them out was the first, and one of the biggest, steps to healing.

But I’d be lying if I said it were easy. Now, I drink black coffee with no sugar (two cups a day max, and seldom on weekends), and I never drink regular tea because I can’t stand the taste of it without milk and sugar.

I deeply miss my comforting mugs of tea, and while there isn’t an ‘exact match’ replacement for them, there are ways to soften the blow. Here’s how I’ve replaced some of my best-loved, and most missed, foods and drinks.

  • Sweet/milky tea and coffee: organic flavoured teas with lemon, honey and ginger added.
  • Fizzy drinks: organic apple juice with no added sugar or preservatives (limited to a couple of glasses a week).
  • Alcohol: Should be avoided if you’re flaring and if you know you can’t tolerate it. Fill a glass with ice, lemon wedges, mint or frozen berries and top with sparking mineral water. It’s the easiest way to fool your brain (and everyone else), and you won’t feel like you’re missing out. If you can tolerate alcohol, stick to dry wines and grain-free spirits only, like tequila (if you can stomach it!).
  • Desserts/‘something sweet after supper’: Fruit with honey; banana ‘ice cream’ (frozen bananas blended up) with cinnamon; dairy-free yoghurt; nuts drizzled with honey (and a shake of salt! Try it; it’s delicious).
  • Rice/mash: cauliflower rice/mash.
  • Potato: sweet potato (paleo, not SCD). Season with rosemary, garlic and coarse salt.
  • Pasta/noodles: Sounds strange, but if I make a delicious pasta sauce or curry, I pour it over butternut or steamed cauliflower and it’s just as enjoyable.
  • Sugar: honey/maple syrup/leave it out (you become accustomed to eating less sweet-tasting food).
  • Cake: There is no replacement for cake. Nothing. Accept it, grieve, and move on. It’ll become like a phantom limb: the pain is always there, but you learn to live with it. Seriously though, you can find ‘legal’ replacements for most cake ingredients: almond flour or gluten-free flour instead of regular cake flour; baking soda instead of baking powder; honey/maple syrup instead of sugar; coconut butter/oil instead of butter; avo instead of butter; egg replacements/flax seed instead of egg, etc. The list goes on – you just have to be adventurous. But you also have to accept that cake, as you knew it, is off the table and a thing of the past (but also, remember how bloaty and ugh the past was!).

I also wrote this post about making your favourite foods paleo, which has got some useful food switches.

The benefit of these replacements, especially when it comes to the hot drinks, is that my teeth are probably in much better nick than they were! Tea and coffee can leave some really tenacious stains. Cutting out fizzy drinks has drastically reduced my bloating, and no chocolate/dairy means no more frequent trips to the loo, and much less gas/bloating.

It’s hard not to lament the losses, which is why it’s so important to make healthy, sustainable switches. And bear in mind that while drinking only water is depressing (I’ve tried it), it’s still important to get your 2-litre fix each day, in between the other drinks.

If you have any useful food switches, please do share!

Day 2: 10 types of veggies & some cooking tips

I have yet to meet a vegetable I didn’t like (okra included), but the same can’t be said for my girlfriend. While I can happily feast on any vegetable that happens to be in season/in our fridge, K is a lot more selective. Now that she’s agreed to eat paleo with me – a diet largely focused on vegetables; none of which is potato – I’m redoubling my efforts to cook the kinds of veggies she’ll enjoy.

Now, while I don’t discriminate, there are certainly some veggies I prefer. They happen to be the exact opposite ones that K prefers. So last night I found myself cooking no fewer than 10 different varieties: Broccoli, carrots, butternut, gem squash, peas, mushrooms, Brussels sprouts, zucchini, leeks and green beans. In all honesty it was pretty quick to do (except for the peeling of the butternut, which K actually did for me), and because I cooked so much, we have plenty left over for work and the next few days.

If for whatever reason you also find yourself cooking entire harvests of veggies each night (I’m looking at you, SCD), these tips might help. Many of them were ingrained during the long hours of SCD prep!

  • Cook (but don’t overcook) your veg. Many people with IBD or other digestive disorders is encouraged to avoid raw fruit and veg (especially when flaring) as it can be difficult to digest. That said, there’s no need to overcook your veg to the point of mush, because then you’re losing a lot of the goodness. Brussels sprouts, for example, need just three or four minutes.
  • Cook more than you need. Putting in the extra effort tonight means less effort tomorrow and more time to watch Parks and Recreation. It’s also great to have cooked veggies in the fridge as a warm, filling snack. I always, always cook at least three days’ worth of veggies on a Monday.
  • Use as little water as possible. Generally, I boil all my veg so that it can absorb the flavour of the herbs, spices and stock that I use. But there’s no need to drown your veg – just a bit of water prevents them from burning and helps them to retain their taste and crispness.
  • Recycle the cooking water. Certain nutrients can be lost or diminished during the cooking process, so if I’m cooking all my vegetables separately, I keep using the same water with each new batch (topping up with kettle water if necessary). If I cook all the veg together, I keep the water (which is now more like stock) for the next time I cook veggies – which is bound to be in the next few days. This obviously doesn’t apply to gem squash and butternut.
  • Read the labels carefully. Not on your produce (although the photo below begs to differ – this was at our local supermarket!), but on your seasonings. Some seemingly innocuous spices are actually full of gluten, maize, soy and even dairy-based additives, so you really have to be careful what you use. If the ingredients aren’t listed, it’s probably best to avoid it. If you’re following AIP, you have to be especially careful: Even if your spice is free of additives, it might still have other ‘illegal’ ingredients like pepper or tomato.
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This is why you need to go to school, kids

So it’s day 2 and K is doing… well, I’ll let her tell you how she’s doing:

“Day 2

15.45pm

I’ve been carb free for almost 43 hours.

I’m doing fine. It’s all in my head.

I’ve bread if you stay away from the kitchen it helps. And to keep a pizza biltong with you to nom on every now and then. I walked pasta sushi restaurant and didn’t even batter eye.

I’m wine. I mean fine.”

Ah, she’s such a trooper! And she’s getting steak tonight – not something we usually indulge in midweek, but I feel she needs a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Besides, any diet that includes steak and biltong is totally doable 🙂

how-to-cook-vegetables

Not if you know how to make a cauli-pizza!