My personal action plan is to avoid using actual sugar and also avoiding added sugar in processed foods. I grew up with a proper, old fashioned dessert after Sunday lunch and I will go back to that after Lent.
A once a week treat can be managed, but daily over-consumption needs to be nipped in the bud. I prefer retraining taste buds to enjoy real food and a variety of sweet flavours.
Breakfast: I have yet to find a breakfast cereal that I think is okay in terms of sugar and salt content. There are certainly better and worse options, but this is my opinion. Far better to have a bowl of porridge or make your own muesli.
There are some Irish muesli brands that are very good but granola is a no no. To get the granola to go crunchy, manufactures use lots of sticky, sugary ingredients and fat. I also sprinkle over flaxseed or chia seed on my porridge. Eggs, brown bread, fruit and yoghurt are all good breakfast options.
Saigon cinnamon: Cinnamon has been proven to naturally balance blood sugars, aid with weight loss and manage Type 2 diabetes. It's naturally sweet taste replaces the need for sugar, and it will help keep you fuller for longer.
Saigon cinnamon is said to be higher in the beneficial compounds than other varieties of cinnamon. I got a giant tub of Kirkland Saigon cinnamon from Amazon for £7. I don't know if it is genuinely superior, but it certainly smells and tastes pretty potent.
I mix with it with my porridge, plain yoghurt and my oaty pancake batter.
Orange zest: As a citrus farmers' daughter, I use all citrus fruit liberally in my cooking, both savoury and sweet. The peel, or zest, of the fruit is often greatly under utilised. Orange zest can add a naturally sweet, fresh flavour to porridge, pancakes, yoghurt, you name it.
Vanilla: Like orange, vanilla adds a wonderfully sweet and aromatic flavour to foods.
I find vanilla bean paste and vanilla powder great added to yoghurt, porridge and low-fat ricotta for a quick dessert. The extract is preserved in a bit of alcohol, so better for baking.
Fresh fruit and nut butters: Fresh fruit does contain natural sugars, but it is packaged up with loads of fibre, vitamins and minerals. To slow down the break down into glucose in your body, add a protein or a fat.
Sugar-free nut butters are delicious and full of antioxidants, protein and healthy fats.
My favourites are apples slices dipped in hazelnut butter and banana with crunchy peanut butter.
Dried fruit, nuts and seeds: Dried fruit can make a great snack when mixed with nuts and seeds and it is good quality, not frazzled and rock hard. I love raisins and sunflower seeds and dried cranberries and macadamia nuts or pecan nuts.
Greek yoghurt: One of the worst sugar culprits are flavoured yoghurts. They can be incredibly high in sugar. It is very misleading when marketed as a low-fat, low calorie 'diet' food. I grew up eating Greek yoghurt and it is still my favourite. Higher in fat yes, but also more protein, no added sugars and delicious and creamy.
As an adult, if I eat something bold, I am fully cognisant of and responsible for my actions. But if you are in charge of feeding and educating children, whether as a parent, carer or teacher, we have to be responsible and make better choices for them.
Health & Living