Browse Tag by Giving up sugar

Why do we rely on snacks so much?

Why do we rely on snacks? - A Free From Life
Wall of snacks/photo via Benson Kua at Flickr

What happened to the traditional 3 meals a day our parents grew up with?

Why do we rely on snacks? - A Free From Life
Wall of snacks/photo via Benson Kua at Flickr

“A finger of fudge is just enough to give your kids a treat. A finger of fudge is just enough until it’s time to eat…”

These are the first two lines from an advert that ran for a decade in the UK from 1979. I can still hear the tune in my head; such was the power of the advert.

“It’s full of Cadbury goodness, but very small and neat.”

The message was clear: ‘give your child a chocolate bar, just a small one though, you don’t want to fill them up too much and don’t worry, it’s good for them.’

Not like that in our day

What our parents were being introduced to was the idea of giving snacks in between meals and it marked the beginning of the massive industry that is the snack food market. The world our parents grew up in was very different. Snacking was frowned upon. You ate three meals a day and that was it. Eating anywhere except in the home and most probably at the kitchen table was not the done thing. At all.

Snacking is now the norm with kids averaging at 3-4 snacks per day. In the unlikely event that you snacked in the 1970s, you might have had a hot drink or an apple. Today, the choice of snacks is endless and has led to the decline of the three meal a day structure, with many opting to skip meals altogether in favour of food on the go. Is it any wonder we are getting fatter?

I gave up sugar for Lent this year and if there’s one thing I learned it’s that snacking is much less appealing when you don’t have anything sweet to eat. I won’t argue that there are plenty of savoury snacks to choose from, but you would be surprised how many of them contain sugar.

Do we need snacks?

If we eat three solid meals a day, we can quite easily survive without snacking. We don’t choose to do that though and as a consequence we get hungry and when we get hungry we grab the first thing we see. It fills us up for a short time only. Our blood sugar levels yo-yo up and down all day and we end up craving the sweet things. Haven’t you ever thought to yourself ‘I could just eat a little sweet something,’ even though you’ve just eaten?

It’s a habit more than a need and I found out when I gave up sugar and lost that craving, that snacking just didn’t have the same appeal. Without any tempting sweet treats to choose from, I simply wasn’t bothered.

It made me realise that before those marketers corrupted our parents into thinking their little darlings should have a chocolate bar between meals every day, we were so much healthier. I bet our grandparents didn’t come out of school every day whinging ‘have you got me a snack.’ It wouldn’t have even occurred to them.

The surprising thing about my sugar fast (though it’s no surprise really) was the weight loss. After six weeks I was 2kg lighter (that’s almost 4.5 pounds). Even though I didn’t do it for that reason, it was a pleasant bonus.

What did I learn?

I learned that you can survive the day on three substantial meals, as long as you make them count. Eating on the hoof, snacking and not eating properly in general means that we end up hungry and when we’re hungry, we snack.

It’s not easy when the snack market is booming and we’re surrounded by ever increasing numbers of products that claim to be healthy. Are they though? You find sugar in most of them in some form or other and that certainly isn’t healthy; a quick energy fix maybe, but that’s all.


Lenten sugar fast and health kick – the halfway mark

A Free From Life

Butternut noodles - A Free From Life

I’m halfway through my Lenten sugar fast. What began as a detox and clean eating phase, has levelled off to become more of a health conscious way of living.

The first week of soups and smoothies kick started the process. Did you know people used to fast on Ash Wednesday (the day after Pancake Tuesday and the first day of Lent)? I decided against that, opting instead for a juice cleanse, but it put me in the right frame of mind for the weeks ahead.

Being conscious of what you’re eating, especially when it comes to sugar, means that you make healthier choices all round. I don’t cave at the sight of a maple pecan Danish in a coffee shop and therefore, I actually don’t have anything to go with my coffee. I just don’t snack as much.

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I’m sipping on cinnamon tea right now, whilst snacking on oat cakes with almond butter. Apart from that, I haven’t had any other snacks today. I also don’t have a repertoire of snacks I could share with you. This period of my life hasn’t been about replacing one thing with another, it’s been more about doing without, cutting out.

Instead, I’m making every meal count, starting with breakfast and I’ve become inventive with my lunches, by making things like these Teff flatbreads called Injera:

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My one coffee a day has remained and I’ve had a glass of wine with dinner if I’ve fancied it, so I don’t feel as though I’ve really missed out on an awful lot.

Not that I’m saying it’s been easy. There is something about red wine that screams ‘dark chocolate’ and I found myself longing for something like that the other day. It was the day after I made apple cake for the troops and had to watch them all tucking in and enjoying it. I guess my brain just felt it needed something.

Apple Slice - A Free From Life

The bonus is weight loss and it always is for me when I do this. I’ve already lost 2kg and I’m feeling fitter and leaner for it. This could have more to do with the amount of exercise I’m also doing: walking the dog once or twice a day has meant that I must be exceeding my daily number of required steps for sure.

It’s a cycle though isn’t it? Healthy eating means you feel better on yourself. You’re leaner, which also makes you feel fitter and inclined to do more exercise and so it goes on.

A friend asked would I be gorging on chocolate come Easter Sunday. The answer is no because I don’t like it much anyway (milk chocolate) and because I don’t crave it at all. Will I celebrate by having that dark chocolate I was craving earlier this week? I’m not sure about that yet. A part of me thinks I should, whilst another part thinks it would be a shame after going so long without sugar. It would be like falling off the wagon.

I didn’t do this to give up sugar for life though, just to give it up for a long enough period to get my health back on track. Some sugar will creep in to my diet again as the year continues. I won’t feel guilty for that, but will try to make sure it is kept to a minimum and that it doesn’t get out of control.

Then I will do this all again next Lent.

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Sugar fasting and eating healthily for Lent

Green Smoothie - A Free From Life

Although I try to be healthy most of the year round, every Lent, I make a special effort. As a Catholic, growing up we were always asked to give something up for Lent. It’s supposed to be a period of reflection and prayer in preparation for Easter, one of the most important dates in the Catholic church.

Most people have heard of Lent even if they don’t celebrate or participate in it. Traditionally, Shrove Tuesday was the day when people used up their larder ingredients in preparation for the fasting period of Lent. That’s how we came to have pancakes on this day, because it’s an easy way to use up butter, eggs, milk and flour.

For me, Lent is a period of time, with a beginning and an end. That means I can discipline myself that little bit more, to make sure I don’t waiver from my goals. I give up sugar and I eat as cleanly and as healthy as I can.

The first time I did this, it was difficult, but since then, I’ve included less and less sugar into my diet, so each time I do it, it gets that bit easier. This is my third year and I’m keeping to this little tradition I’ve started because over the course of the year, a little bit of sugar does creep back in to my diet.

That’s fine though, I’m not beating myself up about it. If I fancy a cherry and almond slice from Costa then I’ll have it, but during Lent, there will be nothing like that.

I’ve started my week on a soup and smoothie cleanse. The soup is my simple leek and swede recipe and I made a big batch of it at the beginning of the week to see me through.

Gluten, dairy and nightshade free soup

The smoothie is apple, cucumber, celery and spinach, topped up with coconut water.

Green Smoothie - A Free From Life

Breakfast has been my overnight oats, with some banana and almond butter stirred in to make it extra filling.

Overnight oats - A Free From Life


Snacks have been mixed nuts and I’ve had a meal in the evening with the rest of the family.

I won’t carry on eating like this until the 24th March, when Lent is officially over, but I will keep you informed about what I add to my diet and how I get on.

Giving up sugar is easier than giving up coffee.

For me that is anyway. I once gave up coffee for Lent and found it ever so hard. Even though I only have one coffee a day, it’s kind of like my one vice and if I’m giving up sugar, I think I will keep my morning coffee as something to look forward to. I just won’t be having a sweet treat to go with it that’s all.

Have you given up anything for Lent?