My Sugar Reset

Last week I had a rough week. It was rough enough to affect my appetite… I didn’t eat much at all. Not that that’s a problem. Fasting is valid, after all. But it also gave my body a chance to ‘re-set’ (that’s part of the fasting science too, btw).

What happened is that I somehow grew some Willpower. Now, I know what’s good for me when it comes to food and I eat extremely well most of the time… I’ll hardly ever part with my hard earned cash for junk food. But in my hospitality job, I’ve found it much harder to stop myself. I’ve analysed the potential reasons and have come up with two: I hate waste, so throwing out the amounts of food we have to ‘by law’ (food hygiene regulations… which really stem from the litigious fears) bothers me enough to stuff a piece of something in my mouth as I tip an untouched foodstuff into the bin (like, I’m eating this for all the Starving out there who can’t). And then there’s the much more intangible, abstract and highly subjective reason: reaction to dissatisfaction & fatigue. That is, “I’m over today and I wanna go home so I’m going to eat this food I don’t need” because ….just because. There’s really no excuse. (I developed a personal theory that ‘Time at Work’ and Willpower are inversely proportional: that is to say, my Willpower decreases the further into a shift I get.)

But really, it all boils down to Self Control. And I have that in large doses in some ways, and not – it would seem – in others.

Food Fervour

veggie-dense salad

But when I lost my appetite last week, something clicked. I’ve no doubt it was borne of my negative state and my innate tendency to be “hard on myself” but I ordered myself to do that which I always want to, and try to do: cut added sweeteners from my diet. (Not that I have many anyway: only raw honey, organic maple syrup & rapadura sugar live in my house) I decided if I wanted anything sweet (and I am the biggest Sweet Tooth ever) I was only going to allow myself fruit (I am a fruit bat after all). That’s it. So the meals I ate for the couple of days were simple veggie-packed dishes – literally salads – anyway. (This was a crucial element to my ‘success’.)

I wasn’t sure how I’d go back at work. But fortunately, I was stationed on an espresso machine, so there was no direct temptation. On my lunch break however, I didn’t go anywhere near the refrigerated cabinet in the dining room: I simply pulled my homemade fare from the communal fridge and ate my healthy stuff. This was the third day since my ‘meltdown’. The next day was significantly more challenging, since I was stationed in a food outlet. Chocolate, cookies, chips staring at me all day. But….. NUH! My Willpower had well & truly kicked in. I was not going to have (added) sugars. And I have stuck to this. I knew, I know, if I make one slip, it will open the floodgates… and there’ll be no turning back.

Sugar really is addictive, science has proven this numerous times now. The Sugar v Cocaine experiment with rats is the most well-known: the rodents were allowed to self administer both sugar or cocaine from dispensers in their pens ….and they all opted for the sugar. That’s how powerful it is. (Link to PLOS source here.)

I recall one particular experience that really rammed this home to me: a friend had given me a block of Cadbury chocolate as a gift, even though I had some of my homemade raw dark chocolate in the fridge. Deciding to have “just one” row of the Cadbury, I returned to my desk. But within 3 or 4 minutes, I was back at the fridge & into the block again. This happened 3 more times. On my fourth visit to the fridge, I opted for a piece of MY chocolate (I usually make it with a very small amount of organic maple syrup)… and the craving instantly ceased. There were no more trips to the fridge.

Food Fervour

salted caramel choccies

The biggest surprise – which is not really a surprise at all – in this ‘Sugar Reset’ I’ve experienced, is the sudden and obvious aversion I now have to sugary foods. In just 3 to 4 days, I have re-sensitised my tastebuds to Sweetness. I’ve had this experience before, but each time it happens it blows you away at how intense the changes are. The first moment I noticed it this time around was when I made some ….chocolate.

I have a favourite recipe for Salted Caramel chocolate that’s sweetened only with dates (it’s a Thermomix recipe by Jo Whitton, the link to her blog Quirky Cooking is here) so I figured I’d allow myself to make some of that if I was permitting myself to eat whole fruits. But for a little variety, I also made some totally sugar free dark chocolate (literally just cacao powder & cacao butter) and created some chocolates that combined both of the flavours …like Cadbury’s ‘Top Deck’. The ‘shock’ came when I ate one of the plain Salted Caramel choccies, followed by a combined one. I preferred the latter. I preferred less sugar.

Food Fervour

a roasted pumpkin salad I found quite sweet

I noticed it in more subtle ways as well: I made vanilla custard minus the maple syrup I usually add on top of the sugar-laden vanilla paste, and it tasted just fine. I actually felt a little ill when I made roasted pumpkin soup because the sugars caramelised in that naturally sweet veggie during the cooking process, then intensified in the thick, creamy soup. I’m even eating less whole fruit. Now that’s saying something!

The truth is, to truly give up sugar, we really need to discipline ourselves and restrict ….just for a very short period of time. Your body needs the chance to de-sensitise (and you will notice the difference). Think of your body as a spoilt child… when is the right time to finally say No?

 

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3 Ingredient ‘Chocolate Ganache’

Ok so how I came across this one was …kind of like the movie ‘Sliding Doors’. And I realise that won’t mean anything to those who haven’t seen it. But basically, it was by accident, and yet also a ridiculously close ‘shave’. Let me explain:

When I began making ‘raw cookies’ about a decade ago (before they became the energy/protein balls or raw truffles we all know today) I soaked dates. Yep, just that. I soaked dates, as the basis for these healthy raw food treats. You would blend them up (but because I never had a blender, I just chopped them over and over again until they resembled something a food processor or blender might spit out) then mix milled or chopped nuts, seeds and whatever else into them before the messy part of the job: the hand-rolling and coating in   desiccated coconut or again, nut meal.Food Fervour

It was when I came across a recipe that included cocoa (yes, before cacao powder went ‘mainstream’) that I realised soaked dates mixed with cocoa could make a kind of (weird) chocolate substitute. But this is where the train doors slid shut…. and I forgot about it.

…Until last year sometime, when, after making another slightly dry (I admit!) gluten free cake that I knew would benefit from some kind of moist topping (but what to make without heaps of processed sugar?) the train doors automatically opened and I soaked some dates. It worked perfectly – for ME: I realise chefs and food critics would turn up their noses, but I’m not about perfection (at the cost of health).. I’m about clean, unprocessed Imitation & Adaptation!

This is extremely easy but you’ll need to allow more time: the longer the dates soak, the better. In fact, if the dates are well soaked and chopped, you don’t even need a blender for this recipe; some old fashioned elbow grease (mixing by hand) will work. Oh and make sure there are no seeds in them!

One cup of dates (I use Iranian, I imagine Medjool would work even better, and may not need to soak for long – if at all. Please let me know how this goes if you try this!) will easily thickly coat a loaf-sized cake, with some to spare.

Food FervourDrain the water from the dates (I actually keep this to use as a liquid sweetener in other creations: waste not, want not!) and throw them in a powerful blender with 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder (add more for a stronger dark chocolate flavour) and 2 tablespoons liquefied coconut oil. You will need to blend & scrape numerous times (Thermomixers, I performed about 4 rounds of 15 seconds, increasing from speed 5 to 9) but the result is worth it: a rich, thick, chocolatey ‘ganache’ that you can top cakes with, fill biccies with, or even eat on toast like Nutella (if you’re desperate enough)! If you really want to you could press the ganache through a strainer to ensure a smoother product, but for my money, what’s the point in removing all that extra natural fibre?

Food Fervour

‘Ganache’ used as a biscuit filling

There’s heaps of room to experiment too: powdered spices or essences could alter the result… Vanilla or peppermint essence? Cinnamon? Even a touch of chilli powder? I think I might try to explore a salted caramel version so… stay tuned for that!

The Meaning of Lunch

I have no idea why the word ‘Lunch’ brings up a particular meal description for me. Just like certain smells and songs have the power to evoke memories, for some reason, the word ‘Lunch’ to me means: a ham sandwich and cold chocolate milk.

I have, of course, eaten a huge variety of foods for ‘the midday meal’ in my 44 years, but for some strange & unknown reason, the ham sandwich, the chocolate (actually, Akta-Vite) milk and the time & place I consumed these, seems to have somehow forged an attachment to this one word.food fervour

Mum used to make our lunches for the most part. She would of course try to make us take responsibility ourselves, but ….lazy kids… say no more! Sandwiches were often the quickest, easiest meal and in that day-and-age of limited nutritional education, it stood to reason that these were what we were mainly fed.

Living in the tropics as well meant food preservation was a bit of an issue, but Mum got around that one with the help of the freezer. Making the lunches at night to freeze was also a time-saver in the mornings. Pack and go.

So my ham sandwich (cut in half horizontally, not diagonally, because it fit better in the lunchbox as two rectangles rather than triangles) and my Akta-Vite thawed out in time for ‘Big Lunch’. (In Australia, morning recess and lunchtime are known as ‘Little Lunch’ and ‘Big Lunch’. It’s fairly easy to work out, yes?) We would often eat most of our packed foodstuffs at ‘Little Lunch’ as well, leaving the morning tea fruit or whatever for the midday break.

The particular memory or image I have of myself consuming this specific menu is in my junior years at high school (so would’ve been twelve or thirteen years old). Ours was a brand new state school and there were as yet few places to sit and eat comfortably.

A couple of us are sitting cross-legged on some concrete at the rear of one of the classroom blocks and I have my lunchbox in my lap, and I’ve already vigorously shaken the plastic drink bottle full of the still-partially-frozen Akta-vite, ready to drink. I bite into the soft white bread sandwich, enjoying the saltiness of the ham chewing and swallowing before taking a swig of the sweet cold choccy milk. Ahhhh. Why do they go together so well?

While I’d now consider this kind of meal a bit of a ‘fail’ in the nutrition stakes, every now and then I decide to treat myself to those ‘sensations’. Today was one of those days. But the end product was slightly different; slightly healthier thanks to my swap-outs.Food Fervour

Instead of mass-produced ham, I used a nitrite-free product. I replaced the white bread with a high fibre gluten-free version; my pure homemade butter in place of margarine (ugh!) and instead of the sugar-loaded (but ‘mineral-dense) Akta-Vite, I mixed cacao and a little maple syrup with my fresh, homemade rice & almond milk. Admittedly, I broke from tradition and added some melted tasty cheddar to the sanger today (see pic)…. who doesn’t love a ham ‘n’ cheese “toastie”?!

Craving satisfied, without the added stress on my internal organs. But I will want a heap of veggies for tea tonight! 😉

Green Smoothies Don’t Have to be Green…

Take this for example:food fervour

In fact, I’d say most of the green smoothies I make are brown. Because I LOVE cacao. Why not have a chocolate flavoured smoothie if you have the choice?

Cacao is the raw form of cocoa and therefore even more nutrient dense. And its (delicious) strong flavour helps disguise the bitterness that many kale varieties posses. The smoothie I just made (pictured) had 4-5 kale leaves in it and it only took 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder (oh ok, and the dates) to camouflage the acrid (but oh-so-healthy) green.

You really can have a lot of fun experimenting with green smoothies. If you are new to them, work off the ratio of 60% fruit to 40% greens until you acquire a taste.

For this particular smoothie (it made enough for two, by the way) I threw 2 bananas in the Thermomix, with 4-5 de-stemmed kale leaves, about 2 heaped tablespoons of cacao powder, 4-5 dates, a handful of (frozen) blueberries and approximately 300mls coconut water and blended it all on for about 40 seconds on Speed 9. For non-Thermies, blend for as long as you need to on the highest speed (to really break down the dates and kale).

I shouldn’t have any muscle cramps for the rest of the day, with the amount of magnesium (thanks to the Cacao & coconut water) in this drink. 😉