The debate on sugar and its side effects is as hot as ever. This makes me particularly happy! Probably being viewed by many as a neurotic mother due to my absolute determination not to feed Macy sugar, I love that the world seems to be beginning to understand the evils of sugar and why it should be avoided wherever possible.
When Macy was starting to begin her adventures with food, there were far too many unexpected places where the nasty ingredient was hiding; children’s yogurts, so called “healthy” snacks, children’s drinks, dried fruit (with added sugar!), savoury crackers, sauces, it was in pretty much everything that came out of a packet. You just needed to understand the jargon on the back of packets to find it was lurking in there. One big shock was finding that yogurts aimed at children contained more than 2 teaspoons of sugar per teeny serving.
It was my own experiences with sugar and how addictive it can be that spurred me on to look for alternatives. I know that if I hadn’t experienced how sweet and more-ish sugar can be, then I may not have been so hooked on the stuff. Too much sugar was part of the main causes of my development of Systemic Candida too. My argument for not feeding Macy chocolate or sugary treats from the weaning stages was that the sweetest thing her taste-buds had ever tasted was breast milk. Why introduce her pallet to ridiculously sweet things, when she would have been more than happy with fruit or much more naturally sweetened alternatives? I didn’t think I was doing her a disservice not feeding her these things, in fact I was setting her up for a much more balanced, bright and nourished future.
Now I know you don’t have to look far to find studies that document sugar to be a main cause of hyperactivity, obesity, depression of the immune system, tooth decay, disease, a decrease in learning ability, the list goes on… As a mother I wanted to give Macy the best start in life, if avoiding feeding her sugar on a regular basis meant avoiding all the mentioned side effects, then I was sure as hell was going to do my best to find alternatives that were far less damaging.
Thankfully there are many wonderful alternatives out there. You just need to know where to look, or have the inspiration to get experimenting in the kitchen. Luckily for me I had a whole lot of experience cooking without sugar, all of which I am keen to share with you lovely lot.
My favourite alternatives, all in moderation of course(!) are
- Stevia (a completely natural sweetener 30 x sweeter than sugar, that contains no calories and has no effect on blood sugar levels. This is in my eyes is the perfect sweetener)
- Dried fruits like dates, prunes, sultanas (fabulous soaked and bended into puddings to add sweetness)
- Honey (only from the age of 1 and over and only used in small doses)
- Coconut sugar
- Brown rice syrup/Maple syrup/sweet freedom
These all can be substituted for sugar in various ways, it just takes a bit of ingredient jiggling to omit the sugar and replace with any of the above.
Macy is now three and a half. If I had my way, then I would still not feed her sugar, however I have been informed by Mr D that this is completely unrealistic. In the first year or two her food choices were pretty much under my control. That has somewhat changed with the introduction of nursery, regular stays with family, parties, trips out with friends. I would be kidding myself to think that she won’t be fed sugar, I have just had to take the view that allowing her to eat a sugary treat every now and then will not turn it into a forbidden food she has to binge on every time my back is turned. Thankfully when she does have a biscuit or some chocolate, she nibbles teeny bits and often doesn’t finish it. I think her body intuitively knows when it has had enough. If sugar is consumed on a regular basis the body becomes desensitised to its effects. You only have to give it up for 2 weeks to realise how it makes you feel once you eat it again.
Another tool I have found useful is to talk to her about how different foods make her feel. It allows her to understand that the complaint of a sore head, or the sore tummy, the sleepiness, the mania, is often linked to what was eaten. I know for a long time I was switched off to how food made me feel, realising what went in has a direct impact on my mood, energy levels, hunger and sleep patterns was a pretty significant discovery.
By now you have probably got the hint that I am passionate about eating, and feeding others, as little sugar as possible. I challenge you to give up the white stuff for two weeks and look at alternative ways to feed you and your little ones sweet treats. I guarantee you will end up feeling more energised, crave less sweet foods and your body will definitely thank you for it.
Just to get you started I will share my recipe my favourite stevia rice pudding. I love making this for pudding in the winter. The creaminess is amazing, and the sweetness is subtle but lovely. It is Macy’s favourite pudding too. Once again, I tend to make this when I have cooked too much rice for dinner. It is a great way of using up leftover rice and the fact it is already cooked speeds up the whole process.
Brown Rice Stevia Sweetened Rice Pudding
- 200g short grain brown rice (cooked for 45mins in boiling water & drained)
- 500ml milk – we alternate between coconut, almond, soya, oat milk
- 1/4 – 1/2tsp nutmeg or mixed spice
- 1/4 – 1/2tsp cinnamon or cardamon powder
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract or essence
- pinch of rock salt or pink Himalayan salt
- Stevia drops to taste – this is somewhere between 10 – 20 drops. WARNING! Just a few too many drops can add a very strange taste to the pudding so be careful! If you don’t have stevia, just use soaked, mashed dried fruits, honey/brown rice syrup etc to taste.
- Chopped dried fruit if you fancy and added bit of sweetness- dates, sultanas, prunes all work well.
Place the rice in the saucepan with the milk, spices, vanilla and chopped fruit if adding.
Heat on a gentle heat until the mixture begins to bubble. Allow to simmer for 20-25 mins or so. Regularly stir. The longer it is allowed to simmer, the more the rice will break down and become creamier and softer.
Add the stevia, a LITTLE at a time! Like I said before, too much will ruin the pudding.
If it looks too dry, add more milk! Like wise, if its not thick enough, put back onto the heat and simmer until thickened.
Serve into bowls, top with flaked almonds, seeds… whatever takes your fancy!
Please let me know if you are up for trying the 2 week no sugar challenge! I would love to hear from any of you thinking about or partaking in quitting sugar. If you have any questions or want to share any experiences of having done so then please do. And again, please share away if you have enjoyed this post.