Calgary Avansino on The Sweet Spot: How to Give Up Sugar

10th February 2016

Calgary Avansino is a Contributing Editor to British Vogue and the author of the recipe book, Keep It Real (@CalgaryAvansino). Originally from California, she has lived in London for the last 14 years and is mother to three children.  She is passionate about plant-based, clean eating and encouraging families to limit their sugar intake, cut out processed foods and enjoy home-made food together. NOTE: we worked with Calgary at Vogue and can indeed attest she really is the living, breathing example of healthy living!

Finally (YAY!), a truthful conversation about sugar is gaining momentum globally. For many years the enemy has been fat and salt – but the penny has now dropped and it is acknowledged widely that sugar is the biggest culprit behind our many health epidemics. There are now 1 billion overweight adults worldwide and, as a 2012 NHS survey found in Britain, more than a quarter of all adults in England are obese. This rate has risen threefold since 1980. The NHS reports that the average person in Britain currently consumes about 700g of sugar a week – approximately 140 teaspoons. Yet according to experts, our bodies can handle only half of that or less per week. Instead of focusing on dieting, which so many women are told to do (especially at this time of year), we need to focus on a sustainable, long-term approach towards eating real food.

This highly addictive ingredient is everywhere, from the more obvious items such as chocolate, sweets and soft drinks, to the lesser-known, like tomato sauce, fruit juice, salad dressings, marinades, fruit yoghurts and soups. It is almost unavoidable, especially in processed foods. Plus there is a long list of “alternative” names for sugar used by food manufacturers to make it easier to hide it in our meals. Any ingredient that ends in “ose” is a sugar, and there are many: glucose, fructose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, dextrose and high-fructose corn syrup are just a few.

They hold absolutely no nutritional value, and certainly no vitamins, minerals, essential fats or proteins to help us build up a healthier body. It is simply just pure, refined energy that we either burn off – although this is hard given how much we consume – or is converted into fat by the liver and stored directly in the fat cells.

While the majority of health organisations say we should limit ourselves to 10 teaspoons of added sugars a day, there are many researchers who in fact say it should be as low as 8 teaspoons for men and 6 teaspoons for women (4 grams of sugar is equivalent to 1 teaspoon). To put this into perspective, a regular Snickers bar contains about 7 teaspoons of sugar while a can of coke contains about 9 teaspoons. It soon adds up – and to the detriment of our health and waist size.  We need to start cutting it out for good, looking out for where it hides, and educating our children and ourselves about the damage it causes.

My key advice is this:

  • Give up soft drinks… full stop!
  • Keep healthy snacks in your bag, car and desk so you don’t reach for chocolate at 3pm.
  • Don’t allow breakfast to be dessert.  Look at how much sugar is in your favourite morning routine.
  • Watch out for the various names used on ingredients lists when referring to sugar; read all labels, even for seemingly healthy products, as many contain hidden sugar.
  • Where possible, make your own meals so you know exactly what they contain.
  • Avoid fruits with high fructose content, such as bananas, pineapple and mangoes.
  • Try to limit alcohol consumption, especially if you mix spirits with sugary syrups or soft drinks.
  • Avoid refined carbohydrates such as white bread, white rice and bagels.

Easy swaps to try now:

Breakfast

Cereal with milk FOR Low sugar granola (recipe: www.calgaryavansino.com/recipes/low-sugar-granola/) made with almond milk

Toast with jam or marmite FOR Toast with avocado

Full English breakfast FOR Omelette with spinach and courgette

Snacks

Crisps FOR Kale chips and spiced nuts (recipe: www.calgaryavansino.com/recipes/spiced-holiday-pecans/)

Chocolate FOR Coconut yoghurt

Snack bars FOR Seeds, almonds, an apple with nut butter

Whites

White rice FOR Quinoa, millet, amaranth or buckwheat

White bread FOR Rye bread

White rice FOR Quinoa, millet, amaranth or buckwheat

White bread FOR Rye bread

White pasta FOR Rice, Kamut, Spelt or Quinoa pasta

Drinks

Morning coffee FOR Matcha green tea

Concentrated cordial FOR Cold pressed (green) vegetable juice

Fruit juice FOR Coconut water