As the temperatures drop, it’s tempting to dive under the duvet and gorge on chocolate. The shorter days and fewer hours of light can spark the seasonal blues, which makes us more likely to experience food cravings. And, as we all know, one of the big problems with the sweet stuff is that the more you eat, the more you crave. We consume over two million tonnes of sugar each year, but noshing on too much has negative knock-on health effects and speeds up the ageing process. Sugar is often hidden in everyday foods, such as cereals and ready meals, in order to extend a product’s shelf life, meaning that we can unknowingly consume added sugars. If we do eat more sugar than we need, our liver converts the excess into fat which gets stored in our body, raising the risk of weight gain and chronic conditions like type two diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The NHS recommends that no more than five percent of our daily calories come from sugar and, as a quick rule, the higher sugar is listed on an ingredient list, the more sugar a product contains. As well as obvious sources of sugar such as honey and maple syrup, look out for things like sucrose, dextrose and maltose on ingredient lists. Sugar is also naturally found in things like fibrous or low-sugar fresh fruit (fructose) and dairy products (lactose), but these don’t spark the same roller coaster of sweet cravings as the sugar found in pre-packaged food. Low-sugar fruits like strawberries and blueberries keep blood glucose levels stable, while apples and pears contains a good amount of fibre which also helps to even out levels. Dairy foods like natural yoghurt and milk also contain a dose of healthy vitamins and minerals, and don’t cause blood glucose highs and lows.
14-day sugar detox
Below, we’ve outlined seven days’ worth of meals to help beat sugar cravings. Repeat the plan for two weeks and choose from our healthy snack list every day. This 14-day diet has been developed to cut sugar cravings by filling you up with healthy, delicious foods. We’ve replaced sugary foods with healthy fats and protein, which will help to regulate blood glucose levels, and thrown in a smattering of vegetables and healthy carbs to up the health stakes. By day 14, it’s likely that you’ll feel lighter and healthier, with fewer sugar cravings. And by cutting out processed sugars and increasing whole foods in your diet, you could lose up to 4lbs.
Boiled egg pitta pockets
Cut 1 small toasted wholemeal pitta bread in half. Stuff with 1 sliced boiled egg, 1tbsp steamed spinach and 2 sliced cherry tomatoes.
Coronation chicken salad
Combine 1tbsp chopped mango, a pinch of curry powder, 2tbsp Greek yoghurt and 1tbsp sultanas in a bowl. Cube one cooked chicken breast and marinate in the mixture. Arrange half a bag of mixed salad leaves in a bowl with 4 cherry tomatoes, 50g cucumber ribbons and ½ cubed yellow pepper. Add the chicken, mix well and serve.
Asian-style cauliflower rice with salmon
Blitz half a head of cauliflower florets in a processor until they have a breadcrumb-like consistency. Sauté ½ a red onion and 1 minced garlic clove. Add the cauliflower and cook until golden. Add 100g kale, 2tbsp garden peas and flavour with 1tbsp soya sauce, the juice of half a lime and a handful of chopped coriander. Serve with 1 grilled salmon fillet.
Layer 1 small pot of natural Greek yoghurt in a tall glass with 2tbsp mixed seeds and top with 2tbsp raspberries and a pinch of cinnamon.
Sauté 100g lean beef mince with 1 onion, 1 chopped garlic clove and half a jar of fresh bolognese sauce. Add a handful of spinach and serve with 1 large courgette peeled into ribbons and a green salad.
Vegetarian shepherd’s pie skins
Bake one sweet potato in the oven until soft. Meanwhile sauté 150g puy lentils with ½ red onion, 1 minced garlic clove, and 1tbsp tomato purée. Cut the sweet potato in half, scoop out the sweet potato flesh from the skins and mash with 1tsp milk. Fill the skins with the lentil mixture and top with the sweet potato mash. Garnish with ½tsp dried rosemary and transfer back in the oven, cooking until golden. Serve with a large salad.
Strawberry and avocado smoothie
Blend together half a small avocado, 220ml almond milk, 1 frozen banana, 1tsp flaxseed and 3 strawberries together until smooth.
Blitz half a head of cauliflower florets in a processor until they have a breadcrumb-like consistency. Sauté the cauliflower until golden with half a red onion, 1 minced garlic clove and add 150g tinned mixed beans. Mix in ½tsp paprika and a pinch of cumin. Serve in a bowl with 1 heaped tbsp guacamole and 1tbsp crème fraiche.
Grill one cod fillet, meanwhile slice and fry a spring onion and a garlic clove. Add the juice of 1 lime and ½tsp curry powder. Flake the cod into the curry powder mixture and add 40g cooked brown rice. Stir through 100g spinach leaves and 2tbsp peas. Garnish with 1tsp chopped coriander.
Avocado baked egg
Half and pit one small avocado. Crack an egg and place it into each avocado half. Season with black pepper and a pinch of paprika. Bake in the oven at 180°C for around 10 minutes or until the egg is cooked through. Season with 1tsp of chives and serve.
Chicken and baby gem wrap
Shred 1 chicken breast fillet and place in a bowl with 1tbsp crème fraîche and 20g shredded cucumber. Place in two baby gem leaves and top with 4 cherry tomatoes (halved).
Roast chicken with veg
Roast two chicken drumsticks. Serve with 150g steamed kale, 1 small red pepper (sliced and roasted) and 2tbsp garden peas.
Cinnamon-spiced tofu scramble
Crumble 100g tofu and add to a saucepan with a pinch of cinnamon. Cook until the tofu is slightly browned. Serve with 4 grilled cherry tomatoes and 150g steamed spinach.
Lentil soup with bread and salad
Half a carton of lentil soup with 1 wholemeal roll and a large green salad.
Butternut squash roast with greens
Place a quarter of a whole butternut squash in the oven seasoned with a pinch of paprika powder and 1tsp coconut oil, roasting until soft. Meanwhile, blitz 30g mixed nuts and seeds into roughly chopped pieces and toast in a pan until golden. Top the butternut squash with the nuts and seeds. Steam 50g steamed kale, 30g peas and 50g broccoli. Serve the greens alongside the butternut squash.
Cook 50g oats with 150ml almond milk. Slice 1 peach and decorate on top with a pinch of cinnamon and 1tbsp mixed seeds.
Pan-fry 1 chicken fillet with 50g garden peas, 100g spinach, 1 carrot cut into matchsticks, 1tsp ginger, a handful of coriander, 1 garlic clove (crushed) and 1tbsp soy sauce. Serve with quinoa (80g, cooked).
Paprika-spiced chicken and pineapple burger
Marinate 100g chicken mince with a ¼tsp paprika and ¼tsp cinnamon. Shape into a patty and grill. Meanwhile, slice a wholemeal burger bun and top with 1tbsp crème fraîche. Spoon the cooked patty on top. Top with 1 pineapple ring, a handful of rocket and a slice of tomato. Serve with a large green salad.
Blueberry and banana mousse
Blend 1 frozen banana with 3tbsp blueberries, 1tbsp flaxseeds and 2 prunes. Top with 1tbsp mixed seeds.
Combine half a bag of mixed salad leaves with the seeds of ½ pomegranate, 20g cubed feta cheese, 1tbsp chopped coriander, 1tbsp chopped parsley, 20g cubed cucumber and 50g cooked quinoa.
Lean lamb kofta wrapped in lettuce
Place 100g lean lamb mince in a bowl. Marinate with ½tsp cumin, ½tsp paprika, a pinch of cinnamon, 1tsp dried mint and 1tsp tahini. Shape the marinated chicken into balls and panfry until cooked. Arrange a head of baby gem lettuce leaves on a plate and place the kofta balls on top. Decorate with 20g sliced cucumber, 4 black olives and 5 grilled cherry tomatoes.
Choose two of the following snacks every day. Eat one snack mid morning and one mid afternoon.
1 apple and 1tbsp pecan nuts
2 oatcakes and 1tbsp cream cheese
2 wholegrain crisp breads with 1 slice of smoked salmon and 4 slices of cucumber
Half an avocado
1 carrot cut into matchsticks with 1tbsp hummus
1 pear and 1tbsp cashew nuts
1 slice of wholemeal bread with nut butter
1 protein bar
50g unsalted popcorn and 1tbsp brazil nuts
50g blueberries and 1tbsp mixed seeds
1 pot of natural yoghurt with 3 strawberries