You've banished all junk food from the house. The secret milk chocolate stash in your kitchen cupboard is history, the multipacks of fizzy drinks have been replaced with youth-inducing matcha tea and your fridge is stuffed with leafy greens. You have become an expert at healthy eating at home, but what about dining out? Sticking to a sugar free diet when you are out and about can be tricky. But fear not! This guide will help you navigate restaurants, coffee shops and dinner parties so you can enjoy yourself without the sugar rush.
- Be prepared.
Check out the restaurant's menu online before you set off. This way you can make the right decision about what you want to eat without being distracted by good conversation. Plus, "I'll have what he's having" might not be a good option when you have quit sugar.
- Call ahead. If you are not sure which dish is a good sugar free option, just give the restaurant a call and explain what you're after. Restaurants are as interested in having contented customers as you are in having a good time. Most will be more than happy to cater for your needs.
- Have a snack. A little something before you leave takes the edge off the hunger and prevents you from devouring the entire breadbasket. I love these grain free cheese thyme crackers from my blog, but it could be as straightforward as some crudités and a hunk of cheese.
- Drink water. A jug of table water is everyone's friend. And it's always a smarter option than soft drinks or juice, which is packed with sugar. One glass of apple juice contains the equivalent of seven teaspoons of sugar, whether it's organic or not.
- Stick to a flat white. Milk-based drinks in coffee chains can contain a staggering amount of sugar. The worst offender is the Costa Coffee chai latte massimo with 20 teaspoons. As the Sunday Times reported yesterday, Public Health chiefs have just recommended extending the planned sugar tax to include sweetened coffees and milkshakes. To stay away from a sugar rush, it's best to choose a flat white or stay black.
- Choose your booze. Obviously, moderation is key. Good low sugar choices are red wines, dry white wines such as Chardonnay and spirits with soda water and lime as a mixer. Stay away from dessert wines, ciders, liqueurs and cocktails, which are most likely sugar bombs. For a more detailed list, check out this article by the Telegraph.
- Read between the lines. Any dish that includes the words glazed, caramelised, balsamic or indeed sweet may not be the smart option on a low sugar diet.
- Beware of dressings and sauces. Keep it simple! You can never go wrong with a steak, a fish or a generous salad. It's the sauces and dressings where it can get tricky. Rich tomato sauces, for example, are high in natural sugars. Ask to have your sauces on the side and opt for olive oil and lemon to dress your salad. Mustards, gravies and homemade mayonnaise are generally a good choice.
- Make smart swaps. Swap your chips for extra veggies, have a salad instead of the bread basket. White bread, white rice and white pasta are simple carbohydrates that the body converts into glucose. They significantly raise blood sugar levels, so crowd them out with the good stuff - plenty of fibre, healthy fats and protein.
- Bring a dessert. Dessert is the biggie when you've quit sugar. In restaurants, it's best to stick to the cheese platter or a fruit salad. If you are invited to a dinner party, why don't you offer to bring dessert? I like to make this healthy almond berry cake, it's a real showstopper. Or simply opt for some indulgent dark chocolate (85% or more cocoa solids), which is comparatively low in sugar. Your hosts would be thrilled about the helping hand - and you don't have to muster the willpower to say thanks but no thanks, which might by now compromised by that lovely Chardonnay.
- See the bright side of life. Instead of focusing on what you can't have, enjoy all the delicious, satisfying and nourishing dishes that are out there. Remind yourself why you don't want the junk. By waving sugar good-bye, you are doing your body a huge favour. And if you do cave in and wolf down that triple death-by-chocolate cake before your brain has time to say no, don't beat yourself up over it. This is real life, after all, and it's making progress that counts. Just get back on the bandwagon tomorrow.
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