Irish have a love affair with sugar, which is a major culprit contributing to our obesity epidemic. While the recommended daily allowance for sugar set forth by the Food & Drink Industry Ireland is six teaspoons for women and nine for men, the average person consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar a day, most of it is added sugar in processed foods. We indulge in the sweet stuff. 15% of our calories come from sugars added to food. The sugars found naturally in dairy and fruit are not the problem. IRISH children are in an obesity crisis. One in four — 30,000 primary schoolchildren — are overweight or obese. If the trend isn’t reversed, 70% of them will face adult obesity. An obesity treatment programme at Temple Street Children’s Hospital examined 300 children between 2008 and 2013. Forty percent had high cholesterol and half had high blood-sugar levels, putting them on course for early Type 2 diabetes. According to the National Institute of Health, sugar addiction is real and meets all of the criteria for physically and psychologically addictive substances. Ask yourself, “Do I need an intervention”?
Cutting sugar out of your diet isn’t easy, but research shows that it only takes five days of being sugar free to vastly reduce cravings. The first three days are the hardest (and believed to be the most dangerous if you are around other people). Here are 15 ways you can reduce cravings to get over the hump.
1. Keep your blood sugar under control to prevent spikes, which can make cravings unbearable. Picture Gollum with his “Precious”, that’s what you might look like during low blood sugar once you get ahold of food. Eat six small meals a day, each of which contains a protein, healthy fat, and complex carbohydrate.
2. Reduce stress, which often results in emotional eating. Lower your stress on the spot with deep breathing, and reduce it over time with exercise, healthy habits, and meditation. Try waiting 5-10 minutes before turning to food during a stressful moment. If the urge goes away, you have successfully executed self-control. Yay!
3. Exercise. Moving your body has a similar effect on the brain as sugar, and it can give you the motivation and stamina you need to make good food choices. Seriously, once you’ve gone the extra mile to do something healthy for your body, why take two steps backwards by consuming something with sugar?
4. Get plenty of sleep. A lack of sleep affects appetite hormones to make you feel hungrier. Note your hunger level in the morning the next time you stay up too late.
5. Eat healthy fat. Healthy fats will not make you fat! But they will help keep your blood sugar balanced and make you feel fuller longer, which helps to stave off cravings.
6. Take Juice Plus+ daily. A healthy body with optimally functioning systems will crave sugar less than a body with vitamin or mineral deficiencies. Many cravings you experience may be the result of a vitamin deficiency.
7. Take chromium picolinate, a trace mineral that stabilizes blood sugar, fights body fat, and reduces carb cravings. The recommended dose is 600 micrograms a day.
8. Take L glutamine, a nonessential amino acid that blocks sugar cravings. Take 500 grams three times a day.
9. Visualize how you’ll handle temptation. Every day when you wake up, visualize how you will walk away from the donuts at the office, decline dessert at the restaurant, or avoid the vending machine down the hall. Visualizing can help you say no more easily when the time comes. When all else fails, look to the old rubber band snap on the wrist trick!
10. Be mindful. Mindless indulgence leads to overeating, followed by self-loathing and guilt. Make careful, mindful decisions about what you put in your body.
11. Meditate. Meditation can lead to better self-control, a more intimate knowledge of how your mind works, and a higher level of natural mindfulness.
12. Chew gum. Research shows that a stick of (sugarless!) gum can help reduce cravings of all types. Just try not to chew yourself into a headache from overuse of your jaw muscles or overload your body with too many fake sweeteners.
13. Replace sugar with healthier, sweet options. Fruit is sweet, and it’s full of fiber and antioxidants. Peanut butter is sweet and full of protein. Dark chocolate is somewhat sweet and is packed full of nutrients that can help stave off signs of aging and disease. Once you get passed the fake sugars you crave, you’ll find these options to be much more delectable than how you once thought of them.
14. Distance yourself. When you’re feeling overwhelmed by the cookies calling to you from the cupboard, go outside for a walk, make a phone call to an old friend, or take a bath. Do whatever you can to distract yourself until the craving eases up, which it will. Repeat to yourself, “Sugar doesn’t feed my body. I do not need that sugar. I am stronger than the cookie!”
15. Eat breakfast! Going without sustenance in the morning is the best way to ensure massive sugar cravings later, when your blood sugar drops. Have a couple of pieces of toast or an egg every morning to help control your blood sugar until lunch time. You’ll thank yourself later when you don’t resort to looking through co-workers desk drawers for something to eat on the fly!
What do you do to avoid the sugar cravings?
According to research Broccoli has the feel-good factor edge over eating chocolate but I think I’ll still have to give in to Easter Egg temptation this weekend.
With the seasonal chocolate extravaganza just about to kick off, it was with great relief that I read the comments of a top biomedical scientist who reported that “most of the bad effects of eating chocolate are either overstated or entirely false”.
In an Irish Times article, Dr Tara McMorrow, vice-president of the Irish Society of Toxicology and senior lecturer in bio-medical science in UCD, admitted she too is a chocoholic.
Chocolate has been blamed for causing spots, cavities and obesity but is recognised by some as a natural painkiller and an aid to heart disease prevention.
So has chocolate been getting a raw deal. Do the benefits of eating your favourite bar outweigh the risks. Let’s find out.
Dr McMorrow’s initial comments were a little reassuring but I restrained myself from reaching for the multi-pack of chocolate decadence until I read a bit more.
Although some estimates suggest that chocolate has been around for three to four millennia – at least as a drink – Dr McMorrow admits that there is still much unknown about the effects of chocolate on human health.
However, she does say that recent research has established some facts that are worth noting for chocolate lovers and more importantly which dispel a few popular myths about the ‘food of the Gods’ (translated from Latin for cacao tree Theobroma cacao).
The expert states that eating chocolate is neither a cause nor an aggravating factor of acne. She says that US research has found that eating chocolate did not produce any significant changes in the acne conditions of participants in studies.
And there’s further reason to be cheerful due to the antioxidants contained in chocolate – well dark chocolate.
Antioxidants help flush damaged cells from the body and can also prevent cell damage.
The doctor explains: “The polyphenols and theobromine found in cacao produce antioxidant effects similar to green teas. The higher the concentration of cacao, the greater the health benefits as the processing of the cacao to make chocolate requires the addition of ingredients that diminish the effects of the polyphenols of the cacao bean. The darker the chocolate, the higher amount of theobromine and polyphenols.”
The bad news for milk chocolate lovers is that, according to the expert, “it usually contains no cacao at all, just a mix of pasteurised milk and sugar”.
Other studies have established that polyphenols, or phenolics, may help lower the risk of heart disease and can promote good gut health.
Dr McMorrow states: “Apparently, phenolics prevent fat-like substances in the bloodstream which are involved in the formation of plaques in the arteries which can lead to clogging of the arteries, a major cause of heart attacks. Also, some research has shown that eating dark chocolate may help promote gut health by feeding beneficial bacteria, as opposed to harmful ones.”
However, that’s no reason to gorge on chocolate as it is suggested that a little less than half a standard sized bar of dark chocolate per week is the ideal amount to protect against inflammation and cardiovascular disease.
Dr McMorrow then points out the bad news that we all knew anyway – the news that gives us the guilt pang when we’ve just scoffed twice our weekly allowance in a few seconds. “Chocolate is high in calories, and excess calorie intake leads to weight gain. Chocolate is also high in sugar. High amounts of sugar in your diet can lead to dental problems like gum disease and cavities.”
However, at least it can make you feel good due to the contents of ingredients which stimulate dopamine release by brain cells. But a big feed of greens would be a much better option, suggests Dr McMorrow.
She says: “While chocolate does contain potentially mood-altering substances, these are all found in higher concentrations in other less appealing foods such as broccoli,” says McMorrow.
That leaves us pondering the question: Easter egg or broccoli? I know which one going to win in our house this weekend, do you?
The excitement is reaching fever pitch in our house as we gear up for a family trip to Arizona.
I’m hopeful that by the time we get to Phoenix we’re all still smiling – well perhaps more anxious than hopeful. My anxiety at the prospect of enduring an eleven hour flight with the kids has already lost me a few hours of sleep.
I’d be delighted if the first line of the famous Glen Campbell song reflects our long-haul trip (‘By the time I get to Phoenix she’ll be rising’). But judging from the excitement in our house, the chances of our three year-old Abbie getting any sleep at all on the plane will be nothing short of a miracle. I’m more than a little worried that both Abbie and Jamie (5) will be ‘rising’ frequently as we jet across the Atlantic.
It’s fair to say that there is strong potential for a little bit of transatlantic turbulence from the tiny two followed by some Stateside jetlag. That prospect doesn’t play ‘Gentle on my Mind’ – to borrow another of the famous Arizonian country singer’s song titles.
Don’t get me wrong: both Seamus and I are delighted to be getting a break with Jamie and Abbie. Our kids are good as gold but they are still kids and many of you will know well the potential of little ones to cause havoc – especially at 30,000 feet.
Setting my parental flight-risk worries aside though – and with all of my corny Glen Campbell references put to bed – we really are brimming with excitement about the family trip.
Of course, our trip is veiled as work because we’re taking part in the fabulous Juice Plus+ Global Conference in the Phoenix Convention Centre but I can assure you that we’ve planned for fun, fun, fun.
None more than Jamie who is veritably bursting to go on holiday with his sister – whether it’s the Grand Canyon State or somewhere 30 minutes down the road. Recently, during his fifth birthday party celebrations, I overheard him tell his grandmother that he needed to buy a suit. ‘Why do you need to buy a suit,” his granny quizzed. The birthday boy’s matter of fact reply gave us all a warm chuckle: “I need a suit to go to the conference with mammy and daddy in America,” he exclaimed.
That little moment was both a sweet reminder of the innocence of our first born and cause to reflect on just how quickly he’d grown up.
In that instant it was very clear why we would decide to embark on an eleven hour flight with Jamie and his little sister. It was something of a moment of clarity which highlighted just how fast their infancy is passing. It underscored the importance of making the most of every minute and hour of their childhood. In that moment I said to myself: ‘if making the most of it means enduring eleven hours of chaos inspired by infant boredom, bring it on’.
We’re going to enjoy as much time together as a family as we possibly can – to hell with the jetlag.
You never know, maybe Jamie will get to address the conference just like his daddy; he’ll certainly have a suit for the job.
I don’t know if we’ll be smiling by the time we get to Phoenix but I’m sure we’ll be able to look back on our experience with very fond memories – whatever happens at 30,000 feet.
It may seem a strange concept but apparently healthy eating can be bad for your health.
That way of thinking is by no means a green light for wall to wall indulgence in all those things I crave. It’s more of an acknowledgment that eating just a little of the things I know are less than healthy won’t do me any harm every once in a while.
Sometimes life can be governed by too many self-inflicted rules. When we obsess we kill off enjoyment, something that is a vital part of our health – both mentally and physically.
Orthorexia nervosa, a condition characterised by an obsession with healthy eating, was something I came across the other day. Although not formally classified as a medical condition it has been knocking around since the 90s and is recognised by Bodywhys, the Eating Disorder Association of Ireland, as a condition which can lead to serious health issues.
The article got me thinking because orthorexia – something I hadn’t previously heard of – describes people we see every day. I’m talking about the many perfectly normal people who, in pursuit of the perfect physique, have diets which are both designed and followed with military precision.
How often do you hear someone say: “I can’t eat that” or “That’s not part of my diet plan”. These have become regular parlances up and down the country in this new age of health and fitness.
Everywhere we look people are telling us how to eat and, more prevalently, how not to.
I’ve been both victim and an offender, I must admit. I’ve tried the paleo diet, I’ve even tried to stick with an Atkins-style plan while also telling my friends that they should get in on the act (apologies to all).
In the end, however, I’ve found that my granny’s advice worked best.
Granny was always a great cheerleader for moderation. As a consequence, the value of moderation is something that was instilled in me from a young age.
It’s a value I now apply to my diet while I try to ignore the self-appointed – and more often than not unqualified – nutrition police who dictate: “eat this” and “don’t eat that”.
By applying some old fashioned basics I’ve found a measured balance that suits me just fine.
I love the taste of chocolate and the luxuriant texture of a scoop of ice cream, and hey what’s wrong with that every once in a while.
I’ve discovered that spoiling myself every so often and staying healthy are not mutually exclusive.
When it comes to food I generally live by the rule that if it ran, swam, grew or flew it has sound nutritional value, and can be enjoyed in a balanced and moderate manner.
By sticking to a diet based on whole food – including plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, pulses and lots of water – I’ve found that it’s easy to afford a little luxury, but only at the weekend. So long as I stick to moderate, middle of the road eating habits, everything will be fine – just like granny said.
Whole foods are packed with the nutrients our bodies need to be healthy. The range of essential vitamins and minerals we need to be at our best can only be achieved through a balanced diet and not by cutting out whole food groups as part of the latest diet planning revelations dictated to us via the internet or the media.
By applying moderation and basing our diets on a balanced intake of whole foods, it’s a given that healthy eating can never be bad for you.
To find out more on how to achieve a healthy balanced diet based on whole foods please get in touch.
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