About three weeks before Christmas last year (just before the annual epic sugar binge), I gave up sugar. I had been thinking about this for a long time; years in fact. A few years previously, I had started looking into nutritionally dense diets, which made perfect sense, but not eating sugar confounded me. It simply was just one of those things that was. It was everywhere, unavoidable. I imagined life without sweet cakes and scones and meringues and all sorts of sugary baking as being a form of hell. You would end up as the sugar-free freak in the corner. Life was meant to be enjoyed etc etc etc.
Yeah, yeah, I heard them all, all the platitudes, all the reasoning why I simply could not give up sugar. Why, I was the source of many such opinions!
But it kept coming into my head. Smiling at me. I was having odd, creaky pains; I was sluggish, felt sluggish. Healthy, but sluggish. I didn’t feel strong, my energy was low (not helped by having a large restless baby who didn’t sleep particularly well at night) I was the same weight for the past 11 years, it was slowly creeping on, but impossible to lose, despite a healthy, unprocessed diet.
I’m not even sure what made me decide to do it, but one day, I just did. I decided I would stop eating all processed sugar; I made myself some chocolate brownies (sugar free, grain free, mostly vegetable, my kids call them the “5 a day brownie!”) so I wouldn’t feel deprived. I also cut out most grains, as they convert into glucose in your system, and I wanted to detox as fast as possible.
The first week I had the most wicked of headaches, but I drank pints of hot water with a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar, and persevered. (I was a fairly horrid individual too, just FYI. Worse than normal). (I always drink loads of water and ACV- Apple Cider Vinegar (organic, with “the Mother”, my favourite is Biona, or some of the smaller orchard ones, like Rebel Foods, Highbank Orchards or The Apple Farm when I can get them) first thing in the morning. When I have a partner-in-tea-drinking, I drink several pots of “real tea” too, just to balance things out 😀 )
And then! Things started coming into balance. My appetite decreased to where I was eating about one third what I normally ate, I was drinking loads of water and herbal teas and flushing out my system. My energy! I had tons. My skin, which is always fairly clear, looked better than normal. And my brain de fogged. I was clear headed, focused, felt tuned in. And I started losing weight. Slowly, not even particularly noticeably at first, but it has been steady, consistent. My mood was fantastic, no lows, no “Hanger” (Hungry anger), no needing something to eat now. I noticed I wasn’t contrary (as much), I was decidedly more chilled out, my stress levels were low. The achy pains? Gone.
After about six weeks, I had no sugar cravings. None. I just simply didn’t want it any more. I cannot explain the incredible freedom.
It has been the most fantastic life changing thing to do. I feel almost evangelical. Once I got a hang of it, I started weaning the whole family off sugar (they are looking for someone to adopt them by the way, if anyone is on the lookout). I’m not sure we will get completely sugar free, but we are cutting it out wherever is possible, talking about it a lot, what sugar does to our bodies, our teeth, our bones, and most importantly, our gut.
How I am approaching this whole non-sugar thing, is this: I am aiming to be sugar-free 90% of the time. It is actually easier than you would think, but you do have to be prepared (and have food for yourself to eat so you don’t just say “ah, feck it, I’ll have a Twix because I’m starving or tired or just want something lovely and I’ve nothing else”)
I have, on a few occasions had a few days of “eating normally” and I have felt so shite I went off sugar again. There is a great website called I Quit Sugar, with tons of inspiration and recipes and online support.)
And now the recipe: following a photo I posted a couple of days ago on my Instagram of a sugar-and-fat-free recipe for mincemeat, I was encouraged/bullied/persuaded to write another blog post with the recipe. So, here you go (If I didn’t do this immediately, it would be December 2018 before I got around to posting it…)
I found this recipe on an absolutely fantastic blog called Roots and Wren. It’s beautiful, and all the recipes are, so far, spot on: tasty, delicious and using everyday ingredients. I really encourage you to go over and have a good look. Grace and I are going to master sourdough bread over Christmas (totally inspired by Little House on the Prairie!!) and there are so many amazing bread recipes here that we are going to try out once we have our starter (and the photos!! You can almost smell them).
This fat-and-sugar-free mincemeat (never did I think I’d make such a thing, and certainly never say the following): is just delicious. Not as rich as one with butter, but sweet enough, fruitily fruitsome and ever so slightly tart: completely YUM.
(I made this with normal flour/butter pastry, but if pastry-making isn’t your thing, you can buy excellent shortcrust pastry that you roll out and use and claim as your own. The Little Green Spoon has a pastry recipe that is dairy and gluten free).
I am detailing the recipe with my changes below, because, I have, of course, changed the recipe to suit me; and I didn’t have figs or brandy or currants, but it still tastes delicious. You can really play around with what you have, as I did.
(You can find the original here. I tripled the quantities as I plan on making a lot of mincepies over the holidays…)
Sugar and Fat-Free Mincemeat
75g dates, chopped
2 apples, peeled and grated
Juice and zest of half a lemon
Juice and zest of one orange
½ tsp of allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon.
90ml apple juice
10mls whiskey or brandy
(It was with great shock I found I had only 10mls of whiskey left in a bottle, and no brandy. Very sad indeed. I rarely drink, but have a fondness for hot whiskies or port at Christmas… thankfully the port has enough to do me for the season 😀 You can leave these out completely; and don’t worry, the alcohol evaporates when you make the mincemeat)
Put all the ingredients into a large pot over a medium heat and bring to a simmer. Lower the temperature and allow it to simmer gently, stirring occasionally, until all the fruit is plump and juicy. (about 15-20 minutes)
Remove from the heat and pour into sterilised jars, allowing it to cool. You can store it in the fridge for up to two weeks but after that, you will need to freeze it as it doesn’t have the sugar or fat to preserve it (It won’t last that long, I promise).
Eat fourhundredandninetyseven of them in one go while watching your favourite Christmas movie. Because it’s Christmas!!!!!!!