I did a no-added sugar diet for a week and surprisingly remained sane
Well, six days if you want to be pedantic
As a child of the 2000’s every action I take, my identity, and my entire sense of self worth are all derived in some way from the Internet and social media. That’s why, having seen numerous folk online taking on a diet devoid of any non-natural sugars, I thought I’d give it a go for myself. Only for a week, mind.
The supposed benefits of a no added sugar diet include: weight loss, reduced body fat, reduced tiredness, better skin, reduced risk of common health problems such as type two diabetes, and even better sleep.
Current emotions: dread and regret. I often feel these, and generally things aren’t as bad as expected, I’m pleased I did it, etc. I’m not backing this to be one of those occasions.
Anyway I’ve stocked up on no added sugar snacks and I’ve a sugar free breakfast in for the morning, let’s get it.
To start the day I embraced my inner elderly Scottish lady with a bowl of porridge. I stuck in a banana because a health website told me it would add a natural sweetness, but regardless of that it was a long way from Coco Shreddies.
I’d planned on just grabbing lunch from Tesco, in part due to an illogical belief that their new vegan range would be less likely to have sugar. Sadly, sugar is not an animal product, and having checked about five items with no luck, and with the inhabitants of the offensively narrow meal deal aisle growing impatient, I left empty handed.
Needing to re-assess my options, it occurred to me that, bar what I cooked, all food would need to have listed ingredients, or failing that be served by a knowledgeable eatery. This quickly ruled out a number of venues, and out of hope more than anything, I headed to the university shop in the basement of David Hume Tower.
As luck would have it, this turned out to be a vegetarian paradise. Veggie chilli bought and heated, victory snatched from the jaws of defeat.
My biggest fear for the week was overcoming my post-meal craving for something sweet.
In the absence of my usual sugary options, I raided the supermarket aisle full of posh, supposedly healthy snacks. I went with some dried strawberries as the brand was called ‘Urban Fruit’, which seemed hip and modern, so I could relate to them well. Unfortunately, these were as expensive as, and far inferior to, actual strawberries.
I expected tea (or ‘dinner’ to those of you who insist on being wrong) to be pretty easy, and so it proved. I made a cauliflower curry off Bosh TV but my dreams of an accompanying naan had to be abandoned due to sugar, but I survived.
Post meal sweetness craving satisfied by a more than palatable peanut bar from ‘Trek’.
Unable to face porridge on consecutive days, I found bread without sugar (which was easier than expected) and topped with honey. I did feel bad using honey, not only because of my qualms about stealing from bees, but also due to its high natural sugar content feeling like cheating – but I don’t make the rules kids (there is a reason for this btw, you digest natural ones differently, ask a biology student).
Where Monday saw lunchtime despair turn to an unbridled victory, Tuesday saw a mild complacency quickly slapped back down to earth. Having turned down a trip to BRGR for fear of having to sit awkwardly whilst everyone else ate, I headed to the Union of Genius truck on campus.
They helpfully carry a list of all ingredients used, but this did rule them out as a lunch option, so for the second time in two days I left my first choice empty handed.
Short on time, I was forced to rely on Sainsbury’s, with my expectations low following Monday’s debacle. Some frantic searching resulted in a feta and bulgur wheat salad, and a poached egg and sweet potato ‘protein pot’ from Fit Kitchen. I don’t even like egg. Sadly, I was hungry, desperate and in a rush – it was not a pleasant eating experience.
We’re back on the porridge lads, but fear not, I reckon I’ve cracked it. Banana and honey banged – maybe it was just better than Monday due to acclimatising to less sugar, but either way, it was good.
After Tuesday’s lunchtime suffering at the hands of a cold poached egg and soggy sweet potato, I treated myself to a boujee lunch from Civerinos Slice (death before Domino's, support local etc. etc.), who had confirmed a lack of sugar via IG the day before. Two slices of pizza knocked back – who says a no sugar diet has to be healthy?
I don’t tend to eat ready meals, as I’m a massive snob, but I thought I’d better include one so as to represent the full student experience. Fully expecting to leave Tesco empty handed once more, I managed to find a sugar free option on only my second attempt. I even managed to find a sugar free garlic bread on the fourth try.
As I said, I’ve cracked it. Porridge. Banana. Honey. Scenes. We move on.
Continuing the theme of high-class lunches, Thursday’s was provided by Tupiniquim. If you don’t know, get to know.
What I’m finding so far is that arguably the hardest part of this diet, is the awkwardness felt when explaining and justifying it to restaurants. A small price to pay for better skin and the like.
All week I’ve intended to make a smoothie the night before, so as to save time before uni. I even bought the fruit. So on this day, my last chance to do so…I had toast. I’m not actually convinced meal prep exists outside the realm of Instagram stories.
With this being the last campus lunch of the week, I headed back to the scene of Monday’s glorious victory. This was also influenced by the fact I’d spent £16 on lunches the previous two days in an attempt to make my life out to be more exciting than it actually is, and the DHT shop is pretty cheap.
In the day, I ate. I’m a pro now – it’s calm. I even managed to eat in a bar in the evening.
Now to address the question that you’ve read all that waffle to find out the answer to: can you go on a night out whilst having no added sugar?
Thankfully, the answer is an unequivocal yes. Hard spirits such as vodka don’t contain any added sugar, so find a sugar free mixer you like and you’re set. There are also many drinks with relatively high natural sugar, but none added artificially, so dancing the night away need not be restricted by a ban on the white stuff.
Now for a confession.
Whilst you can get suitably drunk without sugar, I must admit to sacking off the plan come midnight – my excuse is something about it being the Lord’s day, I dunno, allow me.
This self-set arbitrary limit did result in me carrying around a VK that had been bought for me for the best part of an hour and a half, which was fun.
In my defence, the second phase of my Sunday saw a return to the plan, so I managed a full week without eating any added sugar – nae bad for someone with a regular pastry habit.
I’ll be honest, I had a (somewhat sadistic) hope that this week would be horrifically painful and whilst I was tempted to lie and say I had the shakes by Wednesday afternoon, that was not the case.
The main difficulty was actually just the inconvenience of checking, rather than the diet itself.
It sounds illogical, but I think it may well be easier giving up added sugar entirely, rather than say just chocolate, due to the addictive aspects of sugar.
What about the benefits? I can’t comment on the better skin, as mine was already excellent. I’ve actually slept terribly, but that happens a lot anyway. I did though notice that I was less tired, despite numerous people presuming the opposite, which makes sense given my usual, sugary afternoon attempts at pick-me-ups were replaced by more nutritious foods. Weight and fat loss is of course going to be limited in a week, but there are already signs of those effects too.
Would I recommend it? Definitely. Firstly, I really don’ t think it has to be that tricky. As long as you find some sweet options you like – Nakd and Trek bars were a godsend – little else has to change. Secondly, it’s a really easy way to cut out calories without actually cutting out much food.
I personally will likely carry it on, perhaps in a less pedantic manner i.e. trusting that products in restaurants that don’t explicitly contain sugar don’t, and ignoring the rules come Saturday night.