Going sugar-free might be the latest diet craze, but self-confessed sugar addict, 47-year-old TV presenter Davina McCall isn't a fan of fads.
‘I have to admit, I do glaze over a bit when I try to take in all the conflicting dietary advice that seems to fill the media’, she says in the intro to her latest book, Davina’s 5 Weeks To Sugar-Free (£16.99, Orion).
‘Eat carbs or cut carbs? Should I be eating low-fat or not? Cut out wheat? Stop dairy? OMG – what do I do? I just want a sensible, healthy way of eating, with the minimum of fuss.’
What Davina does know though is the effect sugar has on her energy levels, moods, skin and waistband. She openly admits that she would wolf down 5 bags of Haribo when filming and insist on having 3 teaspoons of sugar in her tea.
‘Whenever I’d had a sugar pig out, I felt rubbish; so angry and disappointed with myself’, she says. ‘I’d have huge slumps in energy, I gained weight and my clothes felt uncomfortable. Even my skin felt prickly – I hated it.’
When she read about the health benefits of giving up sugar, the advice made so much sense. So, with the help of dieticians and a cook, Davina devised a five week plan to banish that sweet tooth and transform her eating. This forms the basis for the diet plan.
Here she shares her simple rules for ditching the white stuff and a few delicious dishes from Davina’s 5 Weeks To Sugar-Free…
'Use only honey and maple syrup and work towards cutting those out as much as possible if you can. At least they're closer to their natural state and they contain some nutrients. When buying maple syrup, check the label and make sure you get the real thing and avoid anything called 'maple-flavoured syrup' which will be mostly corn syrup.'
'The sugar in our system doesn't just come from bars of chocolate and sweet cakes', Davina says. 'It comes from food that releases energy quickly, and this includes processed refined carbs.
'Cut out white rice, white flour, white pasta and white bread. Instead go for brown rice or barley, wholewheat or spelt pasta, bread and flour. And don't worry - there's nothing scary about spelt. It's just another sort of grain and you can buy it everywhere now.'
'Use butter not margarine, and whole milk, not skimmed. Milk is not that high in fat anyway, and the low-fat versions are less nutritious...Watch out for low-fat foods such as fruit yoghurts, which may be laden with sugar. Buy full-fat plain yoghurt instead.'
'Eat foods as close to their natural state as possible. No processed gubbins. Fruit is nature's package - it's the way we're meant to eat fructose. The fibre in fruit offsets the sugar and makes it less likely to cause energy spikes.'
Now you know how Davina managed to cut back on sugar, try one of her delicious recipes from the book...
'I've realised that I tend to get stuck in a rut with recipes and make the same things over and over. This variation on chilli using pork, bean and sweet potato is amazing and is a nice change from the regular beef version. Chipotle paste is great and you can find it in most supermarkets.'
'For time, ease and washing up, I love a one-pot and I love anything with chorizo like this chicken with chickpeas, chorizo and kale recipe. Kale is the new broccoli - everybody's doing it - but you can use other greens, as long as they keep their shape and don't go mushy. Spinach doesn't work. Two cans of chickpeas might be slightly too much, but one isn't enough I find, so open two and save any leftovers for a salad.'
'Poached eggs on toast with avocado is one of my very favourite things. For years I didn't do poached eggs because I couldn't understand the whole whirlpool thing, but now - you can't stop me. You need to stir frantically to make a swirling vortex of water, then drop your egg in very quickly. You'll think it's all going wrong but it isn't. Trust me - I'm a presenter. Use really fresh eggs, cold from the fridge, for best results. If they're cold the whites will be firmer.'
Buy Davina's 5 Weeks To Sugar-Free (£16.99, Orion)