I always want to improve my families diet. I always think I’m being healthy but these bad habits gradually creep into without realising. It is easy to buy food which contains hidden fats and sugars without even realising. This is why I agreed to try the Sugar Swaps campaign to see if a few small adjustments to our daily food intake could help us to be more healthy as a family.
Sugar Swaps is a simple idea which can provide long term changes. Basically you have a couple of weeks to assess your diet and then you make easy changes where things are too sugary. You change sugary drinks for milk or water and sugar laden breakfast cereals for wholegrain.
Our main problem areas were breakfast cereals, sugary drinks and after school snacks. Our meals are usually healthy. I had also developed a sugary coffee habit which I really needed to kick. Any change takes a little bit of planning. The hardest thing I found was the after school snack. I want something portable and not messy which will keep the girls going after school. I tried various things such as fruit and packets of raisons and even vegetables chopped up with a hummus dip. I think the raisons and other fruit worked the best because it provides a bit of sweetness.
It was easier to swap the sugary drinks. The girls like squash so I swapped this to no sugar varieties and tried to give them water, fruit juice or milk as much as possible the rest of the time. I found it quite easy to give up coffee. I have never really like it and it makes me feel really jittery so sugar swaps was the push I needed to go back to tea. Avoiding sugary treats in the staff room did prove harder. Working in a big school there are always lots of birthdays, but at least if I don’t buy those things then at least it isn’t a regular part of our diet.
The other part which needed planning was breakfast. The girls all love porridge so I made this topped with honey and banana. I also bought a few other whole grain cereals like weetabix which seem a good compromise. We were already quite healthy for puddings as the girls usually have a yogurt, however instead of the fruit variety I tried buying greek yogurt and topping it with fruit and honey or having tinned fruit for pudding.
The trial went well and was pretty easy. As you are not having to change everything at once it doesn’t seem a hardship. One thing I noticed was that you do have to plan ahead and be really organised with the shopping. It is much harder to pick up something healthy if you are quickly popping to the shops. Service stations in particular were really hard to find anything healthy. It has also made me aware of avoiding starting a habit. It is easier to never go to the sweetie machines outside swimming than to go once and then never again.
When we returned to our usual diet a lot of these habits had stuck. Breakfast was much healthier, although I tend to but the ready made cereals rather than porridge as it is quicker. We do still add fruit and honey rather than sugar. I am still avoiding coffee and trying to avoid the staffroom treats, though that is pretty hard. I am making sure that we snack on fresh and dried fruit rather than cakes and biscuits, especially after school.
Sugar Swaps is definitely a good step to take if you are worried about the amount of sugar in your families diet. It is a good way to evaluate what you are eating and look for ways to cut down. It did make me realise that I have a bit of a sugar addiction. If I’m having a bad day I tend to reach for something sugary to perk me up and that isn’t a habit I want to pass on to my girls. It also made me really conscious of how many foods contain hidden sugars. I am definitely checking labels more.
If you want to try sugar swaps then sign up to the Change4Life via this link:
Disclosure: This post is in association with Change4life and Netmums.