This is a rough guide to what you need when you embark on a sugar free, low carb lifestyle based really on what I use in my home. I try to use everyday foods available from supermarkets where I can, so this list is quite basic.
When you first look at this list, you may worry about overall costs of following this way of eating. We are only consuming real food. You may spend more on vegetables, meat, dairy than your current diet, but you won’t be spending on processed foods and snacks that fill our supermarket shelves. You also won’t eat as much as this way of eating is very satisfying; I eat twice a day, one light lunch/snack and one main meal.
Buy in bulk where you can and use your freezer. I buy my vegetables in season and try to get what I can at local markets. Shop around. I have found supermarkets such as Lidl and Aldi are much cheaper for pantry items such a nuts and ground almonds. They are also good for vegetables and even meat.
This way of eating embraces natural fats and eliminates man-made fats. It is really important to follow these recommendations in order to prevent inflammation and to setting any form of insulin resistance.
Fats to avoid:
When we state to avoid all man-made fats, we are talking about processed fats, including transfats as well as all vegetable oils (including sunflower, rapeseed, corn oil, sesame oil etc), margarines, vegetable shortenings and butter substitutes.
Fats to increase:
We need to embrace natural fats so include butter, coconut oil, duck fat, goose fat, avocado’s, nuts, cream, full fat whole milk, full fat yoghurt. These fats are in their natural state and are also stable fats. When cooking, use butter, coconut oil, goose fat or if you prefer a liquid oil, you can opt for a good quality olive oil or avocado oil, however these are less stable when heated so personally I would only use these as dressings.
Remember, natural sweeteners are not an excuse to eat loads and loads of sweet foods. They are a tool to help you in the transition phase to reduce your sugar cravings. Test your blood sugars after using natural sweeteners. They should not raise your blood sugar but some people are less tolerant. The further down the road of sugar free you go, the less you will crave sweet food. You will also find you can dramatically reduce the quantity of natural sweeteners in your recipes as your palate changes. See Sugar Chapter for more information on each of these natural sweeteners.
Erythritol blend - I use Sukrin products but you can also use Natvia brand. You can also buy Icing Sugar in these ranges.
Sukrin Gold - this is an Erythritol blend and a great alternative to brown sugar and I use it quite a lot to create a deeper sweet flavour.
Xylitol - I use Total Sweet as it is available in most supermarkets but you can buy other brands from health food shops or online.
Stevia - I personally don’t use stevia as I don’t like the aftertaste but there are many products available in granular or liquid forms. The best I have found is SweetLeaf liquid stevia. Always check the label to ensure it is pure stevia and not a blend of stevia with sugar.
Store Cupboard Essentials
Nuts - I use a lot of nuts, mostly almonds, pecan, walnut, hazelnut, macadamia and Brazil nuts. I also use fresh nuts and blend to make nut butters and nut flours. I store unused nut flours in the freezer to prevent them going rancid. Nuts are also great to make your own granola and nut bars. You can also make spicy nuts as a healthy replacement to crisps.
Cake recipes often call for almond flour. This is quite expensive and at present not available in supermarkets in the UK (you can buy online from retailers such as Sukrin or Amazon). Ground almonds are much cheaper and, in my opinion, work just as well. Alternatively you can grind your own almonds in a food processor.
Coconut - I have shredded coconut as well as desiccated coconut. I used the shredded coconut in my granola and nut bars.
Coconut flour - I don’t use a lot of this, more ground almonds, but it is good to have in the store-cupboard. It does absorb up to 10x its volume so you may need to add more liquid when you are using this flour. A good ‘all-purpose’ flour is 3 parts almond flour to 1-part coconut flour. Don't forget to using baking powder when making cakes.
Coconut Oil - absolutely essential as it is used in most recipes, including The Tuckshop chapter chocolates.
Chia Seeds - these little seeds are packed with goodness. They are great to use as a thickener and they make wonderful porridge and creamy desserts.
Whey Powder - I do use Whey powder very occasionally to make a grain free bread and also useful in some grain free cake recipes. I also add to smoothies occasionally. I buy organic, grass fed Whey Powder.
Herbs, Spices and Seasonings – There are no restrictions on herbs, spices and seasonings but do ensure any season blends don’t have any added sugar. I use a lot of seasonings and make my own blends. It is best if you can to buy these in bulk as it will save money. You will find some essential seasoning blends in The Pantry chapter. I store these in small jars.
Cocoa/Cacao - personal preference if you prefer cocoa or cacao. I prefer cacao as it is purer than cocoa but some find it too bitter. Look for sugar-free cocoa. If you can’t get this, you may have to opt for cocoa and add a little more natural sweetener if you find it too bitter.
Dark Chocolate - you must buy the purest chocolate you can find with the least sugar. Opt for at least 90-95% dark chocolate. My current favourite is 100% from Montezuma, Absolute Black and Chocolat Madagascar from Chococo. Hotel Chocolate also sell 100% dark chocolate drops. You can also try Willies Cacao Pure Gold. Be careful when buying chocolate chips. You still need to have at least 90% dark chocolate so read the label. Do a quick internet search if you can’t find what you are looking for. I also avoid any chocolate sweetened with any sweeteners, particularly artificial sweeteners.
Gelatine - I use gelatine powder by Great Lakes as I like grass fed, natural variety. I prefer the powder, especially as I can also add this to biscuits and crackers to help give more of a crisp result.
Seeds - I have a range of seeds in containers in my cupboard. Flax seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are the ones I use every day. I often sauté some seeds in coconut oil and add these to my salads to make a nice crunch and add additional nutrients. I also use seeds in my homemade bread and crackers and top my yoghurt with seeds.
Apple Cider Vinegar - I like to drink this every day as it has some amazing health benefits. I also add this to my bones went making bone stock as it helps pull out the nutrients. You can use this in place of white wine vinegar in salad dressings.
Xanthium Gum – this can be used as a thickener but also helps make a better texture in cakes and dough. It is not the easiest to use as a thickener, as it can form rather unpalatable globules, so I find it best to sprinkle in a fine mist before whisking. I tend to use arrowroot more as a thickener.
Lupin Flour – a new kid of the block for me. I found a recipe for Yorkshire Puddings (brilliant) which uses lupin flour and arrowroot along with egg and milk. It is about 11% carbohydrates. Lupin can cause allergies, especially for those with a peanut allergy so be careful. I am experimenting with this flour so have not included recipes in this book but will share on my Facebook page EverydaySugarfree.
Arrowroot – this is used in the same way we you would use cornflour but is low carb and grain free, unlike corn flour. You can buy this in most supermarkets.
Yeast Extract - I personally don’t like yeast extract but use it in my cooking as it can add a good flavour. Check that your brand is sugar free.
Tinned Tomatoes - you can always whip up a tasty dish if you have some tinned tomatoes. I always buy the best quality I can as I find the taste far nicer.
Tomato Puree – I add this to casseroles, bolognaise etc. I also use sundried tomato paste, which I make myself.
Sun-dried Tomatoes in oil - I love the flavour of sun-dried tomatoes but the paste has lots of sugar in it (see my own recipe in The Pantry chapter), so I always keep a jar of this in to add to food or to turn into the paste.
Vegetables and Salads - My fridge always has lots of salads and vegetables in it including Avocados - a must have! I also love punnet of cherry tomatoes as I eat them like grapes! Don't let your avocados go off, you can freeze them. Frozen avocado is great to use in smoothies, guacamole and chocolate pudding.
Milk - I buy organic full fat whole milk
Cream - I buy extra thick cream which I use for puddings. I also have double cream to make sauces and to add to dishes. Cream is also essential for making your own ice-cream.
Yoghurt - I buy full fat natural Greek yoghurt and add berries and chopped nuts.
Eggs - absolutely vital! I probably get through a least 36 eggs a week.
Butter - another essential (some people also use Ghee). I do not use any margarine or spreads.
Cheese - I always have full fat cream cheese in my fridge as I use it for puddings, pizza base and even cakes as it is a great binder. It is also good to use as a creamy sauce. I also have extra mature cheddar, brie, halloumi and feta cheese. You can also use parmesan to make crisps or add to your meals. Parmesan rinds are also worth storing in the freezer, ready to pop into a casserole, soup or frittata to increase the flavour.
Mayonnaise - I always have a jar of homemade mayonnaise in my fridge as I love to eat salads. I don’t make up bottles of salad dressing as I tend to just make a small amount up when needed or drizzle with extra virgin olive oil or flax or avocado oil.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil - I keep this in a cool dark cupboard as heat, light and oxygen can destroy the nutrients and turn it rancid.
Berries - for me, a must-have, although I only use a small handful. I prefer raspberries and fresh blueberries. I buy frozen raspberries when not in season.
Lemon & Limes – I use a lot of lemons. I cut these into quarters and place in the freezer to add to my drinks as it doubles as an ice-cube as well as lemon flavour. I also use lemons in a lot of cakes (Lemon Drizzle, Blueberry Clafoutis, Lemon Meringue Pie); all family favourites.
Bacon - I don’t eat loads of bacon but it is always good to have in the fridge. I like to bake it until it is very crispy before chopping into small pieces to add to a salad. I also use it in my main meals and, obviously, for breakfast. I buy good quality bacon which is not packed with water. Buy from your local butcher, it does not cost much more than the supermarket but far superior in quality.
Meat & Fish - I buy free-range organic chicken. I also use beef mince but only organic from the supermarket or local sources recommended by my butcher. I eat steaks with salads and also like to roast a gammon joint, using the cold meat in savoury snacks and omelettes. I buy gluten-free sausagess but also worth speaking to your butcher for grain-free options. I enjoy fresh fish but also have some tuna steaks and salmon fillets in the freezer.
Carbonated Sparkling Water - controversial I know as some people believe it stops you absorbing nutrients. For me, it is a refreshing drink to have occasionally with slices of lemon and lime and can be good if you are withdrawing from a fizzy drink.
I try to keep a range of home-made ready meals in my freezer for when I am busy and haven’t got time to put something together. Most of the recipes in the book are suitable for freezing. Always remember to label and date anything that goes in, or it can be in there for months!!
Frozen Berries - I tend to opt for frozen raspberries as I find blueberries have a weird taste. I use these in a variety of recipes including ice-cream, desserts and even Jelly Berry Bears.
Meat & Fish - I never buy frozen meat but I do have chicken, lardons, mince and steak in my freezer - shamefully it is often because I don’t get around to eating it in time so pop it in the freezer!! I have salmon fillets and tuna steaks in the freezer.
Vegetables - I have frozen peas in my freezer. I do whizz up a cauliflower and pop this into small bags and place in the freezer as I find I don’t use a whole cauliflower at once.
Bones - I buy a large bag of bones (about 4kg) from my butcher for around £2 a bag. This lasts me months. I slow cook and then store the bone broth in the freezer in small freezer bag portions. I also pop some in a silicon ice-cube tray to pop out when I need to add a touch of stock to a dish.
I always get asked about drinks. What is ok, What can’t we? It can be a bit confusing. Ideally you want to avoid all artificial sweeteners, especially those in fizzy drinks as these can not only be addictive, but research is now showing reliance on these ‘diet’ drinks can actually lead to weight can and can increase your appetite and craving for sweet foods and some research points to increased insulin resistance. Some of my clients had been drinking up to 3 litres a day of diet cola and withdrawing from this is pretty tough!
I drink sparking water with a quarter of lemon. I freezer my lemons into quarters so they double as ice-cubes and lemon flavour. I also like flavoured waters, adding a variety of fruit, herbs and vegetables into a water cooler or jug. Fill with ice and water and serve. Great combinations include cucumber, mint, lime, or slices of orange & ginger root, or lemon grass, cucumber, lemon, lime and mint.
You can make your own lemonade following a traditional recipe but supplementing the sugar for erythritol or xylitol. You can do the same for other traditional drinks such as ginger ale. Personally, I don’t bother as I am quite happy with water.
You can also serve iced teas and iced coffees. Be careful with fruit teas to ensure they have no added sugars.
Although natural, milk does contain lactose (a form of sugar). 1x 250ml glass of whole milk can contain over 11g of carbohydrates. Low fat milk and skimmed milk contains over 12g of carbohydrates.
Juices & Smoothies
A big no on these unless they are predominantly vegetable based. You can make your own lower carb smoothie with some berries, avocado, natural yoghurt but you do need to calculate the carb count so unless you know what you are consuming, I would avoid.
There is a great sparking drink called Ugly (www.uglydrinks.com) available now in supermarkets with no added sugar, and no artificial sweeteners. It comes in 2 flavours, Lemon and Lime and Grapefruit and Pineapple. It contains sparking water, natural flavours and citric acid – nothing else.
Whilst your blood sugars are unstable, I would avoid alcohol. Once you are more settled, you can look at low carb alcohol choices but these should only be occasional as it will slow down your progress. Also note, that those on a low carb diet are less tolerant of alcohol, so you will feel the effects much quicker and with less alcohol.
The lowest carbs are champagne and wine – the most being beers. For example, a dry wine can contain approximately 0.5g of sugar per glass. Spirits are pretty much zero carbs but it is all dependant on what you mix them with as this can really add the sugars and carb load. I am not a fan of wine, preferring G&T or Vodka. I have now converted to having a spirit such as vodka mixed with soda water and lime.
There are mixed reports on the effects of caffeine. Some state that a little is beneficial, others prefer to abstain. I drink coffee but only a couple a day as I know it affects me if I have too much. If you suffer from a lot of stress in your life, you may have raised cortisol levels and adrenal stress meaning too much coffee will be detrimental. Everyone is different so do what suits you and listen to your body.
Bullet Proof Coffee
This is a very popular coffee – more a replacement meal really.
1 cup freshly brewed coffee
1 tbsp. coconut oil or MCT oil
1 tbsp. unsalted grass-fed butter
Blend in a blender or processor and serve immediately.
David Asprey, Founder and CEO of Bulletproof (www.bulletproof.com)
“Putting butter in hot drinks is a several thousand-year-old practice I learned while traveling at 16,000-foot elevation in Tibet. Bulletproof Coffee takes this practice to a new level by blending together coffee made from low toxin coffee beans with grass-fed butter and Brain Octane, which is coconut oil extract 18 times stronger than coconut oil. Bulletproof Coffee uses proprietary low-toxin Upgraded coffee beans, so you don’t experience the crash that comes with a lot of coffee, even some very high end coffee. It’s a known problem in the coffee industry, one that’s addressed in the EU and Japan to some extent, but worse in the US. The caffeine helps release the fat from the Brain Octane oil and butter into one's bloodstream so it can immediately be used as an energy source. Your body also naturally uses the type of fat found in Brain Octane for energy instead of storing it, which is part of why Brain Octane is so good for you. The last critical ingredient, unsalted grass-fed butter, is also great for your energy because the butyric acid in it helps promote brain function.”
“Coffee has caffeine which stimulates brain chemicals so glutamate and dopamine join the party and flow more freely — giving you a surge of energy, improving mental performance, and slowing age-related mental decline. Studies have shown that coffee helps with endurance which is a huge part of sports. It also encourages muscles to use fat as fuel. Of course athletes love this stuff!”
“This Upgraded Octane Oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT) consisting of fatty acids sourced from coconut and/or palm kernel oil. Octane Oil provides a quick source of brain fuel from fats rather than inflammation-causing sugar. Adding Octane Oil to your diet helps you maintain peak mental performance and is a satiating quality fat.”
“Bulletproof Coffee allows users to get the benefits of coffee without the typical crash and jitters associated with caffeine. It’s not just about how good it tastes, but about how it makes you feel and perform when you consume it. The health and performance benefits of Bulletproof Coffee include the following:
Provides intense focus and clarity, but without the jitters or crash typically associated with caffeine
Provides long lasting, all day energy
Speeds up your metabolism
Encourages your body to burn its fat stores; kickstart its fat-burning engine
Reduces inflammation and LDL cholesterol longer term by providing necessary omega-3 fatty acids in grass-fed butter and Upgraded Octane Oil”