Living with a child who’s dairy free, lactose free, soya free, and sugar free, you’d image we’d be living an incredibly healthy plant based vegan life style.
I’m still learning how to adapt our meals for Clara as there’s a lot of vegetables she can’t tolerate, she can’t have excess oil (we avoid pan frying), and we keep her away from seasonings like garlic and chilli. A combination of things we love to eat the most!
I know Clara’s diet is pretty restrictive – I am her personal chef after all – but that doesn’t mean it has to be boring. I still want her to experience culinary treats, new flavour combinations and textures. I’ll do a separate blog post soon on how I manage this, but to start with I had to explore what being sugar free really meant.
And the results were incredibly surprising.
First and foremost, I thought I’d struggle giving up chocolate. I’d got into the bad habit (thank you Christmas) of eating it almost daily, or swapping breakfast for a cup of tea and a couple biscuits whilst I fed Clara avocado and scrambled egg on toast. I knew it wasn’t good, it was just convenient.
Surprisingly, once I’d made the decision to give up sugar I didn’t miss it. I genuinely realised early on that the mental hurdle was the biggest one of all. I wasn’t doing this to lose weight (although I did and I do need to), I was doing it to explore the challenges Clara will face.
But forget the chocolate, sweets, and cake. What surprised me even more was the food items that had sugar in that I could no longer choose to have:
- Almost all cereal (even supermarket own brand rice krispies and cornflakes)
- Bacon (why is there added sugar in bacon?!)
- Pasta sauces (I knew this but there is SO much sugar in these jars)
- Baked beans
- Tomato sauce
- The list could go on a lot longer…
Combine this with no dairy (so no yogurt, cheese, or milk) and snacks were very very limited. Limited to basically just fruit (full of natural sugars).
It was easy to look for ‘sugar’ labelled on the ingredients. But fructose? Sucrose? Do you know your glucose from your galactose? It’s all sugar. Just labelled in a way that doesn’t scream “processed”. And that’s before I even considered sweeteners which I assume (it’s not worth trying) Clara also can’t tolerate.
Examples of sugar free snacks
I’ve well adapted to thinking of sugar free snacks for Clara beyond just a banana. It’s time to get inventive.
The winning solution has been the Jus Roll pastry. I buy it premade, and it’s dairy free. Watch out for supermarket own versions as these have added sugar, whereas the Jus Roll pastry I use doesn’t.
I’ll add a variety of combinations to the pastry before slicing and baking in the oven for 20 -25 minutes. No dairy, no sugar, just good stuff that tastes good!
Combinations include: banana and cinnamon, carob and banana, baked apple and cinnamon, peanut butter with raspberries and banana, tomato puree and dairy free cheese. Whether you’re looking for savoury or sweet, you could add almost anything to these pastry pinwheels. Clara will easily eat two a day if I’d let her – and sometimes I do! They’re not bad for her after all.
Do these look like sugar free, dairy free, vegan friendly pastries to you?
Other snacks include banana cake that’s totally sugar free but is absolutely delicious, plum and chia seed pudding, a variety of flapjacks, fruity oat bars, banana pancakes with a cacao spread (a natural chocolate spead). I’ll be sharing these in more detail on here soon for those who don’t follow our Instagram recipes.
Going sugar free is something that’s really fascinating to me. It’s not easy in today’s world of convenience. Even an Annabel Karmel recipe for a homemade pasta sauce recommends adding some sugar – why?! It’s simply not necessary for anyone of any age. It’s not as easy as finding a zero sugar cookbook for Clara – with dairy, lactose, and soya intolerances it requires a lot more imagination than that.
Unfortunately I didn’t last the full month going sugar free. My best friend’s birthday was the biggest hurdle. But it did make me think. I’m lucky, I have the choice whether to choose sugar, or not. And it’s taught me that actually I just don’t need it. And secondly, none of the foods above need it in either! So whilst I won’t eliminate it completely, I actively have cut back knowing it’s not doing my body any favours and added sugars have no nutritional benefits. If Clara doesn’t need it ,why do we?
Despite being free of all the delicious things, Clara continues to thrive and is putting on weight. Recently she weighed in on the 50th centile for her actual age (from age 1 you no longer refer to ‘corrected’ age, they just magically catch up). This is beyond miraculous for a short gut baby who started life on the 0.4 centile and has consistently tracked between the 9th for her uncorrected age. She’s growing and she doesn’t need the sugar that her body couldn’t tolerate anyway. It makes you wonder why we, as adults, accept it as part of our food consumption so readily.
I can, however, foresee future struggles as Clara grows up when her friends are all out getting ice cream, or sharing sweets for a classmates birthday in primary school. I’ll need to create a delicious tasting sugar free birthday cake, muffins, all sorts of things. My approach is to be honest and open with her about the effects it’ll have on her, not make them forbidden. She’ll soon see for herself it’s not worth it for the taste alone.
I need to find an alternative for Clara that’s still a treat, hopefully something she can share with her friends too and they won’t question why she isn’t dipping into their sharing bag of Starmix.