Amazing silhouette of man jumping at sunset toward 2014

January is here and as usual we are all starting the new year by watching what we eat and trying to mend our wicked Christmas ways. There is no doubt that the food focus for this month is on healthier eating … whatever that may mean.

It seems you can’t pick up a paper or watch a TV show without someone telling you something contradictory about what we should or shouldn’t be eating. Coffee – good or bad? Fat – good or bad? Organic – should we or shouldn’t we? Cheap meat, juices, red wine, fruit….it goes on and on. How we are supposed to figure it all out with all this misinformation?

Having spent last year working on an organic farm with a boss who had very strong views about food, I have to say that my understanding and opinion has developed once more. It can all be made quite simple. Eat like our grandparents ate and those before them. So keep it to pure foods, cooked fresh. No ready meals, nothing with additives, nothing that is not nurtured in an ethical way from our surroundings. Eat meat that comes from well treated animals and veg that is not sprayed with chemicals. Fat is good, most especially fat generated from grass fed animals. Our bodies need it. In addition, drink water and have enough sleep. Simple eh?

Stevia leaf

The big killer that is coming down the track and which has been having a lot of publicity lately is sugar. My first week on the above mentioned farm, my boss sent me this video (Sugar – The Bitter Truth). It is very clear from this and all that has followed that sugar (not fat) is the real threat to our diet. Even previously well regarded substitutes like agave syrup have been exposed as bad now. So what can you do? Well, clearly avoiding sugar rich drinks and foods is a must, but you can’t deny a girl with a sweet tooth everything, so what are the options? Well, it comes in the form of a rather innocent looking leaf – the stevia leaf.

This plant from South America has been used for thousands of years in that continent. It is a natural sweetener that is 300 times sweeter than traditional beet or cane sugar and yet it is natural and without calories. Because it is so sweet, some manufacturers are combining it with cheap bulking agents which don’t always complement the values so beware which version you buy, but one that is getting good press is natvia. It is taking Australia by storm and those guys know what they are doing. Natvia is apparently now stocked in over 25,000 cafes across Australia and is now coming over here. Already 110 EAT sandwich shops nationwide are stocking it as their preferred sugar substitute.

natvia

Large companies like Coca Cola and Danone have been exploring this alternative to support their need to take a healthier approach. They need to. A single can of Coca Cola already exceeds the new recommended limit of 8.75 teaspoons, or 35g, of sugar in the UK. Out of interest, the NHS estimates the average UK adult consumes approximately 20 teaspoons of sugar a day!

Trop 50

This week I saw the first product advertised on telly that has used stevia as a substitute in a fruit juice – Trop50. This is the ‘healthier’ version of Tropicana juice, boasting 50% less sugar and calories. Mind you, it still has over 8g of sugar in any single 200 ml serving, which is about a quarter of the recommended daily dose – so don’t be fooled!

Another forward thinking company is my local Primrose Bakery. They announced at the end of last year that they were making a lemon and poppy seed bundt cake with natvia to meet customer demand for sugar free options, but one that they could proudly serve to all their customers. I admire what they are doing and appreciate a company that can still deliver great product whilst making a healthier choice in its production.

lemon poppy bundt

So natvia is the way to go. You heard it here first!

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