Right in front of me are sitting the most perfect powdery-white-sugar-sprinkled muffins, beautifully positioned under a large vase of giant flowers and leaves, at one of my favourite London brunch spots Granger & Co in Notting Hill. A waiter places a square-shaped sticky banana cake on the stand beside the muffins, long slices of bananas over the top so well cooked they look like they’re almost layered with nutella.
I have a sweet tooth. I have always had a sweet tooth. And so I have felt that addiction in every part of my body and brain, akin to or more addictive than cocaine addiction. I have definitely fought it and overcome it (after I realised the damaging effects of replacing fats with high-sugar foods – something we never really questioned when life and food was all about low-fat), but I do still have dark chocolate rice cakes as a snack, I do still have dates and prunes and I do still find it difficult to resist a freshly baked warm cake or scone when it’s sitting in front of me, waiting to be forked.
After a ninety minute yoga class, around two litres of water and coffee, I’m finally done with the head cloud I felt this morning – a result of last night’s lack of resistance from the most incredible Swiss cornflake chocolate (it was a twelve inch or larger slab from which we broke pieces and I must have eaten a good five chunks).
I should definitely not have had more than one chunk, but leaving the utterly moreish appeal of chocolate aside for a moment, if there’s one thing I know from feeling that fuzzy head this morning, it is that at least I’m feeling the awful effects of large spoonfuls of sugar, that I am therefore far less addicted and that I just need to be able to say no – to more.
It isn’t surprising that my products, my Coco Fudge, Spice Bites, Chai Chia Pudding, Cinnamon Granola, are all sweet related. They might not contain any refined sugar, but the Coco fudge, for example, is cooked with dates that melt into the mixture of chickpea flour and coconut oil, and the Spice Bites are also date-rich balls with lots of cinnamon and fresh ginger, the vegan chia pudding is blended with dates and the granola contains honey and dates.
While dates are rich in vitamins and minerals, full of fibre hence good for digestion and abundant with health benefits, they are still a type of sugar; and therefore excess of dates can also feed sugar addiction. So all these new energy balls and vegan, gluten free, healthy (or healthier) snacks including my Coco fudge are much better options, far more nutritious than desserts and less naughty, but none of them can be had in excess just because they’re championed as health foods, just because they’re sold at healthy cafes and just because they contain nuts and seeds and all things good. They’re great as an energy-boosting snack, but they need to all be treated as snacks rather than something to snack on all day.
I carry my Coco Fudge around with me sometimes or just a date and some walnuts, or even an energy ball, because I do often feel that need to have something with my cup of coffee when I’m out the whole day. It satiates that hunger somewhat and feeds that desire for something sweet, it means that I will stick to ordering an americano rather than a milky latte, and it means that I then won’t be tempted by the array of snacks or by those dark chocolate rice cakes (although I do get those now and again). But I do need to ensure that I save those snacks in my bag for when I sit down and when I need them rather than having them as soon as I leave the house.
Having said all this, I also need to mention that I rely on snacks far less now than I used to, I have more full meals when it is mealtime, and the satisfaction from having good food, from filling salads to grilled sweet potatoes and a green or bean curry and daal with a roti, is enough to curb sugar cravings or at least keep them away longer. It takes a while to get away from that sugar addiction and to find what truly works for you. It really is different for everyone, from banning refined sugars entirely to eating proper meals and saying no to any snacks in between… for me, intermittent fasting has been incredible and I still try and fast a few days a week.
It is now an hour later. Those muffins are still in front of me (a few less, needless to say) and that banana cake looks utterly sticky and yummy, but I’m going to get the menu and order a salad or grain bowl. I forgot to mention that date-rich snack I had earlier – but after such a long yoga class, I needed a bit of a pick-me-up!
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Mira Manek's desire for healthy cooking combines her love of traditional Indian cuisine with her mother and grandmother's recipes to create lighter, healthier dishes.