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Sugar Free September, I Quit Sugar and Chocolate Chip Cookies

My sugar quitting habits have been well documented on my blog before. I’ve completed three rounds of the I Quit Sugar Eight Week Programme and I generally try to live a lifestyle without the sweet stuff. However, over the last couple of months I, like everyone else, got into a bit of a sweet/junk food habit. A piece of chocolate after dinner, lots of ice cream out with friends, potato chips… all the usual suspects. While this has, for the most part, been balanced out with plenty of vegetables and lots of exercise, I know I haven’t been feeling my best.

At the start of September I came on board as an Ambassador for The Muesli who each year promote ‘Sugar Free September’. I used this as a chance to attempt to reboot and reprogram back to my old sugar free ways. The programme promotes the one line rule, and is similar to the IQS approach, which means that anything which has more than 5% sugar needs to go – I find this is a super easy trick to remember whenever you’re out at the supermarket. My sugar free September was a relative success, there were definitely a few slip ups and a few outing for fries still happened, but I definitely began paying more attention to the treats I was eating.

During the programme, I did an interview with The Muesli where they talked about a day in the life of me – check it out here.

I’m attempting to ride this momentum into the next I Quit Sugar Eight Week Programme which starts today! This was the programme which I completed for the first time at the same time last year, and from my experience I know that while the programme was challenging, once I had broken the habit it was the best I had ever felt, physically and mentally. Coming into my final ever law exams (!!!!) I know I need to be at the top of my mental game, so I am going to fully commit to this next programme and see where it takes me this time. This year has definitely been a very balanced and enjoyable one for me, but I am looking forward to the challenge of giving up the sweet stuff again and I can’t wait to see the benefits.

Popular to contrary belief, it is possible to enjoy delicious sweet treats that are perfectly acceptable in an IQS way of life. These Black Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies are one such treat – enjoy!

Black Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies 

Ingredients 
1 400g tin black beans
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 scoop NuZest Clean Lean Protein in Rich Chocolate (perfect with only 0.76g of sugar!)
1/4 cup cacao
2 tbsp softened coconut oil
1/4 cup rice malt syrup (optional)
Handful of dark chocolate chips – I use the Well Naturally Brand as they are sweetened with stevia and only contain 0.7g of sugar per 100 grams!

Method 
First: Preheat an oven to 180. Prepare a baking tray with baking paper/coconut oil.
Second: Place all ingredients except for the chocolate chips and half a cup of oats in a food processor and blend until smooth.
Third: Transfer the mixture into a bowl and stir through the chocolate chips and remaining oats. Mix together until combined.
Fourth: Scoop desert spoonfuls of mixture onto the baking tray, then flatten out using a fork or the back of your hand for circular, flat cookies.
Fifth: Place into the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack to cool before serving.

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These go really well spread with nut butter for a delicious snack or dessert!

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Tumeric Smoothie Bowls and I.Am.Company

With the days getting warmer it was the perfect time to start indulging in smoothie bowls for breakfast again. With its beautiful tropical colour, this smoothie really makes you think that summer can’t be that far away! The beautiful yellow colour comes from the Tumeric Latte mixed used – a beautiful sample that I got from my I AM Company Delight Box this month!

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I AM Company is one of the newest companies that I am absolutely delighted to be working with as an Ambassador. The premise behind I AM Company and their Delight Boxes is to supply people who need a little extra nourishment in their lives with a health product sampling box. The boxes contain anything from food, to toiletries and natural beauty products. All of the products which are included in the box are free of all nasties and are nutrient dense – they all aim to add to our health in some way. In addition to the box containing beautiful products, it also contains a delicious recipe and other tips and tricks on living a healthy and happy life such as yoga poses!

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I’m currently waiting to receive my third ever Delight Box and I can’t wait for it to arrive! I’ve loved all the different products that I have received so far – especially the natural beauty ones and this is an area which I am definitely getting more and more interested in. The best part about the whole process is that it is like getting a little present each month, which is full of all kinds of surprises! As I mentioned earlier, one of the products I received in my September Delight Box was a Tumeric Blend from the Nut Mylk Co. I was honestly a bit skeptical about how this flavour was going to come off, as it is made of a blend of tumeric, cinnamon, ginger cardamon and black pepper, but my skepticism was short lived as it was delicious! I incorporated it into a number of smoothies and it was delicious every time.

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Tumeric Smoothie Bowl

Ingredients:
1 frozen banana
1 frozen courgette
1 tsp tumeric blend from Nut Mylk Co
1 cup plant based mylk – I used the original coconut milk from Little Island which also came in this month’s Delight Box
1 scoop vanilla protein – Clean Lean Smooth Vanilla from NuzestNZ is my fav
Optional extra: handful of spinach
Toppings: homemade granola, berries, peanut butter

Method:
First: Place all the ingredients (except for your toppings in a blender). Blend until smooth! If your blender isn’t super powerful, then you may need to stop and give it a stir a couple of times to ensure it blends up and some additional liquid may be necessary to get you to the beautiful smooth texture.
Second: Pour into a bowl, add your favourite toppings and enjoy!

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Carrot Cake Oats

As this is probably one of the most requested recipes from my Instagram page, I figured I better post an updated version on here for all of you! The story with carrot cake oats, is basically that carrots are my favourite vegetable. Always have been. Always will be. I went through a phase of eating three carrots a day at one point. No joke. I normally always eat at least one. And if its a snack it’s always topped with peanut butter. Carrot cake oats are perfect because they actually taste like cake, and cake is always a great way to start your morning off. These oats use some of my favourite products to create a nutritious, vegetable and protein packed start to your day.

Ingredients: 

1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup water
1 cup milk of choice
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 medium carrot, grated
1 heaped desert spoon Clean Lean Vanilla Protein Powder
Toppings: Peanut Butter, Cashew Butter, Almond Butter, Coconut Flakes, Warm Berries, Bananas, Chia Seeds, LSA etc.

Method:

  1. Add your oats, water and milk to a small saucepan, mix and place in the fridge to soak overnight. You could also add some chia seeds or LSA for an extra boost!
  2. In the morning add your cinnamon and grated carrot and stir to combine
  3. Place your saucepan on the stove, over a low heat. Continue to stir the mixture as it heats up, bring to the boil and then let simmer until the oats have absorbed up all the liquid and are nice and creamy. This should be around 5-10 minutes of cooking.
  4. Once cooked, remove from the heat and stir through the protein powder.
  5. Add your favourite toppings and enjoy – some form of nut butter is a must!
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I Quit Sugar Eight Week Programme (Round Two) Roundup

So, it goes without saying that this post is long over due. Long, long overdue. Things have been busy to say the least. Going from working all summer, then being away for a week, then going straight back to University and into six weeks of assignments, competitions, events and of course lots of studying and some fun. Whilst things have been busy, they have also been great. The last year of my degree is going well, I’m at a happy place with my exercising and eating and I’ve been making the most of every opportunity to do fun things. I’m writing this post on the last Sunday of the University holidays before we go back for another six weeks before exams. I’ve spent today in my happy place: the kitchen. I’ve been making all kinds of things to ensure I’ve got lots of food prepped for the coming weeks. Now making food, naturally led to thinking about food and that was what finally inspired me to right this post. This is pretty much a round-up of weeks four to eight of the last IQS8WP of which I completed the summer vegetarian plan.


The Favourites

Polenta Chips. Introduced in clean week and, being something I had never made before, I was a little skeptical. I really don’t know why because I love anything to do with chips and any kind of chips and these were no different. They were SUPER easy to make (I had mistakenly believed they were super difficult) and packed full of flavour, and just so good! I loved eating them with the roasted vegetable caponata, the combination was a deliciously filling meal.

Curried Lentil Patties. Like last time where the BLATT burger was a firm favourite of mine, IQS has once again proved that you cannot beat a good veggie patty. I am on a bit of a curry kick at the moment, so I was especially partial to these patties. I served my lentil patties as a burger (in a little deviation from the programme) but it was so good!

Vegetable Free Form Pie: Did I mention that I love pasty? Like love. I used to eat a pie everyday after school when I was little (god, how bad does that sound??). So needless to say the thought of pastry, in something healthy was very, very exciting. It also felt very indulgent which was nice. My mum, who is a vegetarian skeptic, even said that she would happily go vegetarian if it meant eating pies like this all the time. I loved the combination of red onion, courgette and pumpkin. It was perfect and it is another recipe I have made again since the programme ended.

Vegetable Korma: See above about my curry kick. Curry is also on my list of comfort foods with pastry. This recipes was a show stopper and I absolutely adored it. Creamy curry, packed with nine (!!!) vegetables, and served with some cheeky garlic naan for me. It was heaven in a bowl on a blustery autumn night.

Homemade Raspberry Chia Jam with Ricotta on Toast: Toast is again a comfort food. I added almond butter to this already awesome combo and it was heaven.

Green Mac’n’Cheese: As a child, I hated pasta. But, I loved macaroni cheese. What I later discovered what that I only didn’t like tomato based pasta. Anything cheese based was fine. Anyway, this version made with lots of green veggies hit the spot and reminded me of that childhood classic. Plus it allowed me to continue my obsession with spiralled vegetables. I got a spiraliser for my birthday and I’ve been eating A LOT of curly food.

Notable Mentions:

Israeli Couscous with Haloumi (anything Haloumi was pretty much a winner in my books). In follow up to that previous comment, next mention goes to Sesame Halloumi Bites with Peach and Corn salad. Peaches are my favourite fruit, so I loved this doubly as much. Because Halloumi + peaches = deliciousness.   Homemade Basil and Spinach Pesto with Zoodles (it was my first time making my own pesto) was also favourite, and one I have remade. The recipe was super easy, requiring nothing fancy and it’s pretty much a fridge staple now).

 Disappointments:

As a general rule, I enjoyed all the meals I ate on the programme. The only aspect I struggled with was that I got a little sick of various quinoa and vegetable combinations. I know that such meals are inevitable on the vegetarian plan where protein sources are more limited, and I think I struggled more because I find quinoa bland to begin with. I Quit Sugar did a truly great job of incorporating heaps of different flavours and vegetables into their meals and this is my only gripe with the programme – and its a small one.


Things I did differently on my second round:

I was beyond delighted to be invited back to complete the programme a second time, given how much I enjoyed the first time and how successful I found it. This time was definitely easier because I knew watch to expect in all aspects. I was confident with dealing with the social pressures of saying no to treats and as well as dealing with the personal things like cravings. In saying this, I was a little less strict this time round. For example, I ate fruit throughout the programme. I ensured it was in small amounts and chose mostly fruits of the low-fructose variety (except bananas in my smoothies because I really can’t do smoothies without them). I chose to do this because summer fruit is my absolute favourite and I didn’t want to miss out on it in all its glory. I also felt safe eating fruit because I know that I am in control of my sugar intake and that one piece of fruit a day wasn’t going to ruin me. I also ate a couple of treats throughout the programme: raw cakes at a health foods workshop I attended and a few easter eggs over easter. I felt perfectly comfortable eating these treats, because like I said above, I now feel in control when eating sugar and know that one easter egg won’t ruin all my progress. It’s really about the 90/10 rule as I see it. I’m not going to feel guilty for the 10% of treats if I know that 90% of the time I am very careful with what I eat.
  

How I Felt at the End:

Accomplished. Again, eight weeks without most processed sugar and foods is no easy task in this world we live in. Content. Living sugar free seemed like such a daunting task before the first eight weeks, now it is becoming easier and easier. Don’t get me wrong there are still plenty of days where it tests my self control. To. The Max. And plenty of days where I have a treat without fear. But overall, life is easier with less sugar involved. My final word to describe how I felt is balanced. The eight week programme is intended as an intense detox, once I had started this way of life the need to follow it strictly is removed.


Will I do it again?

Of course! The programme is an amazing source of inspiration and pure convenience. I love having my meals planned out for me in advance and I love seeing how everyone else adapts the recipes to suit their needs. The programme is a place for creativity and I really enjoy being a part of it.

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I Quit Sugar Weeks One, Two and Three (Round Two)

As many of you know, last year I completed the I Quit Sugar Eight Week Programme for the first time, and I loved it. I may not have been a complete sugar addict, but I did love my chocolate, and cookies and ice cream…. well, maybe I was a sugar addict… However, after the completing the programme I had a new found respect for what my body could feel like with controlled amounts of sugar and I liked it. A lot.

During the programme I felt confident, happy and comfortable in my own skin. I loved the variety of recipes, how ingredients were used and when it was all over I found it easier to maintain an ‘I Quit Sugar’ lifestyle. Don’t get me wrong, I ate plenty of treats at Christmas and on holiday with my family. But I was now far more comfortable and happy to say no to the everyday things – like the lollies/chocolate that come around the office or the cake at someone’s birthday. I had a greater understanding of when I wanted sugar and, more importantly, when I would actually enjoy it. I toyed with the idea of doing the programme again over summer, as I was really keen to have a go at the vegetarian meal plan and get some more inspiration. My decision was made for me when I Quit Sugar contacted me and asked me to come on board as an Influencer – I was delighted to say the least!

I got to have a sneak peak at some of the recipes coming up on the programme – which got me even more excited…

However, when the time came to start the programme life was completely chaotic which has meant I haven’t been able to follow the meal plan as much as I would have liked over the last three weeks. Weeks One and Two were the last two weeks of my summer internship at a law firm in another city. I’ve had one of the funnest summers of my life with my fellow clerks and I absolutely loved the work I did. These two weeks were spent having catch ups, and dinners out with friends and going to concerts to celebrate the end of an amazing summer. While I made a very conscious effort not to eat any sugar while I was wining and dining (with the exception of a drunken strawberry shake in McDonalds one Saturday night) I definitely wasn’t getting in the vegetable intake that the programme provides.

Week Three saw me heading down south to the student party capital of New Zealand. I had the best couple of days partying up a storm and making the most of summer before University starts again. To be completely honest, I drank a lot and ate a lot of fries, but I have zero guilt about it considering how much fun it was and because I am completely confident that I will be able to get back into my normal routine in no time. The end of Week Three has brought me back to my home town and back to normality. I’ve been to the gym three times in three days, cooked my own meals and gotten plenty of sleep – a big change from my previous weeks! I’ve cooked up a storm this weekend to get me ready for my first week back at University and ensure that all my food is prepped and ready to go. I didn’t realise how much I had missed cooking until I spent a day in the kitchen and loved it.

Hopefully that has updated you with everything I Quit Sugar related and just how I have been in general. Week four brings clean week and the cutting out of alcohol, caffeine and gluten. Gluten is always the big worry for me because I am such a bread lover – but I am sure that I will make do and should be back next week with another update.

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I Quit Sugar Weeks Five and Six

After a hectic last week of exams I’ve gotten a little behind in my I Quit Sugar Eight Week Programme Diaries, so I thought I would combine the last two weeks to simplify things. In these last two weeks, I felt like I have really settled into the programme. I am feeling in tune with this way of living. My body is feeling the best it has felt in a long time and I feel full of energy and life. It is really satisfying to feel this way after the tough first couple of weeks. Now I am looking forward to the final two weeks and what lies after the programme.

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What I Ate: 

Breakfast: After the horror of no gluten during Clean Week, I was beyond excited to see porridge on the menu in Week Five. For my first morning of porridge, I got a bit excited and pimped the recipe with pumpkin puree and coconut cream, it was pretty much heaven in a jar. The next day I managed to stick to the recipe (only adding zucchini) and it was still delicious. Another winner of this week for everyone in the family was the Paleo Veggie Smash – the feta and avo spread in particular has already reappeared on toast since! Breakfast for Week Six featured one of my surprising favourites so far – Chia Pudding. I have made Chia Puddings before, and have failed to enjoy them, however, this recipe was spectacular. Maybe it was because we were having fruit for the first time in four weeks or because I knew what to expect taste and texture wise this time, regardless it was amazing! In short, breakfast has always been my favourite meal of the day and these recipes are ensuring that breakfast definitely remains my favourite.

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Lunch/Dinner: Because we have had so many meals over the last two weeks, I will just recount my favourites. The outstanding meal of Week Five was the ‘Tandoori Chickpeas’. The tandoori flavour was absolutely divine and worked really well with chickpeas in place of chicken. The whole meal felt very light and refreshing with the addition of green veggies to the rice and I will definitely be making it again for sure. My other favourite of Week Five was the abundance bowl – they are just so easy to whip up and the combinations of ingredients are endless. Week Six brought another stand out meal: Pesto Chickpea Zoodles. I am not normally a big fan of soggy cooked Zucchini and this meant that I am one of the few people who had not yet attempt Zoodles as a pasta replacement. I have to admit I was still skeptical making this meal. However, the programme proved me wrong again and I loved it! The zoodles weren’t soggy at all (they were a little watery, but this could probably be fixed with better draining) but the pesto flavour was delicious and the chickpeas added great crunch and texture. My other favourite from Week Six was the Root Veggie Rosties. My one complaint of the programme so far has been too many salads and leafy greens. So I loved the incorporation of these fritters as a different way to eat vegetables. Beetroot and Kumara helped make these fritters sweet and the pea salsa on the side was the perfect touch. To say the least the meals on the programme are outstanding and they just keep getting better.

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Physical Changes:

With the stress of exams and starting a new job, I think my skin has faired fairly well and I definitely credit this to the programme. From my observations my skin has looked more vibrant and luminous lately, and my nails are definitely starting to strengthen up – so positives on these fronts. After my weightloss of around 4-5kg in the first weeks of the programme I think I am now at a stable, happy and healthy weight.

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Emotional Changes

How I Felt: As I hinted at above over the last two weeks I have really began to understand why the programme is so successful. I feel vibrant and full of energy most days. I am no longer saying “I’m tired” all the time and I just feel happier in general. I think part of this is that I have never felt more confident in my body and this translates into self love everyday because I don’t feel as controlled by food anymore. Prior to the programme if there was chocolate in the fridge, I always felt like it was always in the back of my mind and I would have to eat it. Now, after six weeks that feeling is gone. I’m really proud to say that I have not lapsed once on the sugar side of things throughout the whole programme. I had my biggest test last week at an Engagement Party, full of beautiful delicious, handmade desserts that were eaten by everyone around me. At this point, I knew that one piece of slice would not harm my progress but I wanted to try and do the whole eight weeks without a treat if I could, so I soldiered on.

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However, In the interest of being completely honest, in the last week I have had a few more treat foods than normal – but no sugary ones. After exams, I really felt like treating myself with something delicious so my boyfriend and I went out for burgers (I had an amazing veggie one) and followed it up with some hot chips. Hot chips have always been a favourite food of mine, and I felt no guilt in eating them when I knew that I would be having my normal veggie filled meals the next day.

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In summary, the past two weeks have been the best yet. I’ve started to get a little nervous about how I will go off the programme and whether my will power is strong enough to continue to keep me away from the sweet stuff – but that is a struggle for two weeks away! As normal, I am happy to answer any questions below🙂

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I Quit Sugar Week Four

I can’t believe we are half way through the programme and more importantly, I can’t believe that I have not had any sugar in four whole weeks! Week four of the programme meant it was time for ‘clean week’ and an increased focus on green vegetables and healthy eating habits. It was suggested that we cut out gluten, alcohol and coffee this week. Given that alcohol and coffee are not an issue for me at all, I didn’t really think anything of it. Until I realised that I couldn’t eat toast. Or porridge. And life suddenly got a bit sadder. This week really made me realise how much I love a good slice of toast or some creamy porridge and more importantly how indulgent they feel. At this point in the programme, when all other comforting foods have been removed I truly think they are my form of comfort food and so it is safe to say that in the first week of my university exams that comfort food was sorely missed. However, I had made it through Clean Week mostly unscathed. The meals were still delicious and innovative and I am still enjoying the programme. (p.s. the porridge below, was my last hurrah on Sunday)

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What I Ate: Breakfasts this week featured my new favourite thing: coco-nutty granola and a green smoothie. The granola is my favourite. Not the smoothie. This week I pimped the granola to be pumpkin spiced and it was heaven. I have long been a lover of green smoothies, however, I had never tried one without fruit before. Partly, because I never saw the need and mostly because I love fruit. However, this weeks smoothie featured a grand total of five green vegetables and it really packed a health punch. The first smoothie was not a success. My blender struggled with all the frozen ingredients so I had to water it down to the point where it didn’t really taste like anything. This was the worst and I only managed to get around a quarter of it down. The second day, I let my veggies defrost a bit more and added a whole lemon to the blender as well. This was an improvement, around three quarters of it was drunk. Finally, on the third day (bearing in mind we were only supposed to have it twice) but I was determined to get through this green monster. I defrosted my ingredients early, put a whole lemon in the smoothie and stirred in half a juiced lemon once blended. The result? Perfect. I drank the whole thing and felt full! I didn’t even need my granola on this day. So while I definitely do miss fruit in my smoothies, I won’t be as scared now to add more vegetables to the mix.

Lunch/Dinner: My favourite from this week was probably the ‘chicken’ Macro bowl – I made my vegetarian by subbing in chickpeas. I loved this because it contained a great mixture of vegetables and featured my first ever batch of homemade sauerkraut! It was so cool to finally get to try it after watching it ferment on the bench for so long. Another favourite was the ‘Quinoa and Sweet Potato Pilaf’. I made mine with beetroot as I had no sweet potato and it delicious despite the change. I definitely felt as though the portion sizes had increased this week in our main meals, but I am not sure if this was just an increased veggie intake. Other notable meals included: Fish on Roasted Caponata and Sarah’s KFC (family’s pick of the week).

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How I felt: This week I had my first day where I really didn’t want to be on the programme. I’d had enough. After an overwhelming first week of exams all I felt like was some comforting toast or pasta, before I realised that I could have neither! I think this upset me more than usual because I am so used to being to cook what I want. I love finding a great new recipe, and then going home and being able to cook it straight away. While the programme is great because you don’t have to think about what to cook, I think this week I missed being a little more creative and being able to eat what I felt like (a.k.a. pasta drenched in pesto) rather than salad. None of the things I were wanting were unhealthy, but they had caught my eye and inspired me and I felt like I was missing out by not being able to try them. I compromised instead and had some hot chips (homemade) with a side of greens. Not the lean, green type of meal we are supposed to be eating this week, but not terrible either.

Physical Changes: Seem to have stunted a bit in this area. A small amount more weightless, still poor nails and no more great improvements in skin. But I think stress is not helping on this front.

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Emotional Changes: This week made me really realise how much we rely on food. We use it as a tool to make ourselves feel better, which sometimes is great and other times not so much. Once I decided that I wanted pasta, it was all I could think about. I had to put a lot of effort into distracting myself until the craving went away. Even writing this blog post the craving is coming back. As someone who doesn’t eat a lot of indulgent foods, I learnt that toast with grilled cheese on top or melty peanut butter or perfectly creamy chocolate porridge is pretty much my equivalent of indulgent, treat food which will make me feel better. As this week brought the first week of exams, it was probably a terrible time to try and give up more things from my normal food groups, however, when look at another way it could also be considered the best time. This week I needed to be feeling 100% everyday to help me get through my study. By fulling my body with more vegetables I was doing my best to ensure this would happen. When I was studying at the library one day, I noticed all the lollies, biscuits, muesli bars and energy drinks that were on the desks of my fellow students and I was proud that I was not one of them. So while giving up sugar hasn’t been easy and saying goodbye to bread this week was hard, I am proud that I have made it half-way with no sugar lapses and boy am I excited for oats for breakfast next week.

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As usual, if you have any questions feel free to leave a comment below🙂