Last week, I reviewed Davina McCall’s new fitness dvd. When I was sent it, I was about to embark on a month-long health and fitness challenge. When I found out Davina also had a book out, I thought I would give that a go too! The book is called Davina’s 5 Weeks to Sugar Free, and is basically a recipe book… without any of the white stuff.
Davina takes a slightly different approach to cutting our sugar, in that she uses maple syrup and honey, where as with I Quit Sugar you’re giving up fructose, and use only rice malt syrup. Both books offer a reasonable explanation for their approach, and I’ve no idea which is right. I suppose what it comes down to is that you just have to pick a book and go with it!
Davina’s book is beautifully designed, with lovely photos of the recipes, and of Davina. At the beginning she explains her approach without launching into pages and pages of waffle that nobody will read; she’s concise and to the point.
The book is mostly recipes, so you’re really getting good value for money there. The recipes are divided into the usual sections, including a section for “Starters & Small Plates” which is great for me, since most of the time the meals I’m cooking are just for me. There’s also a section called “Basics” at the end that includes things like chicken stock, mayonnaise and tomato sauce – all the little things that you buy because you think they’re complicated to make, but the shop-bought versions are full of sugar.
After all the recipes, there is a 5-week meal plan to help you come off the sugar and go sugar-free. All of your meals and snacks are laid out for five weeks, with the idea of helping you to come off sugar gradually, rather than go cold turkey.
What I loved about it
I love that the recipes are all normal, sensible food – none of it looks so complicated you wouldn’t want to just give it a try for tea tonight.
It includes recipes for things like fruit leather, lemon curd, mayonnaise and tomato sauce without any added sugar, save a little honey or maple syrup.
There is no calorie counting in this book. The calorie numbers are printed at the back of the book, for those still doing the whole calorie thing, but the book itself is just a book of recipes for healthy, normal food without added crap.
There’s a little blurb before each recipe, including a little note about it. I like that she includes things like “I used to use Worcester sauce, but it has added sugar” – so often when you’re trying to adapt your eating habits like this, you’re flying blind and forced to stick to the recipes in a book purely because you don’t know what other ingredients you can or can’t use.
It’s personal. In the section at the beginning, Davina talks about her own addiction to sugar and admits to eating a few too many chocolate bars from time to time. Always nice to know you’re not the only one!
There is section for puddings, and none of them is some weird, complicated thing that serves as a pudding substitute but actually tastes like sawdust. They’re all things that look really tasty.
You can have pancakes for breakfast. In the first week of the 5 week plan.
What I didn’t love about it
The book is called “5 weeks to sugar free” – but the actual five week programme is tucked away at the back of the book. The recipes are listed on the plan, but without page numbers – so if you were to do the five week plan, you would need to make friends with the index, and probably end up with a book full of turned-down corners and post-its.
There’s a recipe for roast chicken in there… have I been cooking it wrong, all this time? Who added sugar to their roast chicken in the first place?!
All in all, I think this book is great. The recipes are easy to follow and don’t contain the sort of weird and wonderful ingredients you’d need to hunt high and low for (or mortgage a kidney to afford).
Like all of Davina’s dvds, this book is friendly and relatable. Even if giving up sugar is one of the hardest things you can do, Davina makes it look easy… well no, actually that’s not true. Davina’s secret with these things is that she doesn’t make it look easy – she shows you that she’s had a hard time with it herself – but she also shows you that it’s possible.
Update, March 2015
I’ve been reading a lot about sugar lately, and since reading That Sugar Book I have come to the conclusion that the advice in Davina’s 5 Weeks to Sugar-Free might be a bit misleading.
At the start of the book, she tells us to cut back on sugar – which I definitely agree with – but she also suggests using honey or maple syrup as a replacement for it. I don’t understand this part, since everything else I’ve read about sugar states very clearly that fructose, rather than just “sugar” is the problem. Maple syrup is 66% sucrose – and sucrose is 50% fructose. Honey is 40% fructose. So both of these alternatives are still pretty much the same as the packets of white granules that are probably cheaper and easier to find in your local supermarket. It’s also worth noting here that a lot of people use agave nectar as a healthy alternative to sugar – but that is a whopping 90% fructose and so worse even than table sugar.
Also a lot of what I’ve been reading lately has drawn attention to things like fruit juices and smoothies, and the fruit “winders” we’re all encouraged to put in children’s lunch boxes as a healthy snack. All of these things do contain all the “goodness” of fruit – but without the actual fruit. For example, if you look at the ingredients in Davina’s fruit leather recipe, you’re stewing the fruit with lemon juice and then pureeing it – which takes all of the fibre etc out of the fruit, and leaves pretty much just fructose behind. If you don’t believe me, pick up any commercially produced fruit leather in any health food shop and check the nutritional information to see what percentage of sugar they have. You will most probably be horrified; I know I was.
My problem with this book is that other books I have read go into their reasons for fructose being the problem – some in great detail. Davina’s book, which seems to advocate using alternative sources of sugar that still contain fructose, alludes to having spoken to scientists – but the evidence to back up this approach is not there in black and white.
I would say this book is good if you’re looking to live a healthier lifestyle and cut out junk and processed foods – but if you’re looking to go sugar free, this is not the best book for the job.